In football, whether it is at the high school, college or pro level, the most important position continues to be the quarterback. If a team has a talented quarterback, their chances for success multiply because their possibilities and opportunities within the offense are much broader. On the flip side, if the quarterback is underwhelming and cannot get the job done, it really hamstrings a program because it limits what the team is able to do offensively.
In a time where an even greater premium is placed on the quarterback position because of the new phase of dual-threat quarterbacks, the importance of recruiting, developing and catering an offense to the quarterback has never been higher. If you look at the quarterback situation with the Minnesota Gophers, you can see a situation that looks promising and the reason for that promise is sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson.
Nelson came to the Gophers out of Mankato West High School last season and earned the starting job midway through the year when incumbent starter Marqueis Gray and backup Max Shortell became injured and ineffective. The team was hesitant to give Nelson the reigns because they wanted to preserve his redshirt status and keep open the possibility of having him for the next four years. Unfortunately for the Gophers, they had to pull the redshirt off and Nelson stepped into the starting job and never relinquished it.
Nelson had some good games and some rookie moments during his first campaign as a Gophers starter, but the trajectory of his career remains high with the maroon and gold. As a blogger who was fortunate enough to see Nelson play in high school numerous times, due to the fact that I coached at a nearby college, I can verify that this kid is the real deal. When I first saw Nelson play as a sophomore, I left the game in awe of the talent he possessed and the possibility he had at playing quarterback at a very high level.
In his debut season, Nelson accumulated stats of 75-182 passing with 873 yards and eight TD compared to eight INT. Rushing wise, Nelson also carried the ball 69 times for 184 yards; however, rushing stats for a quarterback in college are often skewed because their rushing yards are affected by yards that are lost when they are sacked. For a freshman quarterback in one of the best conferences in the nation, the statistics that Nelson put up are impressive and nothing to overlook.
Despite all of the promise and poise that Nelson demonstrated last season, there are still rumors that Nelson is going to have to compete for the starting job with incoming freshman Chris Streveler. No disrespect to Streveler and the talent he may have, but to even think that anyone other than Nelson would start the season is preposterous. If the Gophers were to start anyone but Nelson next season, it would be a great insult to the program and to Nelson. Nelson gave up his redshirt to play in seven games and the promise he showed in those games merits that he is the starter for the Gophers. Sure if he runs into problems and is ineffective than we can begin to talk about replacing him, but Nelson has not shown any signs that should even prompt that thought and thus shouldn’t need to worry about any competition even though competition can be beneficial to some players.
In year two as a quarterback for the Gophers, I believe Nelson will have a breakout season and show great progress as he matures as a leader and quarterback. Speaking from experience as a quarterback in college as a freshman, the learning curve from freshman year to sophomore year is very steep. I learned the most about the position during the off-season of my freshman year and I felt I was a much more polished and intelligent quarterback my sophomore season and Nelson will be as well.
It would not surprise me to see Nelson throw for 2000 yards with 20 TD and 8 INT, while rushing for another 700 yards in his second season at the collegiate level. You may not be a believer in Nelson yet; but as this kid develops, he will live up to the expectations placed upon him and he will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever wear the maroon and gold.