Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He previously covered the Minnesota Vikings for four years, starting in 2008. In addition, he covered college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Not much gets fans and media whipped into a frenzy quite like a good old-fashioned quarterback controversy. I wouldn't call the situation in Dinkytown a quarterback controversy just yet, but something is brewing.
Yes, freshman Max Shortell looked calm and poised in relief of an injured MarQueis Gray in a season-opening loss at USC. Shortell rallied the Gophers with an impressive touchdown drive that gave them a chance to pull off an upset on the final drive.
That didn't happen because of a last-minute interception by USC, but Shortell's performance coupled with Gray's first-half struggles have resulted in questions about what the Gophers will and should do at that position going forward.
I'd be stunned if Gray doesn't start Saturday against New Mexico State, but I will also be surprised if Shortell doesn't at least get a series or two. That was a big question I had going into the season: How much playing time would Shortell get after having a solid fall camp in which he won the No. 2 job.
Gray struggled with his accuracy in the half-dozen practices and scrimmages I attended. That was somewhat to be expected because he is still learning to play the position at this level and is getting used to a new offense. It was unrealistic to think he would just flip a switch once the season started.
But he looked and played tight Saturday. I assume some of that can be attributed to first-game nerves. But he just didn't look comfortable throwing the ball.
Gray's ability to make things happen with his feet gives this offense a dimension that puts pressure on defenses. And he spent spring practice and fall camp as the starter. I don't think you change direction after one bad half.
But I can see the Gophers using some sort of rotation. Maybe not 50-50, but enough to give Shortell a chance to run the offense in different situations, such as early in the game.
I've never been a fan of teams using multiple quarterbacks. I wouldn't want my quarterback constantly worrying about making mistakes or looking over his shoulder to see if he's coming out.
But I'm intrigued by Shortell's performance and would like to see more of him.