Earlier this month, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said that while Teddy Bridgewater is the starting quarterback, the team will always look to bring in other quarterbacks because of the huge importance of the position.
That's the same situation the Gophers find themselves in, with senior quarterback Mitch Leidner returning for next season, but he might have to fight for his job because the team has perhaps more highly rated competition than ever before with sophomore Demry Croft, redshirt junior Conor Rhoda, redshirt junior Chris Streveler — who has converted to wide receiver but still plays some quarterback — and incoming freshman Seth Green.
Last season, many people thought Croft would push Leidner, after Croft came in ranked as the No. 28 dual-threat quarterback in the nation by Rivals.com and had a stellar spring and fall practice. He played in three games, completing seven of 17 passes for 34 yards and rushing nine times for 38 yards.
Now Green is coming in with similar hype. Green starred at East Ridge as a junior, throwing for 1,850 yards, running for 551 yards, and passing for or scoring a combined 25 touchdowns, before playing his senior season at Allen (Texas) High School.
Green was recruited by schools such as Alabama, Oregon, Michigan State, Louisville, Texas and Wisconsin. He committed to Oregon before offensive coordinator Scott Frost, who recruited Green, left to become Central Florida's head coach. Green reconsidered and pledged to the Gophers — perhaps the biggest commitment of the year for new head coach Tracy Claeys.
Green talked about his senior season in Texas.
"It was a great year and just a blessing to go down there and just experience all of it, especially at that level," he said. "There was a lot of good learning involved. I think that helped prepare me for college and now that I'm here [at Minnesota], it's instilled a lot of good work ethic and values in me."
Green also talked about the differences he saw in playing in Texas, one of the hotbeds for high school football in the country.
"It's just the work ethic behind it, a lot more people there take it seriously — or a lot more people are more dedicated to it," he said. "With that, you always have to be working as hard as you can. Also moving there was the whole new aspect where I had to relearn everything, so that was also helpful."
What did he learn?
"Just more defensive [schemes] in depth, and then just little tricks and stuff to help you out in the future," he said. "As you get to play the game more, you start learning more. You get more comfortable."
Allen football coach Tom Westerberg told the Star Tribune in December that he was most impressed with Green's work ethic.
"He's second to none. He did a great job," Westerberg said. "I mean, studies the game well and had to study it quite a bit to pick everything up that we're doing and knowing that he's going to have to do that at the next level, too. As far as working and studying the game, and as far as working out, he's second to none. He'll win every spring practice, and he's awesome in the weight room and is a good leader that way, leading by example [by] being out front. So I think they're getting a great one."
Gophers the right fit
Green was asked why he switched his commitment from Oregon.
"I felt as if that wasn't as good of a situation or ideal place, and then Minnesota was my top choice," Green said. "I felt very at home here, obviously, and felt like it was a great situation for me to not only come in and be successful hopefully in the future but also grow and develop a lot as a player and person."
When asked if he thought he could start, he said he was here to learn first and would be looking to Leidner for guidance.
"I hope to learn a lot and take a lot from Mitch, knowing he's been playing for four years," Green said.
Green's Allen High School team lost to Westlake in the Class 6A semifinals, ending a 57-game winning streak and a string of three consecutive state titles. Allen employed a two-quarterback system, something the Gophers have done in the past.
Green said he has liked the Gophers' system and doesn't expect that to change under new coaches.
"It's a good system, especially with [newly hired offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jay] Johnson here, I feel like he's going to do a good job of utilizing all of the quarterbacks' abilities and strengths to try and get points on the board," Green said.
Green was asked if all of the changes — from East Ridge to Texas and from Oregon to the Gophers — worked out for the best.
"Yes, sir," he said. "God's plan brought me back here and I'm just glad I can be along for the ride."
•Rest assured that all of the Vikings coaches and scouts who are in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl are looking for players who will improve the offense next year. The team finished 29th in total offense (321.2 yards per game), down from 27th last season (315.5).
•Wolves center Nikola Pekovic was asked how hard it's been to come back after being sidelined so long after Achilles' tendon surgery. "It's really tough after 10 months," he said. "… Everything is different in what you can do on the court. You can [practice] by yourself, but the game is a different speed, different everything."
•It's hard to believe: Indiana's 82-79 loss at Wisconsin on Tuesday was the Hoosiers' 14th consecutive defeat to the Badgers in Madison.
•Outfielder Reynaldo Rodriguez didn't get a chance with the Twins last season, even though he was named Rochester's MVP after leading the International League with 81 runs scored, finishing second with 34 doubles and 57 extra-base hits, and fourth with 80 RBI in 132 games. Rodriguez is signed and invited to spring training. He could see action with the Twins next season.
•Eleven former Gophers are playing on NHL teams this season, and five others have been called up by their NHL teams from the AHL for at least a few games. Those players are Blake Wheeler with Winnipeg, Thomas Vanek, Jordan Schroeder, Erik Haula and Mike Reilly with the Wild, Nick Bjugstad with Florida, Alex Goligoski with Dallas, Erik Johnson with Colorado, Nick Leddy and Kyle Okposo with the New York Islanders, Paul Martin with San Jose, Phil Kessel with Pittsburgh, Nate Schmidt and Aaron Ness with Washington, Jim O'Brien with New Jersey and Brady Skjei with the New York Rangers.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com