QB Nelson transferring from Minnesota

Quarterback Philip Nelson attempts to throw the ball against the Michigan State Spartans during a late-season game during the 2013 campaign. Nelson is set to transfer from Minnesota.  

Mike Carter/Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson is leaving the program.

According to a statement given to KFAN on Thursday, the Minnesota native said he wants to find "a system that centers more around the pass game which utilizes my skill sets." Nelson also thanked head coach Jerry Kill for the opportunity, noting that he has the "utmost respect" for Kill.

"Philip is a terrific young man, and I wish him all the best as he continues his education and football career elsewhere," head coach Jerry Kill said in a statement. "I want to thank Philip for the contributions he made to our football program both on and off the field, and I will do anything I can to help him both now and in the future."

When Kill landed Nelson as a prized three-star recruit from Mankato West High School, it was viewed as a big get for the Gophers program. Nelson was arguably the top recruit in the state of Minnesota and was ranked by Scout.com as the No. 46 quarterback in the country.

Nelson was thrust into the starting quarterback role midway through his freshman year last season and played in Minnesota’s final seven games, including the Gophers’ bowl game. He entered the 2013 season as the starter, but split time under center with redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner.

Nelson was 94-for-186 (50.5 percent) in his sophomore year, throwing for 1,306 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Nelson also ran for 364 yards and six touchdowns. But he didn’t quite show the progress during two seasons that many Gophers fans hoped for.

In 2012, Nelson threw for 873 yards with eight touchdowns and ran for 184 yards.

Before Thursday’s news, Nelson and Leidner were viewed as the two options at quarterback heading into spring camp and were likely to battle for the starting job. With Nelson no longer in the mix, it could very well by Leidner’s job to lose. Yet Minnesota is also high on Chris Streveler, who redshirted during the 2013 season, as well as incoming freshman Dimonic McKinzy, a three-star recruit from Kansas City, Kan.

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