RANTOUL, Ill. — Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was superb in Monday night’s first team scrimmage of training camp. True freshman quarterback Aaron Bailey put on a show that more than lived up to his star-in-waiting billing.
But no one looked better than new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit.
If you followed Illinois’ scrimmage on Twitter, you saw both raves about the offense and cautionary tweets that said, to paraphrase: “Yeah, but they were going against Illinois’ defense.”
Forget that. Yes, the Illini are young and untested on the defensive side of the ball. It’s likely they’ll struggle all season to stop opponents from scoring. But, hello?
Illinois had the Big Ten’s worst offense in 2012. Frankly, it wasn’t even close to second-worst. But Monday night it sang. Monday night it utterly dominated. Monday night it — are you sitting down? — had more than a pulse.
The biggest difference was Cubit.
“That was fun,” he said when it was over.
Sure it was. Not so much, though, for Tim Beckman. Illinois’ head coach is all about defense. More specifically, he’s all about defensive backs. That’s where his training is. That’s where his heart is.
His heart wasn’t broken Monday, but his defensive backs were used and abused. The cornerbacks he coaches were dramatically outplayed by a receiving corps that, let’s face it, isn’t above-average in the Big Ten.
“We’ve got some young players on defense that played hard, extremely hard,” Beckman said. “But we just made some mistakes.”
Sophomore corners V’Angelo Bentley and Eaton Spence weren’t terrible. Freshman corners Darius Mosely and Jaylen Dunlap weren’t terrible, either. But the Illini passing attack was on fire nonetheless.
Nutshell: Cubit looks like a stud after one scrimmage. Beckman looks like a head coach who should leave his offensive coordinator completely alone and focus all of his efforts on shoring up the defense.