Gophers' QB Leidner makes the most of job opportunity

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 19, 2013 - 12:17 AM

The Gophers wanted Mitch Leidner — as a tight end. Now, after adding weight and running to his game, he’s the starting QB.

 

Mitch Leidner’s goal of playing quarterback for the Gophers didn’t look too promising after his junior year at Lakeville South High School.

The new Gophers football coach, Jerry Kill, already had offered a scholarship to Philip Nelson, a highly touted quarterback in the same class from Mankato West. Kill’s staff told Leidner they wanted to see what he could do — as a tight end.

Leidner humored them as a tight end during a one-day camp. He wondered if he might be a better fit at Iowa. Then, a few days later, things changed.

At a 7-on-7 passing tournament thick with college recruiters, Leidner and his high school teammates spent the day seemingly scoring at will. In the championship game, Lakeville South topped Nelson’s Mankato West squad, with Leidner completing 20 of 21 passes.

“He picked a great day to be as good as he’s ever been in his life,” Lakeville South coach Larry Thompson said. “He’s always pretty good, but he could have hit them that day with his eyes closed.”

Kill had watched the whole tournament and sent word that night, through Thompson, that he needed to talk to Leidner. Soon, Leidner had his own scholarship offer from the Gophers, and it didn’t take him long to accept.

That’s only part of the story, of course, in explaining how Leidner came to be the Gophers’ clear No. 1 quarterback heading into Saturday’s game at Northwestern.

He waited his turn behind Nelson last year, quietly transforming the way he played. And now he’s hoping to boost a Gophers offense that managed a combined 20 points in losses to Iowa and Michigan.

“We’re just overwhelmed that he’s got the opportunity to show what he can do,” said Jeff Leidner, Mitch’s father. “His mother, Carrie, and I have just told Mitch to play his game and good things will happen.”

Watching the 6-4, 233-pound Leidner now — especially the punishing way he runs — and it’s easy to see why the Gophers envisioned him as a tight end.

He had a physical presence, even on the basketball court. It certainly showed during a state tournament loss to Eden Prairie his junior year.

“I had four fouls in probably the first five or six minutes of that game,” Leidner said. “It was bad. I missed a dunk, too. It was just not a great game for me.”

In football, he played some defensive end as a senior, in addition to quarterback, and Thompson said he would have been the team’s best punter, too.

But what Leidner mostly did was pass. He was a traditional pocket passer and can’t recall any of his runs going for longer than 15 yards.

“We didn’t use him as a runner a lot,” Thompson said. “Basically, I needed him, and I didn’t want to bang him up too much.”

Lakeville South also had two future college receivers — Devon Bzoskie (now at St. Cloud State) and Matt Heller (Augustana) — so the Cougars had plenty of success with Leidner passing the ball.

But he came to college appearing more one-dimensional than Nelson, who had established himself as a good passer and a swift runner in high school. That helped speed Nelson’s transition into the Gophers offense.

  • related content

  • The Call: Gophers at Northwestern

    Saturday October 19, 2013

    The Gophers lead the all-time series 50-33-5 but Saturday could be a struggle.

  • Poll: Who wins Saturday's Gophers-Northwestern game?

    Friday October 18, 2013

  • Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner

  • Minnesota Gophers vs. UNLV. Minnesota won 51-23. Minnesota backup quarterback Mitch Leidner celebrated as he rambled in for a touchdown late in the game.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
Toronto 8 1st Qtr 6:03
LA Clippers 7
Boston 6:00 PM
Washington
Orlando 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Memphis 6:30 PM
Miami
Indiana 7:00 PM
Brooklyn
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Chicago
Atlanta 7:30 PM
Milwaukee
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Utah
New York 9:00 PM
Sacramento
Minnesota 9:30 PM
Golden State
NY Islanders 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Detroit 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Carolina 6:00 PM
Tampa Bay
New Jersey 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Boston 6:00 PM
Columbus
Winnipeg 6:00 PM
Minnesota
Washington 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Dallas 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Nashville
Anaheim 7:00 PM
Arizona
Chicago 8:00 PM
Colorado
Edmonton 9:00 PM
Calgary
San Jose 9:00 PM
Los Angeles
Indiana 87 FINAL
Georgetown 91
Maine 43 FINAL
Seton Hall 72
UNC-Wilmington 82 FINAL
Minnesota 108
Georgia State 61 FINAL
Green Bay 78
Jacksonville St 54 2nd Half 2:15
Jacksonville 65
Kentucky 35 2nd Half 8:48
Louisville 32
Northern Ky 22 1st Half 4:18
Northwestern 24
UAB 3:00 PM
North Carolina
IUPUI 3:00 PM
Pepperdine
Santa Clara 3:00 PM
St Marys-CA
Oakland 4:00 PM
Maryland
Gonzaga 5:00 PM
BYU
Mercer 5:00 PM
Georgia
San Francisco 5:00 PM
Pacific
Wright State 6:00 PM
Ohio State
Presbyterian 6:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Brescia 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Tennessee St 7:30 PM
Tennessee
Kennesaw St 8:00 PM
Illinois
Colorado State 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
Portland 8:00 PM
San Diego
Wayland Baptist 8:05 PM
Utah State
Bristol University 8:05 PM
Weber State
Sacramento St 8:05 PM
Utah Valley U
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
UNLV
SD Christian 9:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 10 4th Qtr 11:00
Virginia Tech 30
(15) Arizona State 20 3rd Qtr
Duke 17
Miami-Florida 0 1st Qtr 12:40
So Carolina 0
Boston College 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
SMU 45 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 96
UCF 20 1st Half 1:59
Houston 22
BYU 4:00 PM
Gonzaga
Pacific 4:00 PM
San Francisco
St Marys-CA 4:00 PM
Santa Clara
San Diego 7:00 PM
Portland

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Gophers head coach?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close