Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Freshman QB Will Get Chance to Show Illini Coaches His Skills

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Freshman QB Will Get Chance to Show Illini Coaches His Skills

Article excerpt

Illinois football coach Lou Tepper says if he were an Illini fan, he'd buy a season ticket "just to watch our quarterback situation."

Tepper, starting his second full season as Illinois head coach, knows that the scramble at quarterback should indeed be a spectacle.

Illini freshmen will report for practice Tuesday, and all eyes will focus on Jeff Hecklinski, 6-3 and 200 pounds and perhaps the next Jeff George on the Illinois campus.

Hecklinski, of Palatine, Ill., will get a shot in rookie camp to bypass a redshirt year and win the starting job at quarterback.

Hecklinski came to Champaign-Urbana earlier this summer and rented an apartment for a couple of weeks. He worked with the receivers and studied a playbook.

Tepper didn't encourage this visit, which was paid for by Hecklinski. "We're so fearful of NCAA violations," Tepper said, "because there are so many things you can't do."

According to NCAA rules, an incoming freshman cannot use the locker room or the weight room until he officially joins the team. The coaching staff can have only limited contact with such a player.

Tepper correctly figures that if Hecklinski wins the starting job and starts doing well as a true freshman quarterback, someone will question his activities in Champaign before the Aug. 10 starting date.

Hecklinski will have six practice sessions in which to impress the coaches before the veterans arrive Aug. 15. "If he's not in the top two by the first scrimmage on Aug. 21, then he'll probably be redshirted," Tepper said. "We feel it is highly unlikely that he will be the quarterback in 1993 because he has so much to learn.

"I'm fearful of what happened to Jeff George at Purdue. We don't want to put that kind of pressure on him."

The Boilermakers tried to make George their quarterback a year after he left high school football. After a tumultuous year, George transferred to Illinois. He sat out one season, then played two seasons at Illinois before leaving a year early for the pros. The Indianapolis Colts made him the No. 1 pick in the National Football League draft in 1990.

Jason Verduzco then took over at quarterback and held the position for three seasons, with capable relief from Jeff Kinney. …

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