MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There was a time just three months ago when Conor Rhoda was sure of only one thing: That he wouldn’t be here this season.

Then-coach Tracy Claeys had informed him he’d no longer be on scholarship. So Rhoda, set to graduate in December, prepared to move on with his life.

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“I kind of explored a couple options” to transfer and play elsewhere, Rhoda said. “But honestly, I was probably a week away from looking for a job.”

Then, of course, Claeys got fired. And P.J. Fleck hired. And one of the first things Fleck did – the very next morning – was reach out to Rhoda, and promise a scholarship.

And now the Cretin-Derham Hall grad is battling for the starting job.

(credit: CBS)

The biggest question facing the Gophers heading into next fall is this: Who will replace Mitch Leidner as the team’s starting quarterback? They are only one-third of the way through their 15 spring practices, so it’s still incredibly early, but at this juncture, Rhoda looks to be the frontrunner.

“And he’s not guaranteed anything, it’s a wide open race,” Fleck said, “but I love that he’s commanding. He’s the one that’s actually commanding a little bit from the football team.”

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Which is a big deal, if you want to be Fleck’s quarterback.

“I don’t think it’s just him,” Fleck said. “I think anybody. One, you have to be a leader.”

Which is the one thing Rhoda has in spades.

“There’s not many seniors,” Rhoda said. “I think there’s maybe six guys from my class – fifth year guys right now. So there’s not a ton of older leadership in this group. So he made it very clear right away that that was a role I needed to step in to. And it’s a role that I’m comfortable in.”

After all, Rhoda’s minor is in leadership.

But can he make the plays? Can a guy Claeys didn’t even want to keep on the team be good enough to be a Big Ten starter?

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