No decision on Gophers QB, but illness tilts odds to Philip Nelson
OCT 22, 2013 2:56p ET
Defensive coordinator and acting head coach Tracy Claeys said Tuesday that redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner -- who started against the Wildcats -- is currently ill and taking medication. It's uncertain how much he'll be able to practice this week, a factor that would weigh heavily on the Gophers' decision.
"He's just not feeling real good," Claeys said of Leidner. "They're going to put him on some antibiotics. It could go either way, so we'll see what happens with him."
Leidner got the start Saturday in Evanston, Ill., but was replaced by Nelson for Minnesota's fifth drive of the game. The Gophers eventually put Leidner back in for one series in the third quarter, but Nelson received the bulk of the snaps. Nelson finished 8-for-11 for 112 yards and a 29-yard touchdown pass, while Leidner was just 1-for-3 for 11 yards, as well as 27 rushing yards on seven carries.
Wide receiver Derrick Engel, who caught the 29-yard touchdown from Nelson in the second quarter, said the team is comfortable with whichever quarterback lines up under center this Saturday against the Cornhuskers.
"We do the same thing in practice, too. We rotate them so we're kind of used to that, too," Engel said. "I've taken reps from both of them a lot in spring ball and in the summer. I'm comfortable with both guys. It's kind of one of those things where we're used to it as a receiver corps now."
Nelson began the season as the team's starter after playing in seven games as a true freshman. But after he suffered a hamstring injury, Leidner took over the starting job. Nelson then was thrown back into the starting role against Iowa, and Minnesota flip-flopped one week later with Leidner under center against Michigan.
After helping the Gophers win their first Big Ten game of the season, it would make sense to see Nelson start this Saturday against Nebraska -- especially if Leidner's illness limits him in practice this week.
"It's whatever the coaches really want to do," Nelson said. "I'm just focusing on doing my best. Whatever I can do to help the team win."
Cobb earns more carries: With running back Rodrick Williams on the sideline due to off-the-field reasons, a door was opened for junior David Cobb to make an impact. The Killeen, Tex., native did just that by rushing for 103 yards on 20 carries, his second 100-yard game of the year.
After starting the season as Minnesota's third-string running back, Cobb now leads all Gophers with 477 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
"David's no different than a lot of kids. That's why in college football, you come out of high school and it takes a little bit of time to mature and to be able to bang with the big boys," Claeys said. "As he goes and gets older, he's maturing more. We're pleased with his development, like we are several kids."
With the Gophers clinging to a three-point lead with 2:07 to play in Saturday's game, they fed the ball to Cobb with the hopes of picking up a few first downs and running out the clock. Cobb did just that as Minnesota was eventually able to take a knee to seal the victory.
"When it comes down to those last drives, you put the people in there you trust the most," Claeys said. "He was one that was in there. We felt the best with him carrying the football."
Claeys said Tuesday that Minnesota won't name a starting running back for Saturday's game until Thursday and will base the decision on whichever back has the best week in practice.
Claeys happy with where he's at: During Minnesota's last two games, Claeys has served as the acting head coach with Jerry Kill away from the team to deal with his epilepsy treatment. Claeys has been on Kill's staff at various schools since 1995 and has never been a head coach.
Now that he's gotten a taste of what it's like to be the guy in charge, though, Claeys said Tuesday that he's comfortable with where he's at professionally.
"I think any time somebody would approach you, I think you'd look at it and see if it was a better thing than what you're doing," Claeys said. "I think I'm more than capable of doing it, but it'd have to be the right situation at the right place. I've said this before: it would be awfully hard to go into coach Kill's office and tell him I'm leaving somewhere after everything that the guy's done for me and how good he's been for me for 19 years."
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