Building a quarterback

Jim Zebrowski has developed great running quarterbacks in the past. Mitch Leidner could be the next one.

Minnesota quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski talks about how he coaches quarterbacks at his office in the Gibson/Nagurski Football Complex on Saturday, April 5, 2014. Zebrowski has worked with Jerry Kill's coaching staff since 2009. He has experience developing under-recruited quarterbacks into all-conference performers and Leidner is now his main focus.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski talks about how he coaches quarterbacks at his office in the Gibson/Nagurski Football Complex on Saturday, April 5, 2014. Zebrowski has worked with Jerry Kill’s coaching staff since 2009. He has experience developing under-recruited quarterbacks into all-conference performers and Leidner is now his main focus.

Jack Satzinger

Jim Zebrowski was always better at baseball than football, but he’s made a living molding young quarterbacks.

He currently serves as the Gophers’ quarterbacks coach, schooling the most important position in football — a position that’s been a turnstile for Minnesota since Jerry Kill and his staff came to Minneapolis in 2011.

Zebrowski has worked with every signal caller since then, and for the first time, he’s found one who possesses nearly every trait he looks for in the position.

In the past, MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell — holdovers from Tim Brewster’s stint as head coach — struggled to make an impact in Kill’s first two seasons with the Gophers.

Philip Nelson — touted as the quarterback of the future — replaced Gray and Shortell midway through the 2012 campaign. Nelson entered 2013 as the No. 1 quarterback but shared much of his time under center with Mitch Leidner. A bit wary of losing his starting spot and becoming a backup, Nelson transferred to Rutgers in January.

Now the quarterback position is in the hands of Leidner, an under-recruited downhill runner from Lakeville, Minn. He didn’t come to the Gophers with the pomp and circumstance that Nelson did, but he looks the part of a Zebrowski signal caller.

Zebrowski has taken under-recruited quarterbacks and turned them into all-conference performers in the past — and Leidner could be next.

“You’ve got to love football as a quarterback. You can’t like it,” Zebrowski said. “You’ve got to be done with practice and be excited about watching film.”

Read the full story, including additional photos and graphics, at our projects space