MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Philip Nelson was a gifted quarterback from Mankato West, where he was turning heads in the Big Ten.
He committed to Minnesota, and in his sophomore season he’s progressing like he did in high school.
“It’s a lot like high school when it comes to each year you play, it slows down noticeably, and that’s where I’m at right now. It’s taken a step slower for me, and I think as an offense we all feel the same way,” Nelson said.
His past was a whirlwind; a freshman season where he was suddenly the starter at Wisconsin.
“The seven games are crucial, being able to go in there and just get my feet a little bit wet, know what to expect now. And you know, get thrown into the fire at Camp Randall,” he said. “That was probably one of the best things now that I look back at it because now, you know, I don’t think I’m gonna face anything much more difficult than that.”
In fact, it’s that baptism by Big Ten fire that Coach Jerry Kill is counting on this season. So this opportunity to come back the incumbent means there are so many things he does not have to do again. And when the eyes are on him from teammates, they see a different quarterback.
“I think I know our teammates better than I did last year, and I think we all get together really well. And I think we all respect each other a lot, and I think that’s something that really plays a key role in being able to step up and be a confident leader for them,” Nelson said.
This team knows he has to be good to take another step, a step that is better than a year ago.
“Last year our expectation was to make a bowl game. This year, we don’t want to just make one, we want to go further than that. We want to win more games than we did last year, and we want to be able to win the bowl game as well,” he said.
And that could come from the quarterback’s freshman experience.
“By playing games, he’s matured, processed and understands things better, and he continues to draw on that process. But there’s no replacement for experience,” Coach Kill said.
The Gophers kick it off Thursday at 6 p.m. against UNLV in the opener, where temperatures could be in the high 80s to low 90s.