Preps Talk

Scheelhaase ready for Illini's new spread offense

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Scheelhaase ready for Illini's new spread offense

Count quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase among the fans of Illinois new spread offense.
He rattled off qualities of new coach Tim Beckmans scheme. The up-tempo offense will spread the field and spawn opportunities for several players to make big plays. The offense is also something Scheelhaase is used to. The Illini ran aspread when he redshirted during his first year in 2009.
Now all of a sudden, things come full circle and I get that chance again, Scheelhaase said Friday at Big Ten Football Media Day at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago. Im really excited about that opportunity to run more of a high-tempo, high-octane offense that really gets the ball rolling.
Thats something all of our players really are excited about. It gets more guys a chance to make plays with the ball in their hands. It gets more guys opportunity to have one-on-ones, and that should be every playmakers dream, to have the ball one-on-one with a defensive player with the chance to score.
With the spread offense, Beckmans Toledo team in 2011 averaged 42.2 points per game, eighth in the nation. The Illini, who averaged 22.6 points last season in finishing 7-6 under former coach Ron Zook, would welcome more points.
We have a great staff, and we know that theyre going to put us in the position to make plays, center Graham Pocic said. We just have to go out there and make plays for them.
With the possibility of several players making big plays, Scheelhaase was hard pressed to name the Illinis go-to player. Scheelhaases top target in 2011, first-team all-Big Ten receiver A.J. Jenkins, has departed to the NFL.
Scheelhaase will be looking for other targets. Different players could step up each game.
Im sure there will be certain games Ryan (Lankford) has a bunch of catches and a bunch of yards, and the next game (wide receiver) Spencer (Harris) steps up and makes a lot of plays, Scheelhaase said. The next game, we go to the tight ends a whole lot.
The possibility also exists that Illinois will use two quarterbacks. At Toledo, Beckman played two quarterbacks. As of now, Scheelhaase is slated to be the third-year starter, but Reilly OToole whos more of a thrower than Scheelhaase is expected to push for playing time. Beckman said the Illini will play the quarterback whos most consistent and successful in moving the offense.
Having Nate and Reilly and Miles (Osei) back there (at quarterback), theres so much versatility between the three of them. We can do so much different stuff, Pocic said. We have the offensive staff thats willing to do a bunch of different stuff.
While trying to score more points, the Illini aim to reach their full potential, Scheelhaase said. After beginning last season 6-0, Illinois lost all their games in the second half.The Illini want to turn their talent into better results on the field. Four players from last years team went in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.
Weve had a ton of great players that have come through here in recent years. Theres a ton of talent on our team right now, Scheelhaase said. Weve just got to do the best we can at maximizing that talent and putting it all together and realizing its not oneplayer or one great athlete on the team.

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

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High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned. 

Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris

St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors

Friday's Top 25 Games

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 18, No. 19 Bolingbrook 14 

No. 2 Prairie Ridge 55, Dundee-Crown 14

No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9

No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14

No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein

No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0

No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14

No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19

No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7

No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21

No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14

No. 24 St. Charles North 35, No. 14 Batavia 28

No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10

No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8

No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14

No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14

No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7

No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0

Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34

Other Highlights

Tinley Park 29, Evergreen Park 0

T.F. South 21, Oak Forest 14

Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14

St. Edward 29, Wheaton Academy 28

Marian Central Catholic 44, St. Patrick 21

Saturday's Top 25 Games

No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice

No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.