Top Transfer Options for Ex-Minnesota QB Philip Nelson
On Thursday, it was announced that Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson would seek an immediate transfer from the Gophers. It was a bit of a shock to the public, but according to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, it has been in the works for months.
Nelson, who just finished up his sophomore season, won't be transferring inside the Big Ten, with the threat of losing a year of eligibility guaranteeing that.
The bigger question is where the free agent quarterback will now land. One thing we do know is Nelson will look for a program that is more pass-orientated.
"For me, I am looking to play in a system that centers more around the pass game which utilizes my skill sets," Nelson told Christensen. "I am excited to go out and meet with programs that match up with my talents."
Nelson finished his Gophers career completing 49.9 percent of his passes for 2,179 yards, 17 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
With those kind of numbers, anyone else find it at least a bit curious he's looking for a program centered around the pass?
I digress, but Nelson doesn't have much time to land wherever he goes because he wants to be in school for the spring semester if possible.
So, where are some of Nelson's best options for a transfer? Let us explore five schools that could fit his needs.
5. Central Florida
Yes, Florida is far away from Minneapolis, but with Blake Bortles off to the NFL after his junior year, there is a hole open in a very pass-happy offense, at least an offense that doesn't require a run option out of it's quarterback.
So, why not look that way for Philip Nelson? It fits what he's looking for, and George O'Leary's teams will always find a way to run the ball effectively as well.
The depth chart behind Bortles isn't exactly full of veteran options either, with freshmen Justin Holman and Pete DiNovo completing the depth chart to end the season. Holman, the primary backup this past season, attempted just 14 passes—completing nine for 75 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
UCF could be in need of someone with experience because of the youth on the roster, and he'd be entering a competition with two sophomores and a 3-star early enrollee, Tyler Harris.
At least he'd be given a chance to compete for the Knights' starting job, and there's not much more you can ask as a transfer.
4. North Texas
The reality is Philip Nelson may be best suited to look for a school that is a bit down the totem poll if he wants a true option of playing right away at his new school.
Jerry Kill has a ton of connections with coaches throughout the Midwest, one of those connections that could pay off for Nelson is with North Texas head coach Dan McCarney. Kill and McCarney traveled in the same circles while McCarney was head coach at Iowa State, and his offenses fit well with what Nelson is looking for.
So does the fact that 2013 starting quarterback Derek Thompson was a senior. He finished the year with 2,896 yards, 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. More importantly, he never ran the ball more than seven times in a single game all year. It is clear that the Mean Green are all about the pass game out of their quarterback.
Nelson has been far from perfect in his two seasons in Minneapolis, but this could be a situation where he comes in and isn't expected to be amazing right out of the gate. Additionally, he'd be coming into a program that made a bowl game in 2013 and is on the rise under McCarney.
The question is, just how far away from his Midwest roots will Nelson be willing to look in this search. He should at least consider this option if you ask me. McCarney is a great coach and he'd learn a lot in his years in Denton, Texas.
3. Ball State
Quick—name the MAC's leader in passing yards last season.
OK, without Googling it, most won't know it was Keith Wenning of Ball State, but that's the answer.
Wenning threw for over 4,100 yards on nearly 500 passing attempts. With Philip Nelson looking for a game centered on the passing game, what more could you ask for?
It also helps that somehow head coach Pete Lembo is still in Muncie, Ind., and Ball State would allow Nelson a chance to stay closer to home in the Midwest.
Another advantage is that Jerry Kill and Pete Lembo know each other from their days of coaching in FCS football. Sure, both were MAC coaches, but they never crossed paths in the MAC circles thanks to Kill taking the Minnesota job before the 2011 season and Lembo doing the same at Ball State that year.
On the field, there is no one with significant experience returning for the Cardinals, with the two backup quarterbacks combining for 11 total pass attempts this last year.
For Nelson, this could be a great option to come in and have a realistic shot at competing for the starting job, as well as for him to learn the finer arts of the passing game.
2. Western Kentucky
If I were a quarterback and looking to learn the position, one of the names I'd be happy to see in front of me is that of now Western Kentucky head coach Jeff Brohm.
He has the playing experience and a good coaching pedigree to go with it. He understands uptempo and pass-happy offenses, having played quarterback under Bobby Petrino and then coaching under him as well. He was elevated from offensive coordinator to head coach this offseason.
With that redshirt year still available, Philip Nelson could come in and learn the finer points of the passing game under Brohm and be available to compete for the starting job next season. Starting in 2014 isn't an option at Western Kentucky, because it will have a returning starter on its roster in Brandon Doughty.
Doughty had 2,857 yards, 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in his first season as a starter in a new system and showed some promise. In 2014 he'll be a senior.
So, if Nelson wants to concentrate on his craft and then master it on the field, the chance to learn under Jeff Brohm would be a wise choice.
If there is a player in FBS football that reminds me of Philip Nelson, it is Tyler Tettleton of Ohio University. For Nelson, that could be good news, because Tettleton is gone in Athens.
He will take his 9,129 yards, 56.8 percent completion rate, 67 touchdowns and 28 interceptions over his career with him. Tettleton completed no less than 62 percent of his passes over his three years as a starter, and that's good news for Nelson as well.
Not the completion percentage, but the fact that Tettleton has been a starter for three years. It means a lack of experience on the depth chart. That's something Nelson can bring to the table for Frank Solich's offense.
However, Solich is bringing in a 3-star quarterback, Joey Duckworth, out of Louisville in the 2014 class, and that could be some stiff competition for Nelson coming in to the season.
The only question is if Nelson is willing to go to a smaller school for an opportunity to start, but with three years left to complete two years of eligibility, it shouldn't be an issue.
Athens could be a great place for Nelson to be able to hone his passing game and get a chance to start right off the bat.
*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten lead writer. All recruiting information is courtesy 247sports. You can follow Andy on Twitter: @ andycoppens.