MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Golden Gophers’ quarterback competition just got a little less crowded.
Sophomore Philip Nelson announced on Thursday that he intends to transfer, a surprising development for a player who played in 11 games last season and was once viewed as a promising building block for coach Jerry Kill’s program.
“I am looking to play in a system that centers more around the pass game which utilizes my skill sets,” Nelson said in a statement first released to KFXN-FM in Minneapolis. “I am excited to go out and meet with programs that match up with my talents.”
Nelson completed 50.5 percent of his passes for 1,306 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions last season. He also rushed for 364 yards and six touchdowns while sharing quarterback duties with Mitch Leidner.
But it appears Kill’s offensive philosophy that features a quarterback that runs nearly as often as he passes didn’t appeal to Nelson, a native of Mankato. His departure opens the door for Leidner and freshman Chris Streveler to battle for the starting job.
Leidner played in eight games last season as Kill shuffled both players in and out while dealing with injuries and mixing up the looks from game to game. Leidner threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns in the Texas Bowl loss to Syracuse while Nelson struggled. Nelson went 2 for 7 for 18 yards and his frustration was evident during and after the game.
“Philip is a terrific young man, and I wish him all the best as he continues his education and football career elsewhere,” Kill said in a statement issued by the school. “I want to thank Philip for the contributions he made to our football program both on and off the field, and I will do anything I can to help him both now and in the future.”
It wasn’t immediately clear where Nelson would end up. If Nelson transfers to another Big Ten school, he would lose a year of eligibility. Another option would be Minnesota State-Mankato, which has emerged as a Division-II power in the last two years and is located in Nelson’s hometown.
“I want to thank Coach Kill for the opportunity to play football at the University of Minnesota,” Nelson said. “I have the utmost respect for Coach Kill and what he’s done for this program. I also want to reach out to all the great Minnesota fans that supported the football program and say thank you. Your effort makes a difference.”
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