The Gophers made the decision to pull the red-shirt off of freshman Philip Nelson, giving him the ball in of all places Madison. Talk about baptism by fire. While I agreed with the move at the time as a ‘why not', the statistics haven't exactly backed up the decision.
In his six games, Nelson has led the Gophers offense on 69 drives. Of those, nearly half (33) ended in a three-and-out or worse for the offense. True, Jerry Kill's offense is built on the run with the read option, Nelson was billed as a strong armed quarterback that could make every throw.
Across town in a slightly warmer climate, Christian Ponder's sophomore slide continued against the Bears. In his 11 games he has failed to pass for 200 yards in five and didn't even reach 75 yards in two of those tilts.
Both guys have the same problems with their passing attack. They lack any consistent target that can reliably catch a football down field.
Ponder was 0-10 on passes 10 yards or more down field against the Bears. Wait a minute, wasn't Jerome Simpson was supposed to be the ‘juice' the offense needed? Simpson managed just one yard on one catch and dropped three that either went right through his hands or hit him in the chest, bounced off and fell to the ground.
Not exactly what a young quarterback needs to gain confidence.
Meanwhile back on campus, the Gophers lost their leading receiver A.J. Barker when he quit the team and threw a tantrum that would make a two-year old would be proud. Their leading receiver statistically not named Barker was Isaac Fruechte who caught 19 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Based on the Kill offense, incoming freshman Eric Carter isn't a big kid but as you can see, the kid can catch the ball and has a little break-a-way to him.
The Vikings will likely add a receiver in the draft, but if they are looking to jump into the free agent market, there are aging names which they should stay away and a couple of guys that would fit the bill. While Greg Jennings and Wes Welker should be ignored, Dwayne Bowe and even Mike Wallace would be instant improvements for the team.
There is nothing for the confidence of a young quarterback than knowing the guys on the other end of his passes are going to make the play and catch the ball. At some point, both Nelson and Ponder need to develop into something other than a check down machine. They need the weapons to do it.