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

Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 14 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 5
Boston 2 Top 4th Inning
Baltimore 1
Milwaukee 1 Top 4th Inning
Pittsburgh 0
Toronto 2 Top 4th Inning
NY Yankees 3
Washington 2 Top 4th Inning
Miami 1
Chicago WSox 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Tampa Bay 2
NY Mets 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Atlanta 0
Cleveland - T. Bauer 7:10 PM
Minnesota - P. Hughes
Detroit - J. Verlander 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Vargas
Seattle - T. Walker 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Peacock
Arizona - C. Anderson 7:10 PM
Colorado - J. Lyles
Cincinnati - D. Holmberg 7:15 PM
St. Louis - J. Lackey
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan 8:35 PM
Oakland - J. Lester
Texas - L. Bonilla 9:05 PM
LA Angels - H. Santiago
San Francisco - T. Hudson 9:10 PM
San Diego - O. Despaigne
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 0 1st Qtr 11:22
So Florida 7
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Colorado 9:00 PM
Real Salt Lake
Toronto 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close