By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
It was just a couple of days after the University of Minnesota’s final spring football practice, and offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover was sitting in his Minneapolis office.
The monthlong practice period usually takes a lot out of the players, but Philip Nelson stopped by to ask for the videos of each practice so that he could see what he had done right and where he could improve.
“He wanted to know if we’d be adding any new stuff for next season,” Limegrover said. “He’s like a gym rat, but a football version. That’s what you want from your quarterback. Pretty soon, he’ll be bringing two or three of his buddies along, and then you’ll have more guys meeting together to work on things.”
Nelson, the record-setting quarterback at Mankato West, just finished his first spring practice at Minnesota. He enrolled early so that he could get a start on college classes and athletics, though he’ll be back in Mankato for graduation in early June.
Gophers coaches won’t allow Nelson, or any freshmen, do interviews until fall camp, though Nelson said in a text message that everything was going well. Limegrover agreed.
“The first third of spring ball, he was trying to get it all figured out, the speed of the game, the terminology ... the adjustments that every kid goes through.
“But the last two-thirds, he really started to pick things up and get more comfortable every day and started to have more and more success.”
Limegrover said that Nelson benefited from coming to Minnesota early, and he won’t have to go through the transition period in the fall, when the team will be preparing for the season. He said that Nelson has all the tools to be a successful quarterback with the Gophers.
“He has the ‘it’ factor,” Limegrover said. “He’s a good athlete, and he can make all the throws. He’s still a high-school senior really, but he has command in the huddle. To see that happening so quickly is exciting. He is what we thought we were getting.”
Incumbent MarQueis Gray appears to be the starter heading into the fall, and Max Shortell, who played last season as a true freshman, seems to be the backup. Freshmen Nelson and Mitch Leidner of Lakeville South could be candidates for a redshirt, though Limegrover said that decision will be made by coach Jerry Kill after meeting with the players.