Jerry Kill is in a tough spot.
The University of Minnesota football coach’s team is 3-0 for the first time in four years, but he may have lost starting quarterback MarQueis Gray for a couple of weeks. Backup Max Shortell played well last week and will likely start again Saturday, though Gray was still listed as the starter Thursday morning.
Even though the 3-0 start has come against less-than-average teams, the Gophers have put themselves into the discussion for a bowl berth, something that hasn’t happened for this program in too long.
Things sound OK, right?
What if his quarterback gets hurt this week? The backup is Mankato West’s Philip Nelson, who was expected to get a redshirt season to develop physically and mentally as he makes the transition to college football.
What if Shortell needs a short breather, maybe cramps up or gets the wind knocked out of him by landing on the football?
Do you send Nelson in for two or three plays? If he takes one snap, he loses his redshirt season. But if the Gophers lose a game because of one play, someone less qualified than Nelson makes a mistake that costs the team a victory and a bowl berth, Kill loses a major carrot for potential recruits.
What are his options? Tape up Gray, the former starter, and tell him just to hand off? Put a running back or receiver into the shotgun formation to run some form of “wildcat” offense?
That is not the way college football coaches think. Coaches deal with the “now” and try to win, which is what they’re paid to do, and every coach has a story about some player that they nearly burned a redshirt, only to be thankful a couple of years later.
It exposes poor recruiting by the former head coach, who should never have allowed the program to get down to two options at quarterback.
So if Shortell sustains some injury that requires more than a play or two on the sideline, will Nelson play, ready or not?
A bowl berth would signal improvement in the program, and Kill can use all the help he can get while recruiting athletes who dream of playing meaningful games, on TV, in front of big crowds.
It seems as though the Gophers are improving and will be better in the next few seasons, when presumably Nelson, and the other freshmen redshirts, are ready to be starters in the Big Ten.
If the coaches feel that Nelson is the real deal, burning a season for a few plays is silly. But getting to a bowl game is pretty important, too, even if the Gophers would end up in Detroit or Nashville or El Paso.
It’s a tough call for Kill.
Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at email@example.com, check out his local sports blog or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.
Jerry Kill is in a tough spot.
- Sports Columns
- Pair of Gusties shine at Fargo Marathon Brenden Huber got in on the prize money a year ago in the Fargo Marathon's 10-kilometer race, and it felt pretty good. The Gustavus Adolphus College assistant track and cross-country coach was hoping to do the same on Saturday in the ninth-annual rac
- Thoma column: Twins going into the outfield future When the Twins traded away both Denard Span and Ben Revere in the span of a few December days, the knew they'd be breaking in a pair of rookie outfielders. As it turns out, they're breaking in three -- Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia and Chris Parmelee. I
- Coaching searches don't always go smoothly; MSU's did It's nearly the middle of May, some colleges, including Minnesota State, are done for the spring. Could you imagine how things would have been a year ago if MSU hadn't hired Mike Hastings before the returning players and other students left town for
- For WCHA fans, Wild hero Zucker has been fun to watch for awhile Watching the dramatic conclusion of Sunday's Minnesota Wild game, I couldn't help but think I've seen something like that before. Jason Zucker's overtime goal gave the Wild the 3-2 win over the top-seeded Blackhawks and made the series relevant again
- Thoma column: Minor league projects offer major return
- Rueda: Sun shines on Vikings' draft
There's nothing wrong with punting and speaking
If Chris Kluwe loses his job, it shouldn't be because he speaks his mind
- Thoma column: Is Correia for real? Still a doubter
COURRIER: Thielen excited about pro possibilities
Former MSU receiver not sure if he'll get drafted this weekend
Rueda: Good chance Purple end up with an inside LB
Minnesota is in need of help at linebacker
- More Sports Columns Headlines