Illinois' Hunt For Wes Lunt
By Joe Coughlin
The Fighting Illini may not be the most formidable college football program, but a little luck and a little circumstance has made them the front-runner for a formidable offensive weapon.
When it was announced May 9 that QB Wes Lunt was transferring from Oklahoma State, the hunt was on — and Illinois was in it.
Hunt hails from Rochester, Ill., which is about 90 miles from Champaign. He won two state titles at Rochester HS and threw 65 touchdowns in his final two seasons. It was more than enough for Illinois to offer Lunt, who, instead, was wooed by Todd Monken, the then-offensive coordinator for the Cowboys.
As a true frosh in 2012, Lunt was named the starter, the first time that’s happened at OSU since 1950. He had ups and downs, along with injuries to his leg and head, but started five games and threw six TDs. He also threw seven picks. The talent is evident, however. He’s 6-foot4 and 215 pounds and is your prototypical pocket passer. He has a huge arm, was a four-star recruit (Rivals.com) and the sky is the limit.
But is that sky over Illinois?
Things cleared up a bit this weekend as sources say OSU will limit Lunt’s prospects. According to the Tulsa World, Lunt cannot move to a school in the Big 12 or SEC, or to Southern Mississippi, where Monken is now the head coach.
Southern Miss seems odd, but makes sense, as Cowboys’ coach Mike Gundy is probably sending a message that if you leave his program you cannot take players with you.
Removing the Big 12 removes OSU's top rivals, and removing the SEC removes Vanderbilt and Tennessee from the equation. Both schools had previous recruiting relationships with Lunt.
That leaves Louisville, which offered Lunt out of high school, and Illinois.
Lunt, who must sit out a year because of transfer rules, has said that a quarterback battle will not be a factor in his decision, but it’s important to note that situation at Illinois. Starter Nathan Scheelhaase is a senior, backup Reilly O’Toole has struggled and was a three-star recruit (Rivals.com) out of high school, and versatile incoming frosh Aaron Bailey may not even stay at quarterback.
There’s room on the roster for Lunt, who reportedly visited Illinois on May 13.
But Louisville is not out of the question. The Cardinals have risen under coach Charlie Strong, who helped develop rising junior QB Teddy Bridgewater into a highly-touted NFL prospect. But Bridgewater could come back in 2014, which means Lunt would have to sit.
Also, Notre Dame has emerged as a contender.
But the state of Illinois seems to be calling to Lunt, who reportedly felt like an outsider after Monken, an Illinois native, left town, making Lunt the only man from Illinois in the OSU program. And Illinois might need Lunt more than he needs to come home. What a happy homecoming it would be.