The quarterback carousel may continue for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, as a report early Friday night suggests true freshman Philip Nelson is in line to make his first collegiate start against Wisconsin on Saturday. Number one quarterback MarQueis Gray is still dealing with an ankle injury he originally suffered more than a month ago against Western Michigan, while backup Max Shortell has been inconsistent in his three starts and particularly struggled in losses to Iowa and Northwestern in Minnesota’s last two games.
Nelson was Minnesota’s Mr. Football in 2011 out of Mankato West High School, and was widely regarded as the Gophers’ quarterback of the future with Gray being a senior this season. Head coach Jerry Kill had said not long ago that he intended to keep a redshirt on him unless he could provide immediate help, and the fact he reportedly has seen most of his practice reps with the second-team offense confirmed that.
But that changed this week, as Nelson apparently took most of the reps with the first-team offense in place of Shortell. Further news suggests Gray, if he plays at all Saturday against the Badgers, will see the field exclusively at wide receiver. So if he starts Nelson looks likely to basically sink or swim in what is sure to be a tough environment at Camp Randall Stadium.
Nelson was recruited by the Badgers and spent a large chunk of his childhood in Madison. His father Pat is a Wisconsin alum and played for the Badgers in the late 1970’s, so it seems to be a big recruiting win by Kill and his staff to have convinced the younger Nelson to stay in Minnesota.
If Nelson indeed makes his collegiate debut on Saturday, it will be the second straight season a true freshman started a game under center for the Gophers. Shortell started his first career game against Michigan last October and the Gophers proceeded to be dismantled 58-0 by the Wolverines. Let’s hope Nelson has better results this weekend.