Column: Kill should start Streveler next Saturday

Leidner should sit out against San Jose State.

by David Nelson

Jerry Kill, welcome to football hell.

After three weeks of abysmal quarterback play, the head coach of the 2-1 Gophers is in an unenviable situation.

With a contest against lowly San Jose State on the horizon, Kill faces a season-altering decision: who to start at quarterback next weekend.

He could choose to stay with redshirt sophomore Mitch Leidner. After all, Leidner helped lead the team to a bowl berth last year and proved he’s capable of being a game-changer under center.

This year, however, Leidner has been disappointing, and the Gophers are last in the Big Ten in passing yards per game.

That said, if Leidner produces a quality game against a subpar team opponent like San Jose, the performance could be the one that kick-starts his year.

Or Kill and his staff could opt to start redshirt freshman Chris Streveler. Though he holds zero starts under his belt, Streveler played OK in limited action against TCU on Saturday and helped the Gophers get on the board late in the game.

If I was in Kill’s position Monday morning, I would be letting Streveler know he’s my quarterback next Saturday.

Throughout the past three games, Leidner has looked timid, indecisive and unconfident standing in the pocket and throwing the football.

His passes have been erratic and poorly timed, failing to establish a consistent connection with any of his receivers.

Frankly, healthy or not, I’m not sure I would have suited up Mitch Leidner against TCU.

Now, with a weak opponent like San Jose State, Kill will have the opportunity to let Leidner sit.

The young quarterback needs to take a step back for a game and try to regain some of the mojo that allowed him to go 3-1 as a starter for the Gophers last season.

Leidner is a better and more experienced quarterback than Streveler.

However, with the Gophers unable to score while Leidner was on the field, the “it” factor of his game should be questioned.

If I’m Kill, I’m sitting Leidner so he can be away from the pressure for a game and look at the field from a different angle.

And who knows, maybe Streveler turns in a phenomenal performance and starts the Gophers’ Big Ten opener against Michigan.

From my perspective, starting Streveler against San Jose State is a low-risk, high-reward scenario.

Even if Streveler falters, Kill’s defense should be able to contain San Jose State’s offense on its home field and maybe even put up some points itself.

Whatever Kill decides to do, he needs to do it with conviction. His team just got thrashed 30-7, and it could have been a whole lot worse had TCU not been prone to turnovers.

Minnesota has one more game to shore up its offensive deficiencies and decide exactly who its savior is going to be.