The Minnesota Golden Gophers made a switch at quarterback halfway through the season last year. Freshman Philip Nelson stepped in and started the final seven games of 2012. He enters the 2013 season as the starter, and has the pressure to win resting squarely on his shoulders.
Nelson showed some growing pains as the starter last year, winning just two games. The Gophers lost the final three games with him at the helm.
In seven games, Nelson threw for 873 yards and eight touchdowns. He also added an unimpressive eight interceptions. Nelson showed flashes of an ability to run, rushing 69 times for 184 yards, including rushing for 67 yards in his debut game against Wisconsin.
Though the overall numbers were not exactly stellar, there were some bright spots that should bring hope for a positive season this year.
Against Purdue on October 27 in just his second career start, Nelson racked up 246 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Gophers to a 44-28 victory. That performance earned him Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week honors.
With a full offseason to practice as the clear starter, Nelson should be able to take a step forward this season. He will be in charge of an experienced offense that has the potential to put up solid production. Minnesota returns its leading rusher in Donnell Kirkwood and three of its top four receivers in Derrick Engel, Isaac Fruechte, and Devin Crawford-Tufts.
While everyone should be familiar with both each other and the scheme, the offense still runs through the quarterback. That’s where Nelson comes in. It will be up to him to play mistake-free football and take advantage of the experience and talent around him.
The Gophers finished near the bottom of the Big Ten in total offense last year. That number should improve this year, especially with Nelson entering camp as the clear-cut starter. There’s no doubt that Nelson will be an important member of the Minnesota offense this season. If the team hopes to have much success, he is going to have play well and be a key contributor in 2013.