Wes Lunt got some love today from btn.com’s Tom Dienhart during their staff debate on who will be the Big Ten’s 2014 Passing TD Leader. Despite Lunt not playing a single down of football in an actual NCAA game in well over a year, Dienhart felt strongly enough to select him as the Big Ten quarterback most likely to lead the conference in passing touchdowns.
Why did Dienhart feel this way?
“He’ll be the best player on offense, able to raise the play of those around him. The guy is gonna be a stud.” – Tom Dienhart
Seems simple enough, but the reasons Lunt is likely to find the endzone early and often start with the offensive package that the Illini deploy and end with the potential talent level that the offense has heading into this season.
Previously, we’ve taken an historical look at Cubit’s offense, and the effects it can have on a quarterback’s production, so we won’t revisit that again now. However, it should be noted that Nathan Scheelhaase played only one season in his system, and the results were better than many probably expected.
Scheelhaase led the Big Ten Conference in passing last season while throwing up a career best stat line of 3,272 yards on 430 passing attempts while completing 66.7% of those attempts for 21 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. Scheelhaase’s 21 TD were only 3 behind the final statistical leader, Braxton Miller (24).
Illinois returns four linemen who have seen significant game action in Bill Cubit’s system, and the importance of this factor can’t be stated enough.
Keeping Lunt protected, upright, and healthy is very important if Dienhart’s prediction has a chance of coming true. Simply put, the line needs to gel with new offensive line coach Tom Brattan as soon as possible, and then they need to produce a clean pocket all season long for Lunt to fully see the field. It’s one of the largest keys to the Illini having a successful season in the win column.
The other massive key is figuring out which skill players are up to the task of helping Lunt find immediate success. Illinois will be counting on several newcomers to make an impact, but that’s another discussion that deserves its own post. In order to keep this as short as possible I’m only going to mention one player who needs to step up in the red zone this season.
Matt LaCosse has a chance to one day find himself playing on Sundays, but the foundation for that possibility must be laid this season. LaCosse has all of the physical attributes necessary to succeed. Now he just needs to figure out how to become a true weapon inside the opponents 20. If he does, Lunt could post some monster numbers this season and validate Tom Dienhart’s prediction as a result.