The U's 'next big thing' at quarterback just wants to fit in

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 22, 2013 - 9:46 AM

Sure, the comparisons are flattering, but recruit Chris Streveler is focused on learning his role on his new team.

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A dual-threat quarterback, Chris Streveler passed for 2,397 yards and rushed for 1,124 for Marian Central Catholic in Woodstock, Ill.

Photo: Darrell Goemaat, Chicago Tribune

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Gophers quarterback recruit Chris Streveler has drawn comparisons to Jordan Lynch, who was recruited to Northern Illinois by Jerry Kill and recently led the Huskies to the Orange Bowl.

Streveler's high school coach, Ed Brucker, sees the similarities -- but he's upping the ante.

"I watched the Orange Bowl, and I think Chris is a lot more accurate passing-wise," Brucker said. "Lynch actually looked a little slow to me, too. I think Chris is a little faster. I'm hoping he's more like Johnny Football."

And there you have it, folks -- a reference to Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Are the Gophers fortunate or what?

This is recruiting season, so hyperbole ramps up and every player is the next "somebody." Streveler played at Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, Ill., about 45 miles from Northern Illinois. He has heard the comparisons to Lynch and Chandler Harnish, another dual-threat quarterback who started for three years at NIU under Kill, who left the Huskies following the 2010 season to coach the Gophers.

"I'm not the same player they are by any means," Streveler said. "But one day, maybe, who knows? I'm built kind of similar to them, I guess, and I'll probably end up filling out, so we'll see."

For now, Streveler is just trying to find his way around Dinkytown. He graduated from high school early so he could enroll at the university for spring semester. Classes begin Tuesday, even though National Signing Day isn't until Feb. 6.

With the departures of MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell, the Gophers will have a youth brigade at quarterback when spring camp opens in mid-March. The incumbent starter, Philip Nelson, and Mitch Leidner were high school seniors 13 months ago.

Nelson and Leidner both enrolled at the university last January, giving them a chance to go through spring practice. This spring, Streveler will be right there with them, competing for playing time.

"I'm not going to put a lot of pressure on myself to compete for the job or be like, 'If I don't start, this is a failure,' " Streveler said. "If it happens, it happens, but ... I hope the quarterbacks there will take me under their wing and kind of help me out."

Options at QB

The bond is forming already. Streveler is rooming with Leidner, who quarterbacked the Gophers scout team last year while redshirting, after passing for 20 touchdowns as a senior at Lakeville South.

Nelson would have redshirted, too, but Kill made him the starter heading into the season's seventh game, at Wisconsin. Nelson had an uneven performance down the stretch, mixing flashes of brilliance with moments that showed his youth.

Nelson was the marquee name on last year's Gophers recruiting class, and Streveler is considered one of the most talented members of this year's class, along with running back Berkley Edwards, from Chelsea, Mich., and Nate Andrews, a wide receiver from Fairhope, Ala.

All are three-star recruits, according to Rivals.com, which ranks the top players in the country with five stars. Streveler's only other Division I scholarship offer came from South Dakota State, though he took himself out of the recruiting process after committing to the Gophers in June.

"I think the type of people they're bringing in are people kind of like myself, where maybe we don't think that we're rated high enough or maybe don't have the big-time offers," Streveler said. "But we kind of have a chip on our shoulder, and we're going to come in and work hard and look to do some good things."

Brucker said he has a hard time summing up all the good things Streveler did as a two-year starter at Marian.

"He's got talent, but it's his other qualities that separate him," Brucker said. "You'll see him lift whoever he's around and make them better."

Honing his skills

Statistically, the 6-3, 205-pound Streveler isn't bad, either. As a senior, he passed for 2,397 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushed for 1,124 yards and 22 TDs. Streveler dedicated himself to improving his passing mechanics between his junior and senior years, knowing recruiting experts had flagged his motion as a bit too loose.

"Right now I would say it's a compact release with not a lot of wasted motion," Streveler said.

Josh Helmholdt, a Midwest analyst for Rivals.com, said he doesn't think Streveler is quite the same caliber recruit as Nelson.

"But [Streveler] is definitely a gritty, hard-nosed kid," Helmholdt said. "If he can shore up his throwing motion and develop a little bit more as a passer, he could be a surprise."

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