True freshman Demry Croft has a chance to climb to No. 2 on the Gophers’ quarterback depth chart this season, if not higher.
Mitch Leidner is a fourth-year junior and the clear starter, but the coaching staff hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Croft leaping past Chris Streveler as the top backup.
“Every position’s an open competition, and I think if Chris Streveler assumes he’s the No. 2, he’s making a huge mistake,” offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said Monday. “And I think if Jacques Perra assumes that he’s the No. 3 or No. 4 or No. 5, I think they’re doing themselves an injustice.
“We try and get those younger guys going, ‘Hey, why not me?’ And that’s how Demry is right now.”
In Saturday’s scrimmage, the 6-5, 200-pound Croft led the second-team offense on a touchdown drive, capped with his 5-yard run on a read-option play. He also threw a 35-yard TD strike to EJ Sardinha with the third-team offense.
“I don’t know what it is, but [Croft’s] just got a knack,” coach Jerry Kill said. “… He doesn’t get excited about anything. He threw a touchdown pass, walked off the field. I said shoot, ‘That’s like [Teddy] Bridgewater.’ I don’t know what he gets excited about, but he doesn’t get too excited. That’s a good mentality for a quarterback.”
When reminded that fans could read such praise and wonder if Croft can help right away, Kill said, “No, he’s a freshman. Everybody gets excited over one scrimmage, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Not that we’re not excited. I’ll tell you in about two or three weeks because he’s certainly going to get more reps.”
Unlike Leidner and Streveler, Croft did not graduate from high school early and enroll at Minnesota in time for spring practice. But Limegrover said the other quarterbacks helped get Croft up to speed quickly.
“He can go out there and run our offense, and we’re in practice 11 or 12,” Limegrover said. “That didn’t happen over 11 or 12 days. That happened over the last three months. So that’s both a testament to him and the guys that are in the program.”
Limegrover said the coaching staff feels better about its overall quarterback depth than “at any point in the past.” Streveler and Perra’s development have made it so the Gophers wouldn’t have to rush Croft into action before he’s ready.
“If Demry’s going to play this year — which I have no idea, it’s just way too premature to say that — but if he does, it’s because he can really, really bring something to the table,” Limegrover said. “We have Chris who’s started a game for us, and Jacques Perra who’s been in the program for a while.
“So you don’t have to say, ‘Oh my goodness, if Mitch gets hurt, we’re going to fall off the face of the earth.’ If Demry ends up being that guy, then that means he did a lot of stuff really well, and that’s a very good thing for everybody involved.”
• Limegrover said left tackle Ben Lauer (left knee surgery) should be full-go in Tuesday’s practice. “If he gets back, and he’s playing like his hair’s on fire, then it’s better to move Josh [Campion] back inside [to guard],” Limegrover said.
• Freshman receiver Jeff Jones didn’t have a catch in Saturday’s scrimmage, but Kill said, “He had a nice practice [Monday], caught a couple really nice balls.”