Spring QB race breakdown: Illinois

Nine Big Ten programs will feature true quarterback competitions this spring, and we’re taking a closer look at the candidates, the circumstances and the stakes of each race. Up next: Illinois. Bill Cubit doesn’t have a favorite, and in the end the Illinois offensive coordinator isn’t planning on needing to make the decision about his starting quarterback.

Any of the three guys competing for that job can operate Cubit’s system, which both eliminates any preference and allows him to simply sit back, sort through the mountain of data he’ll acquire this spring and allow those numbers to make up his mind.

That doesn’t mean the heated competition between Wes Lunt, Aaron Bailey and Reilly O’Toole won’t command Cubit’s attention as the Fighting Illini try to name a starter by the end of spring practice, particularly given how much production must be replaced now that Nathan Scheelhaase is gone. But in the end, Cubit’s approach allows him to be a neutral observer, putting all the pressure, the decision and ultimately, the offense in the hands of the guys on the field.

“I pointed it out to them already,” Cubit said before camp opened on Wednesday. “This is how you’re going to be graded, this is what I’m going to be looking for and it’s up to you. I really won’t make the decision, you’ll make the decision. “There are no preconceived ideas or wanting this guy to win it or that guy to win it. I’ve told the guys, it doesn’t make a difference to me who wins it, the best guy is going to win it and give us the best chance of winning. It really doesn’t make that big of a difference to us.”

For the Illini, that’s more a reflection of confidence in the pool of candidates than actual indifference about the leader of the offense, because Cubit has heaped praise on all three guys and isn’t opposed to tweaking his attack based on the strengths of the one who claims the job.

The faith he has in both the depth and talent Illinois has at the most important position on the field takes some of the pressure off this spring, and Cubit joked that “quarterbacks are the least of my worries right now” even while trying to fill the void left by the loss of the multitalented Scheelhaase. But the goal is still to settle on a leader by the end of camp, which will require an in-depth analysis of grades on every single play, throw and decision Lunt, Bailey and O’Toole make to ensure the process works itself out as fairly as possible.

That starts before the snap with making checks in terms of pass protection and the run game. It obviously continues with the read during the play with where the ball is thrown, and it’s picked part and assessed for accuracy after that…

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