MINNEAPOLIS — Philip Nelson faked to the running back, rolled to his right and found the receiver streaking down the middle.
For anyone who's followed Mankato West football the last five years, you've seen that play many, many times from No. 9.
But Nelson is bigger and stronger, with a little more zip on the pass. Now working with the starters at the University of Minnesota's first football practice, Nelson looks different, and it has nothing to do with a few days' growth on a starter beard.
"Experience is the big factor," Nelson said, just finishing off a two-hour practice at the Gophers' facility. "I have more knowledge and more confidence."
For the first time since his sophomore season at West, Nelson is competing to be the team's starting quarterback. There are five quarterbacks on the Gophers' roster, and he's the only one that's not a freshman, having played in seven games last season after losing his redshirt.
"You can see the experience," offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. "If we tried to do last year what we did today, it would be chaos."
Though Nelson is the incumbent, he's been guaranteed nothing. His seven games last season were marked with some brilliant play, but as with any true freshman, there was inconsistency.
He passed for 873 yards and eight touchdowns, which is the third most ever by a Gophers freshman quarterback, and his 1,057 yards of total offense led the team. He was the first Gophers player to ever be named the freshman of the week by the Big Ten, after beating Purdue with 246 yards passing and three touchdowns.
However, he also had three games where he passed for less than 100 yards, and threw eight interceptions.
"You have to take care of the ball and make the right decisions," he said. "I need to work on it and be a good leader."