Ron Zook made it clear once Jacob Charest left, that it would leave the door open for them to go after one or two more quarterbacks during the recruiting process this year.
He followed through with that statement—Illinois got a solid verbal from Warrenville South quarterback, Reilly O’Toole.
“I visited there many times, talked to the coaches a lot before making my decision and just being down there I feel really comfortable with the coaches,” said O’Toole. “Academics, it was huge. I was set there from the beginning. They have great academics, so that’s just a huge plus.
“The offense they run really fits what my high school team runs, so I think I’ll be able to pick up the offense really quickly and just be a really good fit for them.”
He definitely should be a great fit for the offense Petrino plans to run next year.
O’Toole is a 6’4”, 215 pound, dual-threat QB who has a very strong arm but can also beat you on the ground with his speed and athleticism. He is very identical to Petrino’s old quarterback, Ryan Mallet—a tall, gunslinger.
Also, this type of offense will be nothing new to him when he steps on the practice field.
“The offense they run really fits what my high-school team runs, so I think I’ll be able to pick up the offense really quickly and just be a really good fit for them,” O’Toole said.
“You want to go to a school where the offense fits your style. I’m not a big running quarterback.”
O’Toole, considered to be one of the top quarterbacks prospects in Illinois, had a phenomenal season last year.
He led them to a 7A state title and was 144-for-233 for 2,119 yards, 24 touchdowns, and three interceptions.
He was also invited to the Elite 11 quarterback camp, where he won the Golden Gun award, which is a contest that tests a quarterback’s accuracy.
Now, he has the chance to prove himself at Illinois. He will immediately have a chance to tryout the quarterback position due to the lack of experience Illinois has at that position.
So, that raises two questions.
What will happen to him if he doesn’t make it at the quarterback position?
If he takes the quarterback position, what will happen to Nathan Sheelhaase?
1: I would be very surprised if he doesn’t at least compete for the starting job, because the offense fits him perfect, because he is pass-first, run-second.
But, if he doesn’t make it, they are many options available for him to move to.
One, he has the ability to move to the tight end position. Tight end would be a perfect fit with his size and speed, because Illinois is lacking at that position and the new offensive scheme involves the tight end much more than it used to.
Two, he would move to the linebacker position, because he also has the preferred size and speed for that position as well.
If there were someone I would compare O’Toole too, it would be A.J. Derby, an incoming Iowa recruit. Derby is also around the 6’4”, 215-pound area, and he will come in as a quarterback but has the versatility to play multiple positions.
2: Nathan Scheelhaase won the starting quarterback position this offseason, but when O’Toole makes an appearance next offseason, his job could be in jeopardy.
Luckily, he has the quickness and athleticism to play a couple spots on the defense.
At 6’3”, 185 pounds, Scheelhasse could very easily move to cornerback or safety. He does not have the weight to play linebacker, but with good height and speed, he would fit perfectly as a defensive back.
Either way, O’Toole was another positive pick-up for Ron Zook and the Fighting Illini as they look to rebuild a program in shambles.