Tim Beckman isn’t the only reason the Illinois Fighting Illini are completely atrocious this season. Sure, he’s the main reason; as he’s clearly over-matched every week and in over his head.
However, the main driving force behind the Illini being awful is the complete ineptitude of the offensive line. More than halfway through the season, the Illini are dead last in the Big Ten (and a very weak Big Ten at that) in rushing yards per game and also dead last in sacks allowed. They can’t open holes nor can they protect the quarterback.
Nathan Scheelhaase can’t stay healthy because he’s constantly running for his life. Reilly O’Toole has been completely terrible, largely because he has opposing defenders in his face constantly. What makes O’Toole’s struggles so frustrating is his supposed potential. Yes, he threw for like 15,000 yards in high school and was projected to be a star at the college level, but his numbers are absolutely brutal. It doesn’t help that he never has time to throw.
Scheelhaase hasn’t been himself because he hasn’t been healthy. The OL is a big part of the problem. Likewise with tailbacks Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson. Very little daylight has been cleared for them. And their numbers are uninspiring as well.
Center-guard Graham Pocic and guard Hugh Thornton have been talked about as having NFL potential, but right now the idea of anyone in this unit going pro is laughable. Then again the OL wasn’t good last year, especially in the second half when the Illini went 0-6. And Jeff Allen still got drafted in the second round. So who knows.
And the Illini have major issues on defense and special teams as well. Major issues! But the biggest problem of all, within the whole team seems to be the offensive line. You can’t do anything on offense if you don’t block
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Chicago Tribune.com, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
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