Nelson, Leidner give Gophers two promising quarterbacks

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 27, 2013 - 3:05 AM

Gophers coaches like the progress of Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner as spring practice wraps up.

hide

Mitch Leidner, left, and Philip Nelson are two promising young quarterbacks that coach Jerry Kill feels good about. Above, they took part in a strip-the-football drill in spring practice.

Photo: File photo by JEFF WHEELER • jwheeler@startribune.com ,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

Saturday’s spring game will give the Gophers another chance to test young quarterbacks Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner, but after 14 spring practices, the coaching staff seems less worried about that position than one might expect.

The coaches have seen Nelson channel the hard lessons he learned last season, when he started seven games as a true freshman. They have seen Leidner blossom from a redshirt player to a solid backup option — at least.

“We’ve got a lot of other issues,” coach Jerry Kill said, listing linebacker depth at the top. “But we feel good about the quarterback position.”

Kill said it reminds him of his time at Southern Illinois, when the Salukis had Joel Sambursky and Nick Hill, or Northern Illinois, when the Huskies had Chandler Harnish and Jordan Lynch. Each quarterback grew up fast.

In Nelson’s case and Leidner’s, neither 19-year-old carries himself like a kid one year out of high school. Each graduated from high school one semester early — Nelson from Mankato West, Leidner from Lakeville South — to enroll at Minnesota in time for spring practice last year.

Now, they have been through a full season and two spring camps.

“I feel like I’ve been here for a long time now,” Leidner said. “And I know since Philip’s played, he obviously feels like he’s been here for a long time. So we’re young, but we definitely understand what’s going on. We think we can compete at this level and help Minnesota win some games.”

Nelson trims down

The Gophers went 2-5 with Nelson as their starter last year. He completed 49.3 percent of his passes, with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also carried the ball nearly 10 times per game, finishing with 252 rushing yards.

After the season, the 6-2 Nelson shed nearly 10 pounds, trimming to about 215. He said he “cut off a lot of fat and gained some muscle.”

“When I got here, I had the false mind-set of wanting to put on weight and get bigger for the Big Ten,” Nelson said. “And then I realized that the most dangerous I’ll ever be is by being faster. And the fastest I’ve run in my life was probably when I was in high school, around 215.”

Nelson played through a hamstring injury last year, but it healed during the month leading to the bowl game.

“As the season went on, I thought he got worn down a little bit,” Gophers quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski said. “And then all of a sudden in the bowl game — I mean, Texas Tech is fast, but he was making people miss.”

Leidner speeds up

Nelson’s ability to both pass and run was apparent in high school, but the 6-4, 233-pound Leidner was a more traditional pocket passer at Lakeville South.

“Believe it or not, those two kids [Nelson and Leidner] are about the same speed,” Zebrowski said. “… Here’s why I’m so proud of Mitch: In high school, he was a drop back kid, never ran it. He came here and increased his speed. Now he can run away from people, and he’s 233.”

The Gophers will rely heavily on the run this fall, but they’ll need their quarterbacks to keep defenses honest, executing play-action passes. Leidner might have the better arm, but Nelson’s in-game experience has given him a better feel for reading defenses.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Carolina 6:00 PM
Columbus
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Detroit
Montreal 7:30 PM
Chicago
Arizona 8:00 PM
Edmonton
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Is Paul Molitor the best choice to manage Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close