When Philip Nelson emerged as a true freshman starter midway through the 2012 season, shedding his redshirt and starting the final seven games (including a bowl game), many assumed he was the frontrunner to start the next three seasons at QB for the Gophers.
A quieter minority wondered this: was Nelson thrust into action because he was the most-ready to play, or did Mitch Leidner keep his redshirt that season because he was the quarterback the Gophers believed in more and therefore wanted to develop and save all four years of his playing eligibility?
We might never know, and actually the truth could be a combination of both. That said, Leidner's emergence into at least a dual role in 2013 -- and his primary takeover of the position in the Gophers' bowl game -- led to all sorts of questions about the quarterback spot heading into spring football.
As such, it wasn't shocking when Nelson announced Thursday that he is transferring. The official reason is that he wants to play in an offense more geared toward passing, and that does seem plausible for a QB better suited, overall, to throw than run.
But with Leidner having three years left, and with 2013 redshirt Chris Streveler presumably set to push them both, playing time was not going to be a given for Minnesota's most experienced QB. By transferring now, Nelson can use his redshirt year to sit out as a transfer and still have two years of eligibility left.
The timing and the uncertainty of playing time mean the move makes sense. It's still a surprise since he's one of those "face of the program" guys, but it's hardly shocking.