Gophers set on Nelson, Leidner at QB but much of Big Ten scrambling

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 27, 2013 - 11:53 PM

Three-man competitions are more a norm than an exception.

hide

Likely starting quarterback Philip Nelson, left, and possible backup, Mitch Leidner, took snaps during practice in March.

 

– The Gophers have a 19-year-old starting quarterback (Philip Nelson) with seven games of experience and a 19-year-old backup (Mitch Leidner) who has yet to take a collegiate snap. By current Big Ten standards, however, this hardly qualifies as uncertainty.

There’s some star power at quarterback this year with Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez and Michigan’s Devin Gardner.

But with preseason camps set to open this week, five teams have open quarterback competitions: Wisconsin, Penn State, Indiana, Iowa and Purdue. Meanwhile, Michigan State (Andrew Maxwell) and Illinois (Nathan Scheelhaase) have senior quarterbacks who could lose their jobs quickly if they sputter like last season.

The uncertainty was obvious last week at Big Ten media days, where each team could showcase three players, and only five teams brought quarterbacks.

“The reason I don’t have a quarterback here is because I’m not sure which one it is,” Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said.

The Gophers brought defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, running back Donnell Kirkwood and safety Brock Vereen to Chicago. When asked if the quarterback job is open, coach Jerry Kill said, “I think if you ask Mitch [Leidner], he would tell you so. And I think if you watched the spring game, he would tell you so.”

It’ll be Nelson’s job as long as he stays healthy and performs, but the Gophers like the way Leidner has developed, adding surprising speed to go with his strong arm.

“I think it’s very similar to our situation at Northern Illinois when I was there with Chandler Harnish and Jordan Lynch,” Kill said. “I think it’s healthy. [Nelson and Leidner] get along well, and we’ll need both of them to be productive before it’s all over.”

Joel Stave and Curt Phillips helped lead Wisconsin to a third consecutive Big Ten title last year, but it wouldn’t be shocking if new coach Gary Andersen picked junior-college transfer Tanner McEvoy as the starter.

The decision will say a lot about Wisconsin’s new offensive philosophy. Stave is a pocket passer, and Phillips runs pretty well when healthy, but McEvoy is a dual-threat quarterback who would have fit well in Andersen’s system at Utah State.

“It will be a three-man race,” Andersen said. “I have no timeline on it. And we may jog out there the first play of the game with two quarterbacks on the field and see what happens.”

Andersen was joking, but Northwestern actually does this effectively at times. Kain Colter, a good quarterback in his own right, moves to receiver, allowing Trevor Siemian to take shots down the field.

Indiana has multiple options for its fast-paced offense now that Tre Roberson is healthy again. He won the job last fall and looked terrific against Indiana State and Massachusetts before breaking his leg. Cam Coffman and Nate Sudfeld filled in admirably, with each completing more than 60 percent of his passes.

“We’ve got three guys in a dead heat,” said Wilson, whose team quietly averaged 30.8 points per game last year, ranking fourth in the conference. “We’ve got three guys that are all very unique and can manage us.”

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz sounded similar about his quarterback battle among sophomore Jake Rudock, junior Cody Sokol and freshman C.J. Beathard.

“We’re comfortable with all three guys,” Ferentz said. “It’s kind of like when we had [Ricky] Stanzi and James [Vandenberg] in the room together. You felt if either one of these guys take the ball, you’re going to be OK because they act like Big Ten quarterbacks.”

Hawkeyes fans will have to take Ferentz’s word for it, because none of the candidates has taken a collegiate snap. Last year, Iowa finished 4-8, and let outgoing senior Vandenberg play every down, even as the team finished with a six-game slide.

  • related content

  • Chart: Ranking the Big Ten quarterback units

    Saturday July 27, 2013

    Ranking the Big Ten quarterback units1. Ohio State: Braxton Miller is the Big Ten’s best Heisman Trophy candidate, after passing...

  • Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson became a starter after his redshirt was lifted lart season, and that experience level puts him and the Gophers well ahead of the curve in a Big Ten Conference with many quarterback questions.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 4
Houston - WP: T. Sipp 5 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 1
San Francisco - WP: T. Hudson 10 FINAL
Washington - LP: D. Fister 3
St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 4 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 5
Chicago WSox - LP: D. Webb 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: D. Robertson 4
Tampa Bay - WP: D. Smyly 8 FINAL
Toronto - LP: M. Stroman 0
Atlanta - WP: D. Hale 3 FINAL
Cincinnati - LP: M. Parra 1
Seattle - WP: D. Leone 5 FINAL
Boston - LP: K. Uehara 3
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 6 FINAL
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 3
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke 8 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: Y. Gallardo 3
Detroit - LP: R. Ray 6 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: R. Pressly 20
Miami - WP: H. Alvarez 13 FINAL
Colorado - LP: F. Morales 5
San Diego - LP: O. Despaigne 1 FINAL
Arizona - WP: J. Collmenter 5
LA Angels - LP: J. Grilli 3 FINAL
Oakland - WP: S. Gray 5
NY Mets - LP: J. Niese 2 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: D. Haren 6
Carolina 7 FINAL
New England 30
NY Giants 35 FINAL
NY Jets 24
Jacksonville 12 FINAL
Detroit 13
Oakland 21 FINAL
Green Bay 31
Chicago 6 FINAL
Seattle 34
Tampa Bay 3:30 PM
Buffalo
Tennessee 6:00 PM
Atlanta
Dallas 6:00 PM
Miami
Washington 6:30 PM
Baltimore
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Indianapolis
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Kansas City
St. Louis 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Houston 8:00 PM
Denver
San Diego 8/24/14 3:00 PM
San Francisco
Cincinnati 8/24/14 7:00 PM
Arizona
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:00 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
UCF 8/30/14 7:30 AM
Penn State
Real Salt Lake 1 FINAL
FC Dallas 2
Montreal 16 FINAL
Winnipeg 24
Toronto 3:00 PM
Edmonton
Calgary 8/24/14 2:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/24/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 2:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Chicago 80 FINAL
Atlanta 77
Los Angeles 72 FINAL
Phoenix 75
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which football team will have the best record in 2014?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close