When he learned that the quarterback who started nine games for Minnesota last season was leaving the program, Chris Streveler’s preparations for spring football didn’t change a bit.
It’s just not Streveler’s way.
The former Marian Central standout from Crystal Lake begins his second set of spring workouts with the Gophers on Tuesday. Even though a big hurdle between Streveler and Minnesota’s starting job is no longer there after Phillip Nelson announced in January he was transferring, it won’t impact how Streveler approaches what is now a wide-open competition.
“Going into this offseason, I was planning on working as hard as I possibly could and being the best player I can be come spring ball,” Streveler said in a phone interview Friday. “When I heard [Nelson] was leaving, it wasn’t like, ‘Well, I’ve got to work harder now.’
“I feel like I’ve got the same game plan coming in.”
Streveler was redshirted after tearing a tendon in his thumb on his throwing hand midway through his freshman season. He is expected to compete with redshirt sophomore Mitch Leidner, who started Minnesota’s final four games after Nelson was moved down the depth chart because of inconsistent play. Leidner threw for 619 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
True freshman Dimonic McKinzy also will be in the mix after enrolling early.
Streveler went through three months of rehab on his thumb and started throwing again during Minnesota’s bowl practices. The injury, which occurred five weeks into the season, was difficult for Streveler to deal with after it came at a time when he felt like he was just starting to come into his own as a Division I college quarterback.
Now, heading into Tuesday’s first day of spring ball, Streveler is completely healthy and even more confident than he was last year. Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has avoided discussing the competition at quarterback over the winter, but Kill likes the progress Streveler has made since he arrived in Minneapolis last winter when he enrolled early.
“He’s a tough, strong kid now,” Kill told reporters in January. “I’ll count on that he’ll play somewhere. He may very well be [our quarterback]. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. We need some emergence.”
Before Nelson’s departure, coaches discussed moving Streveler to wide receiver to get him on the field in some capacity. But now with last year’s starter gone, Streveler feels like Kill and his staff consider him a quarterback. The Gophers ran a little of everything last year offensively, showing aspects of the power run game – including at quarterback – along with some spread formation, showing variety that Streveler fits well into his skill set.
How he fits into Kill’s plans – even if it’s not at quarterback – is just fine with Streveler.
“I came here to be a football player,” Streveler said. “Whether they need me at quarterback or receiver or friggin’ long snapper, it doesn’t matter to me.”
Streveler is set to settle into what could be an interesting competition for the starting job at quarterback. As confident as he is, what Streveler won’t do is put pressure on himself to control something he can’t.
Doing so, he knows, won’t do him any good.
“Whatever [repetitions] I get, I’m just trying to make the most of them,” Streveler said. “I don’t feel like I need to go out there and do something extraordinary. I just kind of want to go out there and do what I can do and work as hard as I can.
“There’s no point in stressing over that stuff because the work you put in will come through.”