By BRADEN LAYER
---- — Effingham quarterback Nathan Vail didn't have a drawn-out, frustrating recruiting process. After throwing for 1,028 yards and eight touchdowns this season, the Hearts' field general had it narrowed down to two choices; Millikin or Greenville.
On Wednesday, the coaching staff and familiar offensive style of the Big Blue at Millikin emerged as the winner.
"Their coaches really get to know you," Vail said. "I feel real comfortable going there."It's a welcoming sign for Vail that the Big Blue offense won't be a dramatic change. Millikin runs a no-huddle that typically features four-or five-receiver sets."I feel like their offense will fit me better," Vail said. "They're more of a spread offense, and that's what we ran here."Effingham coach Mike McDonald agreed that Vail will fit in nicely with Millikin's style, particularly with his ability to tuck the football and make plays with his feet."They don't mind running their quarterback and that's one of Nathan's strengths," McDonald said. "Sometimes you get quarterbacks that are afraid of getting hit, that's not the case with him."Vail utilized his legs to the tune of 409 rushing yards this fall, and tacked on three rushing touchdowns.
Though he brings the talents of a dual-threat signal caller, McDonald said his former quarterback's ultimate success at the collegiate level will be determined by his ability to shorten his motion and get rid of the ball in a hurry."I think the biggest challenge for him is working on his release and getting the ball out quicker," he said. "That's one of the things he will have to work on in that offense. They're a no-huddle that likes to run a lot of different tempos."Millikin has had plenty of recent success at the position, and Vail hopes to continue that trend over the next four years. Matt Holmes quarterbacked the Big Blue this past season, tossing 26 touchdowns and racking up 2,162 yards en route to second-team honors on the College Conference of Illinois Wisconsin ballot. Holmes had 279 attempts on the year and completed 173. Vail threw a grand total of 180 passes during his senior year.Yet that lack of game repetition should be no problem, as Vail is perfectly content learning under Millikin coach Patrick Etherton and the Big Blue staff. Millikin, who competes in NCAA Division III athletics, has a tough schedule battling the likes of usual national powers Wheaton and North Central. At least in the beginning, Vail is just trying to help his team improve."I feel like I'll be able to push guys to get better," he said. "I'll be able to fight."The Big Blue could use this grit and determination to help build upon a 5-5 campaign last season. McDonald said that with Vail, Millikin is getting a hungry player that will consistently go above and beyond what a coach expects."He's definitely dedicated to the sport," he said. "He's always willing to put time and effort in, he's a student of the game. He's not one who just knows his job, he knows everyone's job."Having played both football and baseball in high school, Vail's tasks will be a little easier once he is able to concentrate only on tossing the pigskin.
With just one sport on tap, Vail should be poised to make an impact."Once you get into college and you're just working on one individual sport, you've got a position coach you can work with," McDonald said. "They will work with him on the fundamentals that he will have to utilize. In high school we just kind of scratched the surface a little bit with him."
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at email@example.com