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October 15, 2013Follow @JohnVeldhuis
MADISON, Wis. - Chris Beatty was bound to be a popular man after the Wisconsin Badgers wrapped up practice on Tuesday afternoon. After all, Wisconsin's first-year wide receivers coach spent last season at Illinois as Tim Beckman's co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
And while the Illini use a different offense this season under Tim Beck, Beatty still shared what he knew of Illinois' personnel with defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and his staff.
"Obviously being the coordinator last year I know all those guys on offense, and even the ones that were recruited well so I have a good idea of what they do well from being around them," Beatty said after practice Tuesday. "They've got some good players over there that I know really well, so it would be silly of me not to share that."
And while Beatty is familiar with most of Illinois' offensive personnel, his experience working with the quarterbacks will probably aid the Badgers the most. Beatty tutored Nathan Scheelhaase during his time in Champaign, so he knows better than most what the now-senior quarterback is capable of on the field. Beatty said one of Scheelhaase's biggest assets is his adaptability, which has come in handy since he's had to work under several different offensive coordinators during his four-year career at Illinois.
"He's a really smart kid. He takes coaching well, he's been really adaptable," Beatty said of Scheelhaase. "This is his fourth or fifth offensive coordinator since he's been there, but he's got a great knowledge of the game. Just a great kid all the way around."
So far Scheelhaase has thrived under Beck's system, which asks him to throw the ball more often than he did under Beatty and Billy Gonzales, and Paul Petrino before them. Scheelhaase is able to pick up yards on the ground if plays break down, but so far he's been thriving in the pocket. The 6-foot-3 senior is completing 64.2 percent of his passes so far this season, and is likely to surpass his total passing yards from last season this week against the Badgers.
Beatty said Scheelhaase isn't a perfect passer, but he makes up for any weaknesses by preparing well for games and learning what to expect from another team's defense.
"I think he sees the defense and understands the defense, so he makes up for some of his weaknesses by making that a strength," Beatty said. "He knows where he wants to go with the ball before the snap and knows how the defense is going to rotate and what their structure is."
As far as preparing Wisconsin's defense goes, freshman quarterback Connor Senger will imitate Scheelhaase during practice. Senger has already imitated Braxton Miller, Kain Colter, and Rob Henry so far this season and said Scheelhaase is sitting in the pocket more often this season, which helps open up Illinois offense as a whole.
"It seems like they're setting up the run with the pass," Senger said. "[They're] trying to spread it out and open up running lanes. That's kind of new wrinkle that they're putting in there and I think it's working well for them so far."
But Scheelhaase will have to elevate his game a little bit if the Illini want to beat the Badgers at home this weekend. Scheelhaase was stellar against FCS Southern Illinois, Cincinnati and Miami (OH) during the non-conference season, but he struggled against Washington and in Illinois' Big Ten opener against Nebraska.
Scheelhaase completed just 43.1 percent of his passes against the Huskies and Cornhuskers, throwing for 291 yards and one touchdown to two interceptions. He's played well in his two career games against the Badgers, but with Beatty in tow the Badgers at least have someone who's seen what Scheelhaase can and can't do for an extended period of time.
That's not the sole reason why head coach Gary Andersen brought Beatty to Madison when he moved in from Utah State, but Badgers certainly won't complain about having a living scouting report for this week's game already on staff.
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