On a blustery Friday night in Champaign improvement was easily recognizable despite the crazy amount of injuries going into and during spring. Well, improvement was the name of the game for the offensive side of the ball at the least as the Blue team, led by Nathan Scheelhaase, won 35-28 over the Orange team led by Riley O'Toole.
The old adage is that you can never read too much into a spring football game and that can be very true, especially when you are dealing with things on the micro-level. However, when you are the Illinois Fighting Illini and 2012 was what it was, any signs of positive growth have to be good, right?
Obviously we haven't been attendance at every practice and seen every drill, but a few things are abundantly clear about this team following Friday night's spring game.
– Nathan Scheelhaase looks completely reengerized after going 24 of 32 for 210 yards passing with 1 touchdown. If he hasn't already put to rest the questions about a possible QB battle go ahead and throw on this game when it comes back on and tell me ho looked better? It's not even close and here's your proof:
– O'Toole threw 52 passes, completing 66% for 362 yards, but threw 4 INT's to 3 TD's – that's not going to get it done in a battle with a veteran like Scheelhaase.
– One of the big questions was if the QB's would have anyone to throw the ball to on a consistent basis. Well, a great toe-tapping TD catch by Ryan Lankford, who had 9 catches for 77 yards, and an overall amazing effort from Justin Hardee (6 receptions for 104 yards) should help ease those concerns.
– The offensive line showed a lot of improvement (in the running gam especially)…. either that or the Illini D-Line is in some serious trouble this fall and both are likely to be true when it's all said and done.
– Donovonn Young really showed more in terms of a being a north/south runner in this game and on the last of three touchdown drives for him it was all him. He ended the spring game averaging a very impressive 4.8 yards a carry. Overall he had 86 yards on just 16 carries with those three touchdowns. Add in a returning Josh Ferguson and perhaps, maybe, possibly the Illini may just have something of a running game ahead of them.
– Finally, when this team is running at full throttle and playing the tempo they want under new OC Billy Cubit it's so, SO much better than a season ago. Offense is likely to be the least of the Illini's problems in 2013 based on the spring game from top to bottom.