Christian Ponder's intelligence level has been a frequent topic of conversation since the Vikings caused a stir by making the quarterback their first-round pick on Thursday. Ponder earned his undergraduate degree in 2 1/2 years at Florida State and had his master's degree before he started his senior year.
Certainly this type of intellect means that Ponder realizes the potential benefits of spending time next season learning behind a veteran quarterback. Right? Ah, not exactly.
"Obviously, you can see the advantage of that, but my goal is to start right away," Ponder said Friday at Winter Park after his introductory news conference. "I think that is anyone's [goal]. Maybe someone wants to sit back and learn a little bit, but I'm going to prepare myself that way and I know that it's really what I do leading up to that point that's going to determine my success rate. So I'm going to do as much as possible, given the circumstances, to get to that point and be prepared."
Ponder, who played four seasons at Florida State and went 22-13 as a starter, almost certainly will be expected to take over as the Vikings starter at some point in 2011. When that will happen is unclear right now.
The Vikings current depth chart at quarterback includes Ponder, Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar. There will be a fourth name added to that list before training camp begins, assuming the NFL lockout isn't still in progress, and it very possibly could be a veteran who could help ease Ponder's transition.
"I think that balances out a position," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said of adding a veteran. "Not just [at] quarterback but to have some young developmental talent and also have some veterans. Because players not only learn from coaches, they also learn from their fellow players, so it is important to have a veteran in that room, really at all positions."
Musgrave, though, added there definitely is a chance that Ponder will start from Day 1.
"The No. 1 thing is that I have to earn my role," Ponder said. "Whatever that may be. I am preparing myself like I'm going to be the starter, but I have to earn that. Obviously, Joe Webb is here and Rhett Bomar is on the roster. Guys that are here that are a step ahead of me. I have some ground to make up and whether I have to sit behind a guy for a couple games, for a season or for a couple seasons, whatever that role might be I will be fine with it. But I will prepare myself as the starter."
That means taking an immediate leadership role, and Ponder is prepared to do exactly that. He already talked to wide receiver Percy Harvin on Friday -- the two were rivals when Harvin was at Florida -- and would like to set up off-site workouts with his offensive teammates if the lockout continues.
"I'm going to try and start reaching out to them ASAP," Ponder said. "I'm hoping Percy has the numbers for those guys and we can get something together as soon as possible."
Ponder said he feels he has an advantage entering the Vikings system because he said Musgrave plans to use an offensive system similar to what he ran at Florida State.
"We did everything. We were very multiple," Ponder said. "We could spread it out to four wides, two tight ends, two backs. We could do it all. The thing that is awesome about what Musgrave was doing is a lot of the plays, the passing concepts. That stuff is very similar. Even how we call plays. The pass protections are very similar in what we called them, and the formations."