Pardon Sam Schlueter if he was a tad bit skeptical.

After all, this new quarterback that joined the Gophers football team in January was only a freshman. And a walk-on at that. Preconceived notions can set in.

“When you first see him, you think: ‘Oh, he’s just a freshman. He should be in high school. He’s not going to do much,’ ” Schlueter, a sophomore tackle for the Gophers, recalled Monday.

Little did Schlueter know that the freshman, Zack Annexstad, was starting an eight-month climb up the depth chart and would earn the starting job for the Aug. 30 season opener against New Mexico State.

Annexstad quickly made Schlueter a believer.

“I did see a leader out of him. I saw a quarterback who was confident and ready to go. … But he was really impressive in the spring and has continued to impress me.”

Linebackers Carter Coughlin and Blake Cashman agreed.

“The biggest thing for me is that when you talk about Zack Annexstad, he’s a guy who completely blows away people’s expectations,” Coughlin said. “That’s what I’m excited about, because he’s got a ‘dog’ mentality, and that’s going to take our offense up a whole new level.”

Added Cashman: “When he first got here, everyone was taken away by him. He was always in the playbook, always putting work in after practice, and he demands from his teammates. … It’s very impressive to come in as a true freshman and be named the starting quarterback. That just shows a lot of who he is as a player and a man, because you’ve got to have a lot of confidence in yourself to be telling seniors what to do.”

Eyeing the Aggies

New Mexico State, the Gophers’ opponent for their season opener on Aug. 30, opens its season by playing host to Wyoming on Saturday night. The game is on ESPN2, and the Aggies are offering tickets for as low as $3 to increase attendance. New Mexico State is coming off a 7-6 season that featured its first bowl appearance in 57 years.

“I’m excited to get these guys on the field in 11 days, because I know they’re tired of practicing against each other,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. “They’re ready to go.’’