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Continued: 'Boss' Leidner grabs hold of No. 1 quarterback spot at U

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 3, 2014 - 3:35 PM

This summer, Leidner worked extensively with his receivers and tight ends, establishing timing and making sure they understood the nuances of the playbook. He told them he would be ready any time, day or night, that they wanted to study film or run passing routes.

Player-led workouts are common throughout college football, but Leidner said the Gophers took it to a new level.

“I can go back to a day when I’d come out to captains’ practices and I’d be the only QB there, and that’s when I was a freshman,” Leidner said. “There were times no one would show up. And now, if you’re not there, or if you’re late, you’re running. There’s not really an option.”

Leidner’s summer was far different from his days growing up, when his family would spend every weekend at its lake cabin 130 miles north of Minneapolis. He got there once this summer, he said, over the Fourth of July.

Larry Fitzgerald Jr. holds his annual wide receivers camp at the Gophers facility, and Leidner volunteered to work with several NFL players. He threw passes to Fitzgerald, Dwayne Bowe and Cecil Shorts, among others, and spent time alongside quarterbacks Ryan Mallett, Drew Stanton and Tarvaris Jackson.

“It helped a lot, throwing with some of those QBs,” Leidner said. “I can make all the throws and even be more consistent than some of those guys.”

Add it up, and Leidner feels as prepared as possible for what’s ahead. Any quarterback in his first year as a full-time starter can expect ups and downs. Leidner said his best advice came from Zebrowski.

“I don’t feel any pressure at all, and I thank Coach Z for that,” Leidner said. “He said, ‘You don’t have to do everything this year. Just play your game and let everything come to you.’ With how hard this team’s worked, the wins and losses are going to take care of themselves.”

  • Five keys for Leidner

    Stay healthy: Leidner tweaked an ankle against Northwestern last year but was otherwise unscathed, despite ranking second on the team with 102 rushing attempts.

    Establish targets: Maxx Williams and Drew Wolitarsky are likely go-to guys, but others need to emerge. Donovahn Jones? KJ Maye? Melvin Holland?

    Find a rhythm: Leidner did against Western Illinois (going 7-for-8) and Michigan (14-for-21), as well as for key stretches against Syracuse.

    Avoid sacks: Leidner was sacked four times by Syracuse after three times the previous game by Michigan State. Experience should help him recognize those dangers.

    Avoid turnovers: Leidner threw only one interception in 78 passing attempts, but an opening drive fumble at Michigan and two more fumbles at Indiana should remind him to protect the ball.

    JOE CHRISTENSEN

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