Nelson, Leidner get into position as Gophers QBs

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 3, 2013 - 8:40 AM

Gophers quarterbacks Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner are prepared to compete for the starting job — or share it if that’s a better solution.

The Gophers football coaches are serious when they talk about how much they like their top two quarterbacks — so serious that Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner can both expect to see playing time this year.

It won’t be a series-by-series rotation, but if Nelson keeps the starting job, the Gophers are preparing to sprinkle in Leidner for a handful of snaps each game.

“Everybody gets tired,” Nelson said Friday, after the team’s first practice. “If you’re making some big runs, and you can hardly breathe with the mouth guard in the mouth, it would be great to have somebody come relieve you a little bit.”

Gophers coach Jerry Kill has compared the strategy to the one his staff used in 2010 at Northern Illinois with starting quarterback Chandler Harnish and backup Jordan Lynch. Even though Harnish handled most snaps, Lynch played eight games as a freshman.

Lynch attempted only six passes that season, but he rushed 31 times for 362 yards.

Gophers offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover, who held the same job at Northern Illinois, said the Huskies used Lynch in the way other teams might use a Wildcat package, with snaps going directly to a running back.

“We just happened to have a kid [Lynch] who was the second- or third-best runner on our team behind our tailback and quarterback,” Limegrover said. “So it was easy to put him in there. You didn’t have to change things, and he could throw the football. We feel like we could do that here as well.”

Limegrover said this not only helps keep the starting quarterback healthy, by saving a few hits, but it also gives the backup some experience. It worked well for Lynch, who took over for Harnish last fall and finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy balloting.

The Gophers expect Leidner to keep pushing Nelson for the starting job, but he has the benefit of experience after playing seven games as a freshman last year while Leidner redshirted.

“I’m willing to help the team however I can, so if they’re willing to play a second quarterback, that would be great,” Leidner said.

And he’s not conceding the starting job just yet, adding, “Everybody wants that No. 1 spot.”

On Day 1, Nelson and Leidner both showed signs of rust, even though they’d been throwing in 7-on-7 drills all summer. In one sequence, Nelson threw an interception to linebacker Jephte Matilus, a few minutes before cornerback Derrick Wells turned a Leidner pass into a pick-six.

Kill didn’t seem too upset, but he wasn’t giving any first-day passes, either.

“You evaluate that position every day,” he said. “I mean, that’s part of life. They’re like me. We get evaluated every day, and you have to have tough skin.”

Nelson might be the presumed starter, but he isn’t taking it for granted.

“Nobody’s position is guaranteed,” he said. “That’s the way Coach Kill runs his program, and that’s why we are getting better and better because nobody’s position is safe. Everybody has to work for their spot, and Coach Kill’s going to play the best player, period.”


• Kill said two newcomers who caught his eye were freshman wide receiver Eric Carter and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, a junior-college transfer. The coach said he liked how Carter moved around, and he said Campbell might have stood out simply because he’s so tall (6-5) for a linebacker.

  • related content

  • Photo gallery: Gophers take the field for 2013 football season

    Friday August 2, 2013

    The Gophers started fall practice for the 2013 football season Friday at the Gibson-Nagurski Complex.

  • Nadine Babu: Gophers game day experience won't improve for football opener

    Saturday August 3, 2013

    I was out last night enjoying a lovely dinner and catching up with a friend. When I finally checked my phone when I got home, I was alarmed to...

  • Philip Nelson (9) played seven games at quarterback for the Gophers last season and got the edge in experience while Mitch Leidner, left, took a redshirt year. As the team opened fall practice Friday at the Gibson-Nagurski Complex, both quarterbacks expressed a desire to start, yet a willingness to share the spot.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


NY Mets 1 Bottom 3rd Inning
St. Louis 0
Pittsburgh 1 Bottom 3rd Inning
Atlanta 0
Miami 0 Top 2nd Inning
Washington 3
Detroit 0 Top 2nd Inning
Philadelphia 2
Minnesota 0 Top 2nd Inning
Baltimore 2
NY Yankees 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Houston 0
Tampa Bay 2 Bottom 2nd Inning
Boston 0
Baltimore 0 Top 3rd Inning
Toronto 0
Cincinnati 2:10 PM
LA Angels
Chicago Cubs 3:05 PM
Kansas City
Los Angeles 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Chicago WSox 3:05 PM
Milwaukee 3:05 PM
Seattle 3:05 PM
San Diego
Texas 3:05 PM
Los Angeles
Colorado 3:10 PM
Arizona 3:10 PM
Houston 69 3rd Qtr 5:19
Washington 55
LA Lakers 2:30 PM
Minnesota 3:00 PM
New Orleans
Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Detroit 5:00 PM
LA Clippers 5:00 PM
Dallas 6:00 PM
Memphis 6:00 PM
San Antonio
Oklahoma City 8:00 PM
Washington 2:00 PM
NY Rangers
Calgary 4:00 PM
Boston 4:00 PM
Detroit 4:00 PM
NY Islanders
Florida 4:00 PM
Anaheim 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Chicago 6:30 PM
San Jose 6:30 PM
Michigan State 1:20 PM
Gonzaga 4:05 PM
Philadelphia 4:00 PM
Toronto FC 6:00 PM
Real Salt Lake
(7) Florida State 65 2nd Half 3:57
(3) South Carolina 63
Villanova 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Michigan 2:00 PM
Southern Miss
Temple 4:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Siena 4:00 PM
St Marys-CA 4:00 PM
(5) Baylor 7:30 PM
(2) Notre Dame
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite team in the NCAA men's hockey tournament?

Weekly Question