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Illini’s next starting QB? Beckman won’t budge on subject
Ask Tim Beckman or a member of his staff if Wes Lunt will start at quarterback in 2014, and you’ll get a two-part answer: (1) “The competition for the starting job is ongoing”; and (2) eyes that say yes, yes, a thousand times yes, Lunt will be the guy over senior Reilly O’Toole or sophomore Aaron Bailey.
Or maybe that second part is just what we want to see? It’s hard to be certain. I know I’ve stared into Beckman’s and offensive coordinator Bill Cubit’s eyes and been convinced the Lunt call is a mere formality at this point.
It would seem that a majority of Illini fans might be pleased to learn that Lunt, a transfer who won the starting job as a true freshman at Oklahoma State, were the official No. 1. As recently as a few days ago, though, Beckman wouldn’t budge on the subject.
Not officially, anyway.
“We have a great competition going on at quarterback right now,” he said. “We don’t have to play tomorrow, so a decision doesn’t have to be made.”
I asked Beckman if he’s merely following a personal policy on not naming a starter before training camp, or if he really doesn’t know the answer yet.
“I think it’s in fairness to everybody, and in fairness to any position,” he said. “If they came and asked me who’s starting at RB … ”
Um, Josh Ferguson? Hello, that’s as sure a thing as there is on the entire depth chart. Or maybe that was Beckman’s point: He isn’t going to name anyone, anything right now. And why should he?
Well, I can think of one reason why he should. If Illinois football fans are excited about one thing this offseason, it’s Lunt. It’s the player who offers hope for a page turned to much better times in the program. It’s the tall, strong-armed pocket passer who embodies pretty much the only buzz there is these days about Illini football.
This is football. Fans truly care about only one position battle ever: the one at quarterback.
Why not feed their excitement before it sort of fizzles out, Coach?
“I think there’s some people, if you say O’Toole [is the starter], they’re going to be fired up. If you say Bailey, they’re going to be fired up,” Beckman said. “The decision, to me, is based on the family, the team. Right now, we all know that on this football team we’re going to compete. We’re going to compete to the end and find out based on consistency who’s going to be the starter.”
Beckman then spun, as he often does, into a discussion of his cornerback group. And that’s cool — he coaches the corners, and they’ve got the potential to be one of the real strengths of the 2014 team.
“I got a hell of a battle at corner,” he said. “I know it isn’t quarterback, but there’s a hell of a battle because [sophomore] Caleb Day had as good a spring ball as anybody. But I’m not naming Caleb Day starting corner right now in front of [returning starters] Eaton Spence or V’Angelo [Bentley], because that’s what the competition in the game of football is about.
“You’ve got to earn it. They better come prepared and ready to go. Nothing’s given. Nothing’s given.”