The No. 1 Illini is ...
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Counting down the 50 most important Illini.
No. 1: Wes Lunt, QB
Why he’s important: The fate of the 2014 season doesn’t rest entirely on the right arm of the likely Illinois quarterback. Only 99.9 percent. Kidding. Maybe. The main offseason storyline of how Lunt will fare in Bill Cubit’s offense can start to get answered in three weeks. Even though Tim Beckman hasn’t named a starter yet, the Oklahoma State transfer is the one fans and media are clamoring to see. Like Cubit has stated before, the ball just comes out differently from his right arm. In a good way. How Lunt, who ran the Illinois scout team last fall while he sat out because of NCAA transfer rules, can handle a 12-game schedule, including eight Big Ten opponents, is an aspect to watch closely. Injuries derailed his freshman season at Oklahoma State. If the two-time state champion from Rochester didn’t suffer a dislocated kneecap and a concussion in 2012, injuries that limited him to six games and made Mike Gundy re-open the starting quarterback job, who knows if Lunt is with the Illini and not still with the Cowboys. He didn’t fare well in the spring game, but he can make any type of throw Cubit so desires. With the Illinois offense so dependent on what the quarterback does, it’s pretty clear why Lunt should hold this spot going into the season. Now it’s his turn to deliver on the expectations.
Fast fact: Checking in at 6 feet, 5 inches, if Lunt does win the starting nod, he’ll become the first 6-5 quarterback to start for Illinois since Jon Beutjer in 2004. Of the nine other quarterbacks to start games since Beutjer’s last season, heights have ranged from 6-1 (Chris Pazan), 6-2 (Brad Bower, Tim Brasic and Juice Williams), 6-3 (Nathan Scheelhaase and Aaron Bailey) and 6-4 (Eddie McGee, Jacob Charest and Reilly O’Toole).
No. 2: Earnest Thomas