Return to Glory

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Analyzing depth at Quarterback Position

We will start our analysis of the current Gophers football roster by honing in on the Quarterback position. The makeup of the quarterback position for the Gophers begins with Senior quarterback MarQueis Gray. The Gophers also have a stable of young quarterbacks in Sophomore Max Shortell, Redshirt Freshman Dexter Foreman and two incoming recruits Mitch Leidner and Philip Nelson. It should be noted that Sophomore Tom Parish has decided to transfer from Minnesota, though I haven't heard any word on where he ended up. Lastly, I have read reports of Moses Alipate moving to the tight end position, so I have excluded him from this analysis.

MarQueis Gray: provides the Gophers with a dynamic talent at the Quarterback position that has certainly shown flashes of his potential. In particular, there is no question he is a dynamic player when he pulls the ball down and runs.  Gray rushed for 966 yards and 6 TDs as a Junior while averaging 4.9 yards per rush. He is arguably the most dynamic athlete in the Big 10 this side of Denard Robinson. However, he is playing the quarterback position and needs to improve his accuracy.  As a passer he threw for 1,495 yards with 8 TDs and 8 Interceptions in 2011. The alarming statistic is that he only completed 50.7% of his passes. For MarQueis to take a step forward in 2012 he needs to improve his completion percentage. Unfortunately, MarQueis must improve while also losing his security blanket in DaJon McKnight. The good news is that MarQueis has shown a strong work ethic and willingness to be a leader on this team. He will also be benefiting from another year in Kill's system, which should lead to increased production. The bottom line is MarQueis is the leader of this Gopher team and is entrenched as the starter for 2012. The Gophers will go as far as his abilities will take them.

Max Shortell: part of the 2011 draft class, he arrived on campus as a fairly highly touted quarterback recruit out of Kansas. He has a prototypical quarterback build at 6'6" 220lbs. He had just arrived on campus in the summer, but still ended up solidifying the backup spot behind MarQueis. In fact, Max played in the opener against USC and started two other games while MarQueis was injured. However, he only completed 48% of his passes for 309 yards and 2 TDs and 2 interceptions. Despite those unimpressive stats, it must be remembered that this was a true freshman. I saw enough from Max to be encouraged about his future.

Philip Nelson: Arguably the prize recruit of the Gophers 2012 class. He arrives from Mankato West High School where he was a 3 year starter. MaxPreps recruiting expert Tom Lemming has rated him the #2 pro style quarterback in the nation and #40 overall player in the country. He earned Minnesota's Mr. Football award, AP Minnesota Player of the Year and ESPN Gatorade Minnesota Player of the Year. He also set the Minnesota state record for single season touchdowns (55) and career touchdowns (135). The other great news is he enrolled early so he is already on Minnesota's campus as of January, which will allow him to participate in spring practice and offseason workouts. Clearly, it would seem the ceiling will be high for Philip Nelson and he could be a program changer in the years ahead. However, with MarQueis clearly the starter and Shortell already having game experience I would like to see Philip Nelson redshirt in 2012 and we enter 2013 with an interesting debate about whether Shortell or Nelson will be starting.

Dexter Foreman: Arrived as a late signee in the 2011 draft class out of Manvel, Texas. As a senior, he rushed for 402 yards and 4 TDs and completed 63% of his passes for 1,198 yards and 10 TDs and 5 interceptions. He redshirted last year, so there is not much to gauge his abilities off of yet. However, accounts are he is a solid athlete with a good arm. Most likely he is looking up at MarQueis, Max and Philip, so I wouldn't expect to see him on the field in 2012.

Mitch Leidner: Lost in the hype of Philip Nelson is that Mitch was also brought in with the 2012 class and he enrolled early too.  Mitch graduated from Lakeville South High School where he was a 2 year starter with a record of 15-7. As a senior he passed for 1,872 yards and 20 touchdowns. He is a solid 6'4" 225lbs with a strong arm. It is likely he will be redshirting in 2012.

Conclusion: MarQueis gives the Gophers a solid senior quarterback with the ability to hopefully help put wins on the board immediately. It is important to note that Northwestern (Dan Persa) Michigan State (Kirk Cousins) Wisconsin (Russell Wilson) all have to break in new quarterbacks in 2012. MarQueis should be one of the leading quarterbacks in the Big 10 during 2012, while allowing the promising prospects Shortell and Nelson to gain experience from the sideline in 2012. However, it is important to remember that MarQueis runs the ball a lot, so the possibility for injury looms. Thankfully, Max had his baptism by fire last year, so I would envision him stepping in should MarQueis go down. I would expect Max to play much better having had a full offseason to get acclimated to the program and the playbook. Looking into the future, I think the quarterback position is solidly positioned with Shortell and Nelson in the fold. 2013 could shape up to be a heated quarterback battle between the two of them. I certainly believe that competition will help them both develop. The concern would be whether the losing quarterback would transfer out, which would harm our depth, but that is a topic for a much later day.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh the quarterback position. Many in Gopher Nation thought MarQueis should have been moved to a wideout postion. However I think history will tell us that leaving him at quarterback was the right decision. I think Marqueis had a lot to overcome going into last season. Like Adam Weber before him, he was learning yet another new offense with a new offensive coordinator. It was his first year of being the starter. He didn't deal with the combination of being the number one guy and the steep learning curve of a new offense very well at the start of the season, however as the season progressed I believe he grew into his role and the new offense quite nicely.

    Most people will say that Margueis greatest asset is his running ability. While that is a vital part of his game, another and possibly more important strength is his strong work ethic. With an entire off season to improve his coverage reading and passing accuracy, and with what should be an improved offensive line and an improved wide receiving corp, Marqueis may make a lot of Gopher fans see him in a whole new light. I know there are many folks that aren't sold on Marqueis ability as a big ten quarterback but I happen to feel that this will be a very good final season for Mr. Gray.

    Keeping Gray healthy is a big concern of mine. His aggressive running style could be his undoing. Shoretell did get some valuable experience last season and he has some good skills, but this team needs Marqueis on the field to reach it's full potential this season.

    Mitch Leidner and Philip Nelson definately need to red shirt this year. Not sure about Dexter Foreman just don't know anything about him. Overall I agree that we have some good potential at quarterback moving forward.

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