O-coordinator Cubit thinks Reilly O’Toole might be Illini’s starting QB
BY STEVE GREENBERG Staff Reporter December 2, 2013 8:55PM
Illinois Fighting Illini offensive coordinator Bill Cubit talks to Illinois Fighting Illini offensive linesman Simon Cvijanovic (68), Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiver Spencer Harris (80), and Illinois Fighting Illini tight end Matt LaCosse (11) during an NCAA football game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, ILL on Saturday, October 26, 2013. 110815145278 ORG XMIT: ILBL_103.JPG
Updated: January 4, 2014 6:29AM
CHAMPAIGN — Yes, Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has an idea of how he wants his side of the ball to play in 2014. And though that plays into how the starting quarterback battle will shake out, no, Cubit insists he doesn’t yet have that part of the depth chart formed in his head.
Most everyone around these parts assumes the battle to replace record-setting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase will be waged by former Oklahoma State starter Wes Lunt and rising sophomore Aaron Bailey, the former state champion from Bolingbrook.
But in an interview with the Sun-Times in his office one day before he hit the road to recruit, Cubit insisted longtime backup QB Reilly O’Toole — himself a former two-time state champ at Wheaton Warrenville South — has a chance to win the job as a senior.
According to Cubit, there were times last spring, in fact, when O’Toole had inched ahead of Scheelhaase. Cubit believes in what O’Toole can do more than a lot of Illini fans do.
‘‘Reilly has had some really noticeable turnovers,’’ Cubit said, ‘‘and everyone looks and says, ‘He ain’t the guy.’ I’ve seen him every single day. He knows the offense, knows what we’ve got to get done, does some really good things.
‘‘He’s got to be the guy who says, ‘I’m gonna be the guy,’ you know? Instead of just being one of the guys. . . . The guy who goes in there and says ‘It’s my job’ is going to have a leg up on everybody.’’
Perhaps more important to Illini fans: Cubit emphasized that he isn’t going anywhere.
‘‘The likelihood of anybody being interested in me for a head coaching job, I don’t think it’s there,’’ he said.
The biggest plus for the Illini during a 4-8 season clearly was the offensive comeback they made under first-year coordinator Cubit. From major statistical categories such as passing yardage and points per game to more pinpointed ones such as third-down percentage and scrimmage plays of 20-plus yards, the Illini made giant leaps in the national rankings.
On Monday, Cubit, who was fired as Western Michigan’s head coach after the 2012 season, his eighth at the school, showed off a sheet that listed 10 stats in which Illinois moved up at least 60 spots nationally in 2013.
‘‘The idea of a career path — ‘Go be this guy, be a coordinator, be a head coach’ — I’ve been there, done that,’’ he said. ‘‘I wanted to go somewhere and be a difference guy. That’s why I came here. Whatever I can do to be a difference, that’s what I’m going to do.’’