Nelson to leave Gophers football program

Minnesota sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson announced his decision to transfer Wednesday.

Jack Satzinger

Philip Nelson is leaving the University of Minnesota football program after two seasons, according to multiple reports that surfaced Thursday.

Nelson, a Mankato, Minn., native, started nine games during the 2013 season and recorded 1,306 passing yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for six touchdowns in Minnesota’s run-heavy offense.

His high-volume rushing stats played a role in his decision to leave the Gophers. Minnesota’s tendency to run more than pass contributed to Nelson’s decision to transfer, according to a Star Tribune report. 

“I am looking to play in a system that centers more around the pass game which utilizes my skill sets,” Nelson said in a statement. “I am excited to go out and meet with programs that match up with my talents.”

The Gophers averaged just 148.1 passing yards per game in 2013 — 115th in the nation. In contrast, Minnesota rushed for 195.2 yards per contest — good for 37th in the nation.

“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 released on Twitter. “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.”

Mitch Leidner will now enter the offseason as the favorite to start next season.

Leidner was the other Gophers quarterback to see the field last season and nuances in his game seem to fit Minnesota’s attack more than Nelson’s style of play. Leidner started just four games in the 2013 season, but finished with 102 rushing attempts to Nelson’s 93. Leidner also recorded seven rushing touchdowns in 2013, four of which came in a 43-24 win over San Jose State.

Leidner also showed flashes in Minnesota’s 21-17 loss to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl. He played a vast majority of the snaps in that game and finished 11 of 25 for 205 passing yards and two touchdowns. 

While Leidner is likely favorite to start next season other quarterbacks that could challenge him for the spot are redshirt freshman Chris Streveler and incoming freshman Dimonic McKinzy.

Check back for updates as the story continues to unfold.