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Gophers football coach Jerry Kill congratulated quarterback Philip Nelson at the end of Minnesota's 44-28 victory over Purdue on Saturday.

Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

Hartman: Nelson didn't like Wisconsin coaching situation

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • October 29, 2012 - 11:40 AM

Freshman quarterback Philip Nelson said one of the reasons he enrolled at Minnesota rather than at Wisconsin is that he didn't believe the Badgers wanted him that badly.

Asked to explain his decision further, Nelson -- whose father, Pat, played for the Badgers and who grew up in the Madison area before moving to Mankato -- said: "Throughout the recruiting process, I think one of the things that I learned right away is that you can't really have favorites right off the bat. I think right away when I took a couple of visits to Wisconsin I realized that, 'Hey, maybe these guys don't really want me that much.'

"Plus on top of that, one of the biggest things I saw from that coaching staff was that [offensive coordinator] Paul Chryst and [offensive line coach] Bob Bostad, both of those guys after every single season were taking interviews and trying to get different jobs, and my dad, back in the day, he went through a coaching change between his sophomore and junior year and he got benched from the coaching change. He said it was one of the toughest things for a program, to go through a coaching change -- especially when it's kind of unfair like that."

Nelson said his dad told him that kind of situation was definitely a possibility at Wisconsin. Chryst left Bret Bielema's staff to become the head coach at Pittsburgh this year, and Bostad is now in the NFL as offensive line coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"Right away, Bostad and Chryst are gone and six out of their nine coaches from 2010 are gone. I think that was something that I definitely wanted to avoid," Nelson said.

"That's why I was so excited to be with the Gophers, because this coaching staff, they have been together for such a long time and that shows a lot of stability within the program. I think that's what really drew my attention here.

"You know, I firmly believe that my best fit was here with the Gophers. I'm very happy with my decision and I wouldn't change it all."

No redshirt problem

Nelson, who enrolled in school in January to take advantage of spring practice, said he didn't have any problem redshirting this year and keeping his four years of eligibility. But leading up to the Oct. 20 game at Wisconsin, with MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell hurting, he said he kind of expected his redshirt status to end.

"Throughout the whole week I was taking first-team reps, but they officially told me Friday and I was expecting it and I was ready to go," Nelson said.

Was he nervous when he got first home start Saturday against Purdue?

"To be honest with you, probably about the same [as Wisconsin]," he said. "Before every single game, I think every player gets a little bit nervous. I try to treat every single game just like another football game and not try to hype it up too big or anything like that. I just try to play football just like how I always do."

But he said after the first drive, his nervousness went away.

"Once you realize it's just another football game, you start to calm down a little bit more," he said. "But right away the nerves came out right after that drive and we were able to get right back on track after that and create a drive and get down the field and score."

With Nelson at quarterback, the Gophers must have set some type of record when they scored on seven possessions in a row. The Gophers ran 20 plays during that period and totaled 276 yards to build a 28-7 lead in just 19 minutes. And this same Gophers team had scored a total of 39 points in its previous three games.

Asked about his relationship with Gray, Nelson had nothing but praise for the senior.

"MarQueis is just such a great guy, great team player, that whatever the coaches ask him to do, he'll do it," Nelson said. "He'd die for his teammates. He puts his team first and his family first and that's the type of guy he is. He's really going to be successful someday. He's already proved that he can generate a lot of success. But I feel like his future is really bright and he's such a great guy, and I have a lot of respect for him."

Praises Carter

Gophers coach Jerry Kill said he has never seen a performance by a cornerback like the one Saturday by Michael Carter. The senior from Pompano Beach, Fla., tied a school record when he had six pass breakups (Michael Lehan set the mark in 2001 against Michigan State), and he also returned an interception for a touchdown. Carter had three pass breakups in a row early in the second half, returning the third 43 yards for a score.

"I've been coaching for 30 years and he certainly had a corner sequence of plays, three straight plays, that you won't see a corner get the chance to do very often," Kill said. "They were three great plays and then he returns one for a touchdown. I'm happy for him."

At one time, Carter was almost not a member of the team because of some academic problems.

"A lot of people have helped that young man, but the most important person that has helped him is he's helped himself. He's matured," Kill said.

"[Michael's cousin and former Gophers All-America safety] Tyrone [Carter] has been a part of that. Some old tough love from Coach Kill has been a part of that, but it has certainly paid off in this past year. That just tells you how kids get when they get older. You look at our football team and we have a lot of young people that have to mature. Once we get them matured, I think we can have a pretty good football team and program."

Bad injury

The Gophers will likely miss A.J. Barker, their best wide receiver, this week against Michigan.

Kill reported that Barker, who caught five passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns against the Boilermakers, got hurt on the 63-yard deep ball while running into the end zone. Barker got hit late in the end zone, which is unfortunate.

According to Kill, the injury is a pretty significant ankle sprain. A defensive player rolled on top of Barker.

"Hopefully he can recover because he's had a really good year for us," Kill said.

Michigan QB hurt

Denard Robinson, the great Michigan quarterback who can scramble with the best of them and is an outstanding passer as well, aggravated a nerve injury in his arm late in the first half of the Wolverines' 23-9 loss at Nebraska and is doubtful for the Gophers on Saturday.

Robinson, who is 23-11 over the past three seasons with Michigan, has rushed for 1,015 yards this season and thrown for 1,319.

Robinson's backup, Russell Bellomy, a redshirt freshman, went 3-for-16 for 38 yards with three interceptions Saturday.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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