GopherDigest publisher Ryan Burns is breaking down each Gopher football position group, what they're looking to add at each position in the Class of 2017 and their top targets.
First up, the quarterbacks.
What the Gophers have on roster
Mitch Leidner is without a doubt going to go down as one of the most polarizing figures in recent memory for Gopher Football fans. Leidner will graduate following this upcoming season, his fourth straight year as the starter and there's zero question he's going to be "the guy" for this Minnesota offense. Mitch will likely go onto finish as the Gophers career completion percentage leader and will be in the top five in many other passing categories. If this is the year that Leidner actually stays healthy for a majority of the season, watch out. Fans should have high expectations for Mitch and this passing game this fall.
True sophomore Demry Croft received all of the No. 2 reps last fall and this spring, which ultimately should lead you to believe that the staff believes he's the back-up going forward. While Conor Rhoda may have been more consistent during practice this last spring, it's clear from the reps that Croft received that he's still the guy coming in behind Mitch. I said last fall that Croft has the most natural quarterback talent on the roster and I think he and Mitch still hold those distinctions. New quarterback's coach Jay Johnson spent most of the spring with Croft rebuilding his mechanics and I associate that the most with Croft's inconsistency during this most recent spring season. From talking with sources, Johnson is still very high on Croft and he should be viewed as the number two quarterback heading into the fall.
Redshirt sophomore Conor Rhoda put himself in the conversation to be the Gophers backup quarterback after a consistent spring. Rhoda is more agile than given credit for, and he's among the most accurate quarterbacks the Gophers have. Where Leidner and Croft have Rhoda beat is in the athleticism department where traditionally, in aJay Johnson offense, the quarterback has to be a dual threat with his legs and arm. Rhoda is nonetheless still a dependable backup quarterback.
Expectations are through the roof for 2016 four-star early enrollee quarterback Seth Green as he's the highest ranked quarterback commit in the Claeys era, and he's formerly of East Ridge high school in Woodbury, so fans have high expectations. My response to that would be to say remain patient. Green is a very athletic quarterback at all of 6'4" and 225 lbs, but he's still a work in progress and will be for another year or two. Jay Johnson was working on Green's mechanics throughout spring ball, and Green like most other freshmen, has to keep getting bigger and stronger. Athletically, Green is what you want a dual-threat quarterback to be, but he needs a couple years to keep developing.
Freshman Mark Williams is the quarterback that new offensive coordinator Jay Johnson targeted as his quarterback for the 2016 class (Seth Green was already signed and on campus), and on tape Williams looks he has a bright future for the Gophers. Williams is a mobile quarterback who has a cannon for an arm, and it looks like Minnesota may have stolen one from Alabama. I fully expect Williams to redshirt this fall, but I'm intrigued to see him in person during fall camp.
Projected 2016 depth chart
- Mitch Leidner
- Demry Croft
- Conor Rhoda
What the Gophers want in 2017
It's no surprise that I expect a complete revamp in quarterback recruiting now with Jay Johnson at the helm. Of the six quarterbacks that were signed previously under former quarterback's coach Jim Zebrowski, four either transferred schools or positions (Max Shortell, Phillip Nelson, Chris Streveler, Dimonic McKinzy), with the only two left in Mitch Leidner and Demry Croft.
From what I've heard, I believe that Jay Johnson is looking for a dual-threat quarterback who can get in done with their legs as well as their arm. A guy I think you'll see Minnesota try and model their quarterbacks after would be a Demry Croft type of player
I expect the Gophers to take one quarterback for the 2017 cycle with only Mitch Leidner graduating this fall.
Texas quarterback Kamron Fields is the only quarterback that Minnesota has offered for their 2017 class if that gives you any indication of how thorough Jay Johnson is being with his quarterback offers. Johnson was on the road for a lot of the recruiting period just seeing different quarterbacks and evaluating them in person before he wanted to extend an offer, and Fields is at the top of his and the Gophers wishlist. Fields has other offers from Iowa and Indiana among others, and he flashes a very high upside on film. Fields is a very good athlete with arm that throws the ball on a rope. Minnesota will work hard to get him on campus this summer.