Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Q&A: Illinois QB transfer Wes Lunt
By Adam Rittenberg
After recording just two victories on the field in 2012, Illinois tallied a big one off of it earlier this month when quarterback Wes Lunt announced he would transfer to the school. Lunt, who opened the 2012 season as Oklahoma State's starting quarterback as a true freshman, picked Illinois ahead of Sugar Bowl champion Louisville. The Rochester, Ill., native, will sit out the 2013 season in compliance with NCAA transfer rules and have three seasons of eligibility remaining. He'll arrive at Illinois' campus by July 8 at the latest.
ESPN.com caught up with Lunt earlier this week to talk about his transfer choice and his journey to the Illini.
You've had some time to digest the decision. How do you feel about it now?
Wes Lunt is at Illinois just months after participating in Oklahoma State spring practices.
West Lunt: I feel the same, really excited and ready to get over there and start classes and start working out with the team.
What was the toughest or the most challenging part about the process you went through before making the decision?
WL: The hardest thing with every process and this process is you have to tell somebody no. I developed a great relationship with both coaching staffs. Shawn Watson at Louisville and Charlie Strong had been so good to me throughout the process, and it was really hard to tell them no.
You chose between a program coming off of a Sugar Bowl championship and one that went 2-10 last year. How much for you was about the future than the present?
WL: Obviously, the programs are in different spots right now. I've always wanted to play for Illinois. Just staying close to home and helping your state school out, there's something to be said about that. I'm excited to try to help them and move them in a lot better direction if I can. To be honest, I didn't follow them at all last year, I didn't know how their season went.
How did Illinois come onto your radar when you were looking to transfer?
WL: My high school head coach [Derek Leonard] said they were interested if I decided to transfer, and after I got the release, Coach [Tim] Beckman called. It all started from there.
There was a lot made about the restrictions Oklahoma State placed on you (and later lifted). What was it like to deal with that as you weighed your options?
WL: It was more of a frustration Day 1, and after you find out, you've just got to go with it and accept what was given to me. More than enough schools were available. I had like 37 blocked or something, but the ones I didn't have blocked were great schools.
When some of the restrictions were lifted, did you feel like you were too far into the search?
WL: Yeah. I couldn't have talked to anybody. I just picked those first five schools because I had previous contact with them before I chose OSU coming out of high school. I knew the coaching staffs at those schools. Once they were blocked, I had two really good options. There were a lot of other schools that were interested, but those two schools [Illinois and Louisville] were great options.
What does Illinois offer you?
WL: They offer me a lot. They offer a world-class education. I'm really looking forward to getting on campus and pursuing academics. The coaches created a great relationship. No matter how long they're going to be there, we're always going to have a relationship. I'm excited to get started and get working with the team. I've always wanted to play at Illinois, so I'm really excited about it.
What did you know about Coach [Tim] Beckman and also [offensive coordinator Bill] Cubit before the search started?
WL: I knew Coach Cubit through Western Michigan because they offered me early out of high school [Cubit served as Western Michigan's head coach from 2005-12]. I never developed a huge relationship with him, just knew him a little bit. And then Coach Beckman, I didn't really know him at all. I was at OSU when that staff was hired and got on campus at Illinois. I knew he was the D-coordinator at OSU in '07 and '08. But once I got the release, they both contacted me, and throughout this month, I really talked to them a lot and built a relationship.
What about the offense Coach Cubit runs suits what you do as a quarterback?
WL: I know his previous quarterbacks at Western Michigan have thrown for a ton of yards and had a lot of success with it. They get the ball out quick. It's a fast-paced offense, so it's exciting. I'm looking forward to it.
What were your conversations like with Coach Beckman or [Illinois athletic director] Mike Thomas about coming to Illinois and playing for this staff in 2014? Do you feel confident these coaches you committed to will still be there?
WL: You can't predict the future. I know in college football, coaches are always going to bigger, better jobs, or getting fired. But I've committed to Illinois and to Coach Beckman, and I expect to play for him as long as I'm there. That's the mind-set you've got to have. I'm really happy about being coached by Coach Beckman and Coach Cubit, so I have the mind-set they'll be there as long as I am.
Did you have any conversations with Mike Thomas about Coach Beckman's future?
WL: I didn't. I talked to Mike Thomas a lot, but nothing about that.
Have you had a chance to get to know any guys on the team or anyone Illinois is recruiting?
WL: When I went on my second visit there, I met the O-line, and they told me what it was like to play for Coach Beckman. I know Malik Turner just committed, he's from SHG [Sacred Heart-Griffin High School] down in Springfield. I don't really know anybody, but I know of a lot of people, so I'm looking forward to building relationships.
What are your top priorities for this season, when you won't be playing in games?
WL: Just getting better in all aspects of my game: in the weight room, in the film room and on the practice field just throwing. I'll play scout for the defense, just trying to make them be the best defense they can. It'll be a lot of getting better and learning the offense.
What do you think you've learned about yourself in the last nine months, going from a freshman starter at Oklahoma State to now a transfer for Illinois?
WL: I've learned patience. There's a lot of things you can't control. And just getting closer with my family throughout. I have someone to lean on when life gets tough. It's a fun, bumpy ride, but I loved OSU and it was a great time and it was sad to leave.
WL: It's definitely bittersweet. I wish the players and the coaches there the best. I'm not playing this year, so I'll follow them and see how they do.
Illinois hasn't had a lot go its way lately. Do you sense the excitement among fans about you coming to play for the Illini?
WL: Yeah, it's exciting. I grew up when Juice Williams was playing, and everyone was really excited about Illinois football. I don't know if it's that extent now, but people are excited, and I think we'll drastically improve this year, hearing from Coach Beckman and the players. I'm just excited that Illinois is getting excited about its state school.