Joel Stave was one of the more successful quarterbacks in Wisconsin history, going 31-10 as a college starter, including 4-0 against the Gophers. He went undrafted but was signed by the Vikings and now has a very good shot at being their third quarterback after Taylor Heinicke suffered an offseason ankle injury that will sideline him for three months.
Stave looked good in the Vikings' preseason opener at Cincinnati on Friday, despite an interception, going 8-for-13 for 76 yards.
Before the game, the 24-year-old Milwaukee-area native talked about his early experiences with the Vikings.
"I'm enjoying it a lot, it's been a fun process," he said. "I've learned a ton. I've really had to, learning a whole new offense and things like that, but it has been a great experience."
In his four games against the Gophers, Stave went 43-for-76 for 527 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He said that so far the major difference between college and the pros is adjusting to the speed and concepts.
"At every level, whenever you move up a level, the speed of the game picks up," Stave said. "That's something that you just have to continue to get used to and continue to transition to. That and the offense, there's a little bit more ins and outs to it, more verbiage than what we had in college. That's probably the biggest change."
Signing with the Vikings was an easy call, Stave said, and so far it has played out like he hoped in simply getting some playing time.
"That's the goal," he said. "You just want to really, more than anything, have an opportunity to compete, and I have that here. I think I'm getting a good opportunity and I just have to make the most of it — you know, try and enjoy it, try and have fun with it, and let the cards fall as they may.
"I would assume coming out of camp there will be three of us [quarterbacks], so obviously you'd like to be one of them. But you have to compete hard and you have to play well."
Learning from pros
As with any rookie, Stave said he is trying to absorb as much information as he can from the veterans around him, even a veteran as young as third-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
"Teddy is a good player," Stave said. "You know, getting the chance to watch him in practice and listen to him in meetings, I think he's someone who I can really learn a lot from, just from watching the way he goes about his work."
Stave said there's a number of things that he and the staff are looking to improve in his play.
"I think I can keep getting better with my feet," he said. "That's one thing that [quarterbacks] coach [Scott] Turner is on me about, after every throw just about it's, 'Quicker with your feet, quicker with your feet.' The quicker you are with your feet, the quicker you can get the ball out of your hands. I think that's one area where I can really improve a lot."
Said offensive coordinator Norv Turner: "When things come up the way we expect it to and he has a clean pocket, he obviously showed he can stand back and throw the ball and be effective. Right now, when it comes up different, or it gets speeded up, he has some technical things, footwork things, he has got to get better at so he can continue to be accurate."
Looking at rivalry
While there were several seasons in which the Gophers, under Jerry Kill, felt like they were going to beat Wisconsin, Stave never let it happen.
"We got a pretty good streak going against the Gophers," he said. "It's a product of being a very consistent program and I think we have done that over the last 15 years or so, and that's really shown."
The Badgers have won the past 12 meetings with the Gophers and 19 of 21.
Stave described what it's like to prepare for the rivalry from the opposing side.
"You know it's going to be tough," Stave said. "Minnesota is always a good team and the past couple years they played us close every year, but we just find a way to win. But we never take it for granted, that's for sure. We know they want to win that game just as bad as we do, so we prepare and work hard for it and make sure we're ready."
Zimmer on Rhodes
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer talked about cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who has played well but has only two career interceptions.
"He's getting better," Zimmer said. "He has been really conscious about his hand placements, and we've been working real hard on his technique. I think he's starting to get the mentality of denying the ball from his guy, and this is the first time that I've seen him go after the football since I've been here. There have been some plays where he really tries to intercept it."
Gophers to watch
If you're looking for a Gophers player who could surprise this year, look at linebacker Nick Rallis. He had only 18 tackles last year, but 13 of those, including three tackles for loss, came in the final two games of the season.
Meanwhile, there was an interesting note on Gophers cornerback Jalen Myrick, whom NFL.com recently ranked as the fastest player in the Big Ten. Myrick was first brought to the Gophers' attention by former Gophers men's basketball coach Tubby Smith. Smith and Myrick share a mutual friend, who contacted Smith to ask him if he would share Myrick's tape.
• It might have seemed small in the grand scheme of things, but one of the biggest plays from Friday's Vikings game was Blair Walsh hitting a 51-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, his first field goal after a tough end to last season. Walsh also made two extra points, and special teams coach Mike Priefer was pleased with his play. "He just lined up there and did his deal and it went over," Priefer said. "Obviously Blair being a perfectionist, he wanted that to be perfect through the middle of the net, but I told him, 'Hey, it was still worth three points.' It was a big three points for us."
•The Gophers track and field team hired Matt Conly out of Bowling Green to be its men's throws assistant coach. The throws team has been one of the Gophers' strongest groups in recent years.
• Eden Prairie wrestling coach Scot Davis left the program to coach in Iowa, and now the Lake Conference powerhouse is looking for a new coach, Eagles athletic director Mike Grant said.
• Former Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder landed with the 49ers. All three 49ers veteran QBs are 2011 draft picks: Blaine Gabbert was taken No. 10 overall, Ponder was No. 12 and Colin Kaepernick was No. 36, the fourth pick of the second round.
• Former Twins star Justin Morneau is playing great for the White Sox, hitting .299 with four homers, six doubles, 11 RBI and seven runs scored in 27 games.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org