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Friday, October 19, 2012
Report: Gophers set to start Nelson at QB

By Adam Rittenberg

When Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray initially hurt his knee and ankle in Week 3, coach Jerry Kill maintained that the team would keep the redshirt on heralded quarterback Philip Nelson.

Recent events have led Kill to change his mind.

From the Star Tribune:
Nelson will make his collegiate debut in Camp Randall Stadium as the Gophers' starting quarterback on Saturday, barring a last-minute change of plans by Minnesota's coaches, a source close to the football program told the Star Tribune. Nelson, who spent the week taking most of the snaps with Minnesota's first-team offense, will replace Max Shortell, who has been inconsistent in three starts. MarQueis Gray, the source said, remains hobbled by a sprained left ankle, and will play only at receiver, if at all.

It's an interesting move, to say the least, as Minnesota is already halfway through the season. Camp Randall Stadium is a tough place to make your collegiate debut, and Minnesota has several key injuries at wide receiver and along the offensive line.

But Shortell has struggled in two Big Ten games, completing 29 of 52 passes for 300 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. While Gray did some good things against Northwestern before re-aggravating his knee injury, he's clearly not an every-down option at quarterback for the Gophers.

Nelson stood out at times during fall camp and had some Gophers fans buzzing about whether he would be used this fall. The 6-foot-2, 222-pound Nelson was a standout high school player in the state, being named Mr. Football as a senior and also earning ESPN Gatorade Minnesota Player of the Year and Associated Press Minnesota Player of the Year honors.

Shortell is still listed as the starter on Minnesota's depth chart, while both Gray and Nelson appear as backups. The Gophers certainly need a spark on offense, as they rank ninth in the Big Ten in both scoring and total yards.

Perhaps Nelson provides it against the surging Badgers as Minnesota tries to snap an eight-game losing streak to its rival.

He's definitely Minnesota's quarterback of the future. Maybe he'll be the Gophers' quarterback of the present, too.