Philip Nelson experiences 'light bulb moment,' settling into a rhythm
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner has undoubtedly added a substantial element of competition to the Minnesota Gophers' outlook at quarterback.
But with fall camp two weeks old, returning starter Philip Nelson has started to separate himself from any simmering debate over who the No. 1 quarterback is.
Starting with an even-keel, solid performance in the Gophers' first scrimmage on Saturday to the second scrimmage of fall camp on Thursday morning, Nelson has established a notable edge on Leidner with the team two weeks into practices.
"I think Philip has really done a nice job," offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said Thursday, following what he called an up and down, but "very productive" scrimmage.
"There was kind of that light bulb moment with Philip where you could tell there was that extra experience and being in the middle of it, so when you get into that second week of camp and that grind starts hitting you I think Philip was able to really jump through that burning hoop better than Mitch was. So there was some separation."
Nelson and Leidner were on a fairly even plane for the first week of camp, with both mixing moments of sharpness with a clear inconsistency in the passing game. However, while Leidner and the second team offense have struggled at times to find a rhythm, Nelson is finally settling in after overcoming some of his initial uneasiness at the start.
"The comfort level keeps growing for us as an offense," Nelson said. "I think we're really starting to click, being able to go out there and get some rust off that first week and getting into the first scrimmage. From there things kind of just took off. "
Leidner had a slightly better outing in the second scrimmage than the first. Limegrover noted the second team offense "did some good things" in the first half of the scrimmage and "got on a little roll."
With Leidner seemingly edging closer and closer to Nelson in the first week of camp, the question of how the Gophers were going to use both quarterbacks this season became an increasingly hot subject.
While barring injuries both are going to see playing time in the year ahead, Leidner's role is now shaping up to be more in a backup capacity that many assumed would be the case at the onset, used periodically as a fresh look under center and to take some hits away from Nelson.
Kill sees the closing stretch of camp before the Gophers' Aug. 29 season opener against UNLV as a crucial part of Leidner's development.
"He is still learning as we go," Kill said. "He needs this next week or two more than anybody does to get him to where he's not thinking. For Philip it's been a little bit faster. There's no question about (Mitch's) skill level, but getting him comfortable I think is a real important thing that we do ... The biggest thing is that we've got to do our job as coaches in getting him to where everything is automatic."