TEMPE, Ariz. — Though Illinois coach Tim Beckman is not expected to name his starting quarterback before Saturday’s game, ASU is preparing for banged up junior Nathan Scheelhaase.
Scheelhaase, the regular starter for the Illini, left the team’s win over Western Michigan last week with an ankle injury. He practiced Wednesday and was said to be improving. Beckman told reporters he would decide after Thursday’s practice if Scheelhaase or a backup — sophomore Reilly O’Toole or junior Miles Osei — would start Saturday, but Illinois did not have media availability Thursday.
“There’s no uncertainty on my part,” ASU coach Todd Graham said. “I’m going to prepare for their best quarterback, and there’s no question in my mind that that’s the guy. He’s the best, and we wish him the best. I did not think when I watched it that he couldn’t continue to play. So I feel pretty certain he’ll play.
“I haven’t tried to research, I haven’t tried to look at it, I’m not worried about it. You better prepare for him to play, because he’s obviously their quarterback. He’s the best quarterback on the team, so you prepare for him. What does it do if he doesn’t play? You’re not any less prepared.” MAGEE MISSES PRACTICE
ASU linebacker Brandon Magee did not practice Thursday due to an undisclosed injury.
Graham said the redshirt senior was held out of the team’s final practice before playing Illinois on Saturday as a precaution. Graham said only that Magee “got a little ding.”
Magee, who had two tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown last week, left practice a few minutes early Wednesday and left the field Thursday after early stretching. Graham gave no indication Magee would miss Saturday’s game.
“We’re just being cautious with him, so that’s all we’ve got there,” Graham said.
Magee did not speak to reporters after Thursday’s practice. LINEBACKER SHUFFLE
Graham said Thursday that he expects redshirt junior linebacker Anthony Jones to start at sam linebacker Saturday. Previous sam starter Steffon Martin will shift to starting Devilbacker, while Carl Bradford will move to second-team Devilbacker.
“Anthony is just at a point where he’s such a good athlete,” Graham said. “His biggest thing is just mental development and then learning our system and how we do things. I think he’s ready.”
Earlier in the week, Graham said he considers Jones, Martin and Bradford all starters, and he said Thursday that Bradford and Martin will likely split snaps at Devilbacker.
Graham praised Jones as one of ASU’s best 11 defensive players more than once during the week and said he expected Jones to work his way into the starting lineup. Jones dealt with knee and shoulder injuries during fall camp.
“It’s been up and down, but I’m here now,” Jones said, “so all I can do is compete and just keep the job where I’m at.”
Jones is also a fallback option for ASU at safety in the event the secondary suffers another injury.