New leader: Leidner is Gophers' starting QB as spring practice begins

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Today's forecasted high temperature is 19 degrees and spring doesn't officially begin until March 20, but that isn't stopping the Golden Gophers football team from opening its spring practice schedule today.

The first of 15 spring practices will be held at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex at 4 p.m. today. Head coach Jerry Kill, for a fourth consecutive year, has made all 15 practices free and open to the public.

Fans and media members will have a close eye on redshirt sophomore quarterback Mitch Leidner. The starting job is Leidner's to lose since last year's No. 1 quarterback Philip Nelson decided to transfer to Rutgers last month. Nelson's departure afforded Leidner the opportunity to take over as the true leader of the offense.

"It is something I wanted to do right after the bowl game. It is something I have wanted to do for a long time, but is has been hard being in a two-quarterback system to really be that guy," Leidner told GopherSports.com. "But after the bowl game I said I wanted to come back and, “Be that guy,” and do everything I can."

Minnesota lost to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl, but they might have won if Leidner played the entire game. He took over for Nelson and nearly led Minnesota to a come-from-behind win with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes.

Former Gophers quarterback Adam Weber, who worked out for NFL teams at the Gophers' Pro Day on Monday, thinks Leidner can become one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. 

"It comes naturally to him to be 'the guy.'" Weber said in an interview with the Pioneer Press. "I really look for him to take what he's done (last season) and improve on it, polish his skills and become a dominant player in the Big Ten. He's definitely capable of it."

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