With Philip Nelson’s hamstring injury about 75 percent healed, Gophers coach Jerry Kill said Wednesday that Mitch Leidner and Chris Streveler likely will be the top two quarterbacks for Saturday’s game against San Jose State.
Nelson has yet to be able to run full speed since injuring the hamstring last week against Western Illinois. He also battled a hamstring injury last season.
“We’ll have to be careful,” Kill said. “We won’t take any chances whatsoever.”
Leidner completed seven of eight passes for 105 yards and rushed for 64 yards in the comeback victory over Western Illinois.
Streveler is a true freshman, but Kill said the Gophers won’t hesitate to use him.
“In our situation, the way we play, you can’t all of a sudden get conservative about what you do,” Kill said. “The way I’m approaching it right now, if we were playing tomorrow, Chris is our No. 2 quarterback, and he needs to be ready to play. And if Mitch gets tired, we’re going to play [Streveler].”
Running back Donnell Kirkwood, who missed the past two games because of a sprained ankle, has been cleared to practice, but Kill plans to be careful with him, too.
“He’s been able to practice full-speed, but I can watch him, and I know if he’s full-tilt or not,” Kill said. “Anytime you sit out a period of time, it takes a while, unless you’re Adrian Peterson.
“We’ve got two good backs [Rodrick Williams and David Cobb] who’ve done a good job, so we can be smart. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got healthy bodies as we get into the Big Ten.”
Jones still in the mix
Donovahn Jones, a true freshman who has converted from quarterback to wide receiver, didn’t play last week after playing in the first two games. It wasn’t injury related; Jones just didn’t fit with the schemes the Gophers used against Western Illinois.
“A lot of it had to do with the game, and he’s just still learning,” Kill said. “We’ve taken a kid with a lot of talent and moved him to a position, and it’s not easy to do that. And then when you’re a freshman trying to learn how to practice at the college level, that’s even harder.”
Lauer establishes himself
Ben Lauer, a redshirt freshman from Wayzata High School, replaced starting left tackle Marek Lenkiewicz on the second series against Western Illinois and continued working with the first-team offense.
“Marek had done a nice job, but Ben’s a 315-pound kid; he’s almost 6-7, and it’s just getting harder and harder to keep him off the field,” offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. “Once he went in there, he did a nice job. Kind of like what we do with the running backs, we were going with the hot hand.”
Trimming the penalties
Through three games, the Gophers have been charged with the fewest penalties of any Big Ten team so far, with seven. The next closest team is Penn State with 14.
The Gophers’ secret?
“Immediate reinforcement … [and] a lot of up-downs,” Kill said, referring to a running drill players have to do when they commit a penalty in practice. “Our kids have learned silly penalties will get you beat.”