Miles Osei the X factor for Illini offense

July, 20, 2012
7/20/12
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Miles Osei is anxious to learn his job description for Illinois' offense this fall.

Just a hunch: It will contain a few slashes.

Osei is listed as a quarterback, the No. 3 signal-caller on the Illinois depth chart entering the fall. Chris Beatty, the team's co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, has told Osei he's "a quarterback first." But what can't be ignored are Illinois' shortages at both the wide receiver and running back positions. Illinois loses All-Big Ten wideout A.J. Jenkins, a first-round pick in April's NFL draft who accounted for 53.3 percent of the team's receiving yards and 39.8 percent of the team's receptions from 2011. The Illini have no running backs who are juniors or seniors, and enter the season with a true sophomore (Donovonn Young) and a redshirt freshman (Josh Ferguson) as their top options.

[+] EnlargeIllinois' Miles Osei
Michael Heinz/US PresswireMiles Osei may play many roles for the Illini this upcoming season.
Osei, a speedy 6-foot, 200-pound junior, saw time at quarterback, running back and wide receiver this spring and has continued to work at all three spots this summer.

"That's my goal, to help out this offense at any position they need me to play," Osei told ESPN.com. "Wherever they need me -- if it's quarterback, if it's receiver, if it's running back -- I'm willing to do that. This offense is definitely very flexible. Multiple guys can play multiple positions."

Osei had a limited role in the previous offense, filling in here and there for top quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. He also had three kickoff returns in 2011. He practiced at running back a bit before the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl but had no carries in the game.

The new coaching staff saw Osei's potential -- and their low numbers at receiver and running back -- and used him at all three positions in spring ball. Osei completed 8 of 12 pass attempts in the spring game and also led his team in receptions with four.

"Being a quarterback helped me with the other positions," Osei said. "I know where the running back's supposed to be, and the receivers. It's just a matter of how they got there, which is what I'm picking up now."

Osei played wide receiver and running back during his first two year at Prospect High School in suburban Chicago, but by the summer before his junior season, he was a full-time quarterback. Although Scheelhaase enters his third year as the starter and Reilly O'Toole received a good deal of playing time in 2011, Osei still expects to take a chunk of reps at quarterback when preseason camp kicks off next month.

"How the reps go at halfback and receiver, I don't know about that," he said.

Osei has spent the summer working on the details of his potential new positions, namely footwork. When camp begins, he'll likely be a very busy man.

"I hope whatever position the coaches choose, I'm able to play that position," he said. "I definitely want to know what my role is and things like that.

"Whatever the role, I'll be thrilled to have it."

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