The Minnesota Golden Gophers are reeling right now. After head coach Jerry Kill suffered his second epileptic seizure of the season, the Gophers went out without him and got crushed by the Michigan Wolverines. With Kill now taking an extended leave of absence for his health, there is some uncertainty surrounding the Minnesota program, including at the quarterback position. But for the benefit of the Gophers’ 2013 season and beyond, Mitch Leidner should be the starting quarterback going forward.
The freshman has appeared in five of the team’s first six games this season including significant playing time in relief of Philip Nelson against the San Jose State Spartans and again in place of Nelson against Michigan.He provided a much-needed spark offensively against the Spartans as he rushed for four touchdowns on the ground to go with his 151 yards rushing. He’s accounted for six total touchdowns so far this season with his first (and only) passing touchdown coming against Michigan early in the game.
He is young and his passing ability is still raw but Leidner appears to be getting more comfortable in the pocket with each passing week. He’s completing 63.4 percent of his passes this season for 321 yards with the one touchdown pass and an interception. Nelson has been struggling this year, particularly with his accuracy, completing just 50.8 percent of his passes for only 380 yards (despite starting three games vs Leidner’s two) with two touchdown passes and four interceptions.
Leidner has been making better decisions with his throws and faced off against the best defense that Minnesota has seen all season in Michigan. The biggest difference between them, however, is Leidner’s ability to change the game with his legs. Against the Wolverines, the freshman led the team in rushing gaining 66 yards on 18 carries. On the year, he sits third on the team in rushing despite minimal reps and has shown to have a better athletic ability than Nelson, who can also run a bit.
For an offense that’s largely been spinning its wheels in 2013, Minnesota needs something to give them a spark. Mich Leidner can be that spark and should be the starter moving forward.