Illini’s opener against SIU should be fun
BY STEVE GREENBERG Staff Reporter August 30, 2013 11:56PM
The facts: 11 a.m., BTN, 560-AM.
2012 records: SIU 6-5, Illinois 2-10.
The line: Illinois by 17 1⁄2.
Updated: October 1, 2013 6:51AM
Ten things I don’t want to know yet about Illinois’ football opener vs. Southern Illinois but am afraid I already do:
1. Donovonn Young will rush for 100 yards. It’s hard to believe a running back put together as well as he is has done that only twice before in his 24-game career.
2. Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase will surprise Illini fans by heaving a ball farther than they think he can. Improved mechanics under new coordinator Bill Cubit has added some yardage to his long ball.
3. SIU will take some deep shots, too, looking to test a young secondary with three new starters and a pair of true freshmen in nickel and dime roles.
4. Illinois won’t put much pressure on Salukis quarterback Kory Faulkner without blitzing. Coordinator Tim Banks has a lot of blitzes in his bag, but they’re supposed to be luxury items.
5. True freshman quarterback Aaron Bailey will get into the game before junior second-stringer Reilly O’Toole. Doesn’t mean Bailey would start next week if Scheelhaase couldn’t. In fact, Bailey wouldn’t.
6. When fans see Bailey run the package of plays designed just for him, they’re going to realize what all the buzz has been about. And then the “Bailey or Wes Lunt in 2014?” debate will really heat up.
7. At least two, and perhaps three, Illini quarterbacks will play in this game. At least two, and perhaps three, will throw an interception. Seriously, Cubit has implored his passers to take more chances. There will be some early misfires, and that’s mostly OK.
8. Tim Beckman will not — repeat, will not — get run over by a ref for the second game in a row. If you don’t get the reference, there’s always YouTube.
9. Multiple players will return both kickoffs and punts. There’s still a lot of competition for those roles.
10. All in all, fans will like what they see. The offense is more fun. More important, the players are itching to show off their overall attitude makeover. Positive vibes can go a long way.