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Gopher Football Spring Scout: Quarterbacks

Heading into the Gophers 2017 spring football season, Minnesota is searching for a new signal caller at quarterback and that race is wide open.

GopherIllustrated publisher Ryan Burns is breaking down each Gopher football position group, what they're looking to add at each position in the Class of 2018, plus their top targets.

First up, the quarterbacks.

What the Gophers have on roster

After a 2016 season as the back-up quarterback for the Golden Gophers, local quarterback Conor Rhoda was planning on transferring elsewhere for his fifth and final season. Rhoda appeared in three games, including a start at Maryland last season, but walked out with the departing seniors on Senior Day in November as it didn't seem likely that Rhoda was going to be given a real shot at the starting job in 2017. Things changed when Minnesota went through a head coaching change and PJ Fleck became the head coach at Minnesota. Fleck and Rhoda immediately met, and Fleck convinced the fifth-year senior to come back for his final season. With Mitch Leidner longer at Minnesota, it's anyone's ball game to grab the reins as starter. 

Rhoda has a strong arm and is more athletic than people give him credit for, but as with all the quarterbacks this spring, it'll be about how quickly they can pick up the new offensive system. Rhoda will likely be given the first shot at it.

Maybe the biggest wildcard of the entire quarterback group is redshirt sophomore quarterback Demry Croft. After serving as the back-up quarterback during his true freshman season in 2015, Minnesota's old staff decided to redshirt Croft to try and gain that redshirt year back and preserve a year of eligibility. The issue with Croft has been his consistency. From practice to practice and some times even throw to throw, Croft's accuracy has to improve. He may still have the most natural quarterback talent on the roster, and we'll have to see this spring as Croft heads into his third year on the roster, if this is the year he starts to put it all together, on and off the field.

After a redshirt season this past year, Seth Green will have every opportunity to make his mark coming off an off-season where he was named the Offensive Work Team Player of the Year. Green's got all of the athletic ability in the world at 6'4" 225 lbs, but things for him are going to be how quickly he can pick up the offense, and how much stronger he's gotten in the last six months. Last time we saw Green, he had some progress yet to make in the arm strength department, and he'll be picking up a new offensive system this spring. He'll have a fantastic teacher to learn from in Ciarrocca, but this spring is a big step in Green's development.

Head coach P.J. Fleck's hand-picked quarterback recruit for the 2017 class had about 72 hours to decide if he wanted to follow his head coach sight unseen to Minnesota, and Morgan decided he wanted to do so. He's already enrolled and has been taking classes since January, and honestly has some of the best senior quarterback tape I've seen the Gophers sign since Philip Nelson. How quickly Morgan can adapt to the college speed and schemes will determine where he falls on the depth chart heading into the summer.

Junior college quarterback signee Neil McLaurin could also figure into the quarterback race this spring as well. He's been on campus since January in workouts and he'll get his shot to compete as well. 

Projected 2017 spring depth chart

  1. Conor Rhoda
  2. Demry Croft
  3. Tanner Morgan

What the Gophers want in 2018

Immediately once P.J. Fleck took over at Minnesota, the 2018 recruiting cycle began and the first quarterback offer went out to Ohio's Brennan Armstrong. He's someone that new offensive coordinator / quarterback's coach Kirk Ciarrocca offered while at Western Michigan and he was the Gophers top priority at the signal caller position. The Gophers were able to get Armstrong on campus in February and get a commitment from the top quarterback in Ohio shortly after. As of right now, it's likely that Armstrong will be Minnesota lone quarterback commitment for the 2018 class, but the local name to watch will be Marshall's Trey Lance. Here's what Ohio analyst Bill Greene had to say about Minnesota's quarterback commitment in Armstrong. 

WHAT ARE THE STRENGTHS? The greatest strength of Brennan Armstrong would be the fact that this is a pure winner in every sense of the word. He is going to win on the field, in the weight room, in the classroom, and in the community. Physically, he is tough as nails, evidenced by his running ability and his play at safety. He has good arm strength, but great field awareness and pocket presence. He is highly intelligent and can get the football out quickly to the right receiver, with accuracy and zip on the ball. He is also a pure quarterback, and we've seen schools taking athletes first at the position, then trying to make them into a quarterback. This is a great pickup for Minnesota.

WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS? In an era where college coaches are putting super athletes at quarterback, and using them as runners first and passers second, that just isn't Brennan Armstrong. He is athletic, but this is not Cam Newton or Terrelle Pryor. He is also not the prototypical 6-foot-5, 235-pound, kid that can throw it through a wall from 50-yards out. Armstrong does everything well, but is just not the physically imposing player some schools prefer. He will beat people with the combination of his skills, not one particular feature that stands out at first glance. 

WHAT ARE THE INTANGIBLES? This is the smartest player on the field, the toughest player on the field, and the great leader that Gopher coaches are going to love. His high school coaches rave about his work ethic and his leadership skills. He's been putting up big numbers and winning big games since he was a freshman starter, and I expect that to continue at the next level. While he might not have the ceiling of an Andrew Luck, Armstrong has a very high floor and there is almost a zero bust rate with this type of kid.

WHO DOES HE COMPARE TO? Think of Kellen Moore at the college level (also left handed by the way), or Drew Brees at the NFL level. 

WHAT ABOUT HIS RANKING? Currently ranked as a three-star, but we are now in the process of updating our rankings for the 2018 class. Armstrong is definitely under consideration for four-star status.

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