Rutgers added another Midwest quarterback to its roster last week when Philip Nelson decided to transfer to the Scarlet Knights. The Mankato, MN product was looking for a more pass-friendly offense, and he definitely found one now that Ralph Friedgen is joining the staff in Piscataway. As Minnesota's leading passer for 2013, Nelson brings solid B1G experience and QB depth for 2015 and beyond. What do Gopher fans have to say about Nelson? Here is a snippet from the SB Nation blog The Daily Gopher on Nelson before transferring to Rutgers:
[...] Nelson's performance during the school's first four game B1G winning streak in over 40 years cannot be ignored, as he looked like an actual, real, legit B1G QB. In four consecutive wins vs Northwestern, Nebraska, Indiana and Penn State Nelson completed 46 of 73 passes (63%) for 748 yards (only 187 per game, but still), 0 picks and 10 total TD's (7 throwing). Those aren't All-American numbers- or probably not even all-conference numbers- by any means, but I would still consider that quality QB play, especially at Minnesota. Had he put up numbers consistent to those all season we not only obviously wouldn't have a QB controversy, but I think everybody would be VERY excited about Nelson's present and future with the team.
Seems great doesn't it? Unfortunately, there is another side to Nelson's game:
The problem, of course, is that outside of those four solid games was a lot of stink (the kids today would probably say "stank" but whatever). Nelson did run the football better this season than last, but his passing numbers were barely an improvement over 2012 when he started the final seven games of the season as a true freshman. His two biggest stinkbombs came in two pretty spots in the loss to Iowa and the bowl game you just witnessed. Not good times. Bad times, actually.
You can read the entire review of Minnesota's 2013 passing performance here. The consensus on Nelson is that he has shown flashes of greatness before, evidenced by the four-game winning streak. However, a quick look at the B1G pass defense rankings shows that Indiana, Northwester, and Penn State were relatively bad defending through the air, while Nebraska is the lone team to be in the top four within the conference. Confidence and coaching are mentioned as the biggest issues, noting that he looked flustered in games against Iowa and Wisconsin, two very good teams against the pass. The good news is that those issues are fixable. He is still a young player, and Minnesota doesn't exactly have a pedigree for developing pocket passers. Having him work with an offensive mind like Friedgen will be a good test for him to see if he has what it takes to make it as a B1G QB.
Here are some highlights of Nelson's performance against Purdue, which actually finished as the sixth-best pass defense in the B1G:
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Because Rutgers doesn't officially join the Big Ten until July, Nelson's transfer will not cause him to lose a year of eligibility. Should Gary Nova win the starting job this offseason (gasp!), Nelson will be eligible in 2015 and will compete with Blake Rankin, Chris Laviano, Giovanni Rescigno, and J.R. Reese for the starting job. That's a pretty good quarterback derby, and whoever wins that competition should be seasoned enough to lead the Scarlet Knights to at least a bowl game.