When it came to picking a backup quarterback behind Mitch Leidner, the Gophers coaching staff wanted consistency. Right now, Conor Rhoda has it, and Demry Croft needs more of it.
So Rhoda is the No. 2 quarterback, with Croft at No. 3. Meanwhile, Seth Green is running the scout team as fellow freshman Mark Williams recovers from an injury.
Croft played sparingly last year as a freshman backup, but it’s possible, he, Green and Williams all will redshirt this year. With Leidner entering his senior season, the others will battle for the starting job next spring.
Rhoda, a junior from Cretin-Derham Hall, ran the scout team last season and has impressed Jay Johnson, the team’s new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.
“I’ve tried to put him in challenging situations, and he’s really done well,” Johnson said. “He’s been very consistent. Conor is a little bit older and has been around a little bit longer. His management of the huddle and how he handles the team is very positive for him.”
Croft is a dual-threat QB, where Rhoda is less mobile. Johnson noted that Croft has been on campus only since last summer.
“He just finished his first year, so I think some of the things that I see, the inconsistencies, are a little bit due to that,” Johnson said. “Talent-wise, I have no question what he can do. Right now, it’s that consistency of getting him to do all the things that we want him to do. When that comes together, it’s going to be good.”
Green, the former East Ridge standout, enrolled in January and went through spring practice.
“Seth has done a tremendous job, and I’ve challenged him to still stay in with everything we are doing because you never know with injuries and everything,” Johnson said. “Things can change quickly. And I think his improvement from when he first got here in January to now has been very significant. I’m very excited about his future.”
Depth chart intrigue
Sophomore cornerback KiAnte Hardin might be a starting cornerback, opposite senior Jalen Myrick, but Harden wasn’t listed on the first depth chart.
“KiAnte just had a minor thing he’s got to do in the training room,” defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel said. “He doesn’t have a big injury or anything like that, but he missed a couple of days practice.
“You practice, you play. You don’t practice or you’re out, we’re not going to just keep listing you as the first [team], especially when there’s a lot of competition.”
Steven Richardson, an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection last season, was listed as a second-string defensive tackle behind Andrew Stelter.
“Steven’s a great player, and he’s got to learn that he’s got to play that way all the time,” defensive line coach Jeff Phelps said. “He’s really close. Really there’s about four [defensive tackles] that are all right there that could all be considered starters.”
Tight end Brandon Lingen (shoulder) hasn’t been cleared for contact.
“He is coming along,” Johnson said. “He has done a tremendous job of rehabbing, and I look forward to him being back soon.”
Eric Carter, an expected starter at wide receiver, has been hobbled by an ankle injury. Fellow receiver Melvin Holland Jr., had an unspecified injury during camp and wasn’t on the depth chart, either.
Kamal Martin, a standout quarterback for Burnsville last season, is a second-string outside linebacker listed at 6-3, 225 pounds.
“There’s a tremendous amount of athletic ability there, and so we’re very excited about where he’s at,” Sawvel said. “And it’s been a surprise because he’s making the transition from positions. He hasn’t done this all his life. This is new to him, so that’s been good.”