The Big Ten has a couple of overachievers and also a few underachievers. Minnesota falls into the latter class following a season that suggested the Gophers were on the rise, especially with a veteran quarterback returning to the program.
There may not be a lot of fans outside of the Big Ten who know much about Mitch Leidner, but he’s been a steady presence in the Gophers’ offense. This year has been a different story though, with Leidner managing just seven touchdowns compared to six interceptions to this point.
The Gophers are 4-3, 1-2 in the Big Ten through seven games this season. It’s not just the fact that they’ve lost two of three conference games that’s disappointing, but the lack of competitiveness in their losses. The opened up the conference slate with Northwestern on October 3 and were blanked 27-0. The Wildcats have been surprisingly good this year, but they’ve been inconsistent and are starting a freshman quarterback.
With the exception of the game against Nebraska, Jerry Kill has started a movement towards the future by playing freshman quarterback Demry Croft in recent games. Leidner is still the starting quarterback, and it will remain that way through the remainder of the season, but it’s clear that Kill wants to get an idea of who else he’s got in Minneapolis.
Croft hasn’t shown much so far, completing just seven of 16 passes for 34 yards, but he’s a great athlete who can add offense on the ground as well. He’s registered 38 yards on nine carries.
Leidner is still the guy moving forward at least this season, but we should expect to see more of Croft. If he starts playing well in his limited opportunities, Kill may develop a few packages designed specifically for him. The Big Ten is very competitive this season, so I have no doubt he’ll do whatever it takes to create more offense, especially with Michigan‘s dominant defense on deck.
Jason Shawley is a Featured Writer for RantSports.com covering Big Ten football. Follow him on Twitter @jshawls.