Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, top, pushes through the Northwestern defense to score the game-winning touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011, in Champaign, Ill. Illinois won 38-35. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Seth Perlman

This is the first installment of a daily series updating the status of Big Ten football teams. See all of the reports at

2012 rewind

Record: 2-10, 0-8 Big Ten (sixth in the Leaders Division)

Stat leaders: Rushing, Donovonn Young, 571 yards; Passing, Nathan Scheelhaase 1,361 yards; Receiving, Ryan Lankford, 469 yards; Tackles, Mason Monheim, 86; Sacks, Michael Buchanan, 4.5; Interceptions, Steve Hull, 2

Spring forward

Starters returning: Offense 9, Defense 4, Specialists 2

Top returners: QB Nathan Scheelhaase, RB Donovonn Young, RB Josh Ferguson, WR Ryan Lankford, WR Spencer Davis, LB Jonathan Brown, LB Mason Monheim, DL Tim Kynard, S Earnest Thomas

Key losses: C Graham Pocic, G Hugh Thornton, DT Akeem Spence, DE Michael Buchanan, CB Terry Hawthrone, CB Justin Green

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Four-down territory

  • Former Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit has brought a more wide-open offensive philosophy in his role as the Illini’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, directing the third offense that Illinois quarterbacks Nathan Scheelhaase and Riley O’Toole have worked with in three seasons. Cubit wants a quick-strike mentality from his quarterbacks and plans to put the ball in the air frequently. To accomplish that, the Illini need receivers beyond Ryan Lankford to emerge as playmakers during summer and preseason work. Justin Hardee had 104 receiving yards in the spring game and Miles Osei and Steve Hull made fairly smooth transitions to receiver from other spots.
  • The quick fix. Illinois has added six junior-college transfers to its roster, including five who participated in spring drills. Linebacker Eric Finney and wide receiver Martize Barr rose quickly up the depth chart and are expected to challenge for starting roles in the fall. Offensive tackle Dallas Hinkhouse and defensive tackle Abe Cajuste also made noteworthy progress in the spring.
  • Greg Colby returns to the Illini staff this year and is working with the Illini defensive line. His work includes finding replacements for two players taken in the NFL draft, Akeem Spence and Michael Buchanan. Tim Kynard is the only returning defensive lineman who has seen significant experience and developing both a starting contingent and depth are among priorities this summer.
  • Illinois remains vulnerable at kicker. Nick Immekus, the program’s most consistent kicker last season, has left the team which leaves Taylor Zalewski as the probable replacement. Zalewski connected on 4-of-7 attempts last season, but did nail a long of 54 yards. Brennen VanMieghem and Ryan Frain are also expected to compete there.

First thoughts

Opener: Aug. 31, vs. Southern Illinois