New offense, experienced leaders try to get on track

Bill Cubit vs. Southern Illinois defense

Bill Cubit will make his debut as Illinois’ offensive coordinator Saturday against Southern Illinois. Cubit utilized a fast-paced, pass-heavy offense during his eight-year tenure as head coach at Western Michigan. The Broncos finished 38th in the nation in total offense in 2012. He will take over an offense that is returning eight starters from last season, while the Salukis will have only four starters on defense from a year ago.

Nathan Scheelhaase vs. Southern Illinois secondary 

No player is more important to Illinois’ new-look offense than senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Although Scheelhaase enters this season with the third-most career starts among NCAA quarterbacks, the fifth-year senior has struggled to improve year-to-year. Last season, Scheelhaase had career lows in passing yards (1,361) and touchdown passes (four) while missing two games due to an ankle injury. In one of the games Scheelhaase missed, against FCS Charleston Southern, junior quarterback Reilly O’Toole threw more touchdowns passes (five) than Scheelhaase did all season long. Against Southern Illinois, who is also an FCS opponent, Scheelhaase will have the opportunity to beat the Salukis for the second time in his career after throwing for 229 yards and two touchdowns in the 2010 matchup.

Jonathan Brown vs. Southern Illinois offense

Before senior linebacker Jonathan Brown suffered a season-ending shoulder injury last season, he was leading the team with 59 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in only nine games. A healthy Brown will try to disrupt an experienced Southern Illinois offense. The Salukis bring back four of their top five leaders in receiving yards from last season, along with returning senior quarterback Kory Faulkner, who is 10th all time in Southern Illinois.