Friday, May 16, 2014

Film Review: Illinois Spring QB Competition

PREVIEW
Replacing Nathan Scheelhaase isn't going to be easy for the Illini this upcoming Fall. But in this article, we'll take a quick look at Illinois's QB situation, which involves three players: Senior Reilly O'Toole, transfer Wes Lunt, and Dual-Threat Aaron Bailey.

The Offense
The Illinois offense is mostly an offense that operates from the shotgun. While they did go under center at times - mostly with Bailey at the helm - it was few and far between. They appeared to do so to improve the downhill action of their zone run game, though they incorporated some Sweep G and reverse plays into their playbook from a similar look. But their QBs have work with their footwork, ball handling, and reading the defense from under center to make it more than a single dimensional group of formations.
They have some talent at RB, though no one that stands out. Their offensive line is hard to judge, as their units were split, but also because the defense did a poor job keeping the second and third level clean for the most part. They looked solid, though they didn't get great push consistently.
The WRs is an area where Illinois need to improve. If they are going to pass as often as former WMU head coach Bill Cubit likes to, they need to improve their understanding of the game. Right now, they fail to make proper adjustments to their routes. They round their routes and fail to get good separation. They don't sit well in voids against zone. And frankly, they just aren't outstanding athletes. Therefore, they need a QB that gets the ball to them on time and accurately so that they can get the ball to make plays. Otherwise, they'll need to depend on the run game to carry them more than it's probably capable of.

The Case for Reilly O'Toole

The Scariest Development
Back in 2012 there was a Bridgestone Tire Ad with Troy Aikman, where he throws a football made of the same rubber Bridgestone uses, and this purportedly allows it to make a crazy, curving trajectory.
Well, apparently Reilly O'Toole can now make that throw with a regular football.
Apparently the strong wind made it so both of O'Toole's spring game TDs were caught by receivers he wasn't intending the throw to...

Understanding the Offense
O'Toole clearly has the best grasp of the offense, both in terms of getting the offense to the LOS in a hurry and into the correct play, but also getting into the right protection and getting the ball out on time. As a Senior, it makes sense for him to have the best understanding of what is happening on the field, but it shows with his command of the offense.

Arm Strength
O'Toole was pretty much stuck going against a strong wind all game. There is a reason for that. He has a decently strong arm to push the ball into the wind. While the spiral isn't always tight, he gets the ball out fairly quickly and with enough strength to push the field vertically, something both other QBs struggle with.

The Correct Reads
While O'Toole is a marginal athlete at most, he does make the correct reads most often. Knowing when to hand off, or when the run is wide open enough for him to pick up a few yards, this helps the team be a little more multidimensional.

Conclusion
O'Toole provides the best package of strengths for the Illinois offense going forward. His grasp of the offense isn't matched by the other QBs, and he has the arm strength to push the ball vertically, as well as to the sideline. Combined with making the right reads and getting the ball out quickly, he will really help the playmakers around him in the offense.

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To read my preview of the two other Illinois QBs in competition for the starting gig, follow this link to Maize n Brew.

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