As a walk-on from Cretin-Derham Hall, Conor Rhoda was fourth on the Gophers’ quarterback depth chart heading into last season, but he still came close to playing.
With teams wrapping up training camps next week, Rhoda’s story is a good reminder to players everywhere how quickly their place in the pecking order can change.
“I came in and I had a good fall camp, and the coaches were telling me great things, and I just kept working,” Rhoda said.
The Gophers began using a two- quarterback system with Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner. Chris Streveler, then a true freshman, was third on the depth chart and Rhoda ran the scout team.
But five weeks into the season, Streveler went to make a pass in practice and tore a tendon in his right thumb. That put Rhoda on the travel roster, as the third quarterback, for the rest of the year.
Then, Nelson aggravated a hamstring injury. Suddenly, the Gophers were down to Leidner and Rhoda.
“We had about three or four games left, and [quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski] asked what I would think if they needed to put me in the game,” Rhoda said. “I told him, ‘Whatever’s best for the team. I want to keep my redshirt, I don’t want to blow it on two games, but if I need to go in and play to help us win, that’s what I’m going to do.’ ”
This year, Rhoda is third on the depth chart, behind Leidner and Streveler, whose thumb has returned to full strength.
• Wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky and defensive end Michael Amaefula have both been hobbled of late, but coaches say both could be ready for the opener.
• Offensive lineman Jared Weyler has a torn ACL, but he’s a true freshman who likely would have redshirted anyway.