It’s been established that Chris Streveler can run.
In 2012, as a senior at Marian Central, the quarterback ran for 1,276 yards and 22 touchdowns. It’s because of his legs, in large part, he was twice named the Northwest Herald Player of the Year, became a decorated three-star recruit and eventually earned a scholarship to Minnesota.
But as Streveler enters his second season with the Golden Gophers, which begins Aug. 28 against Eastern Illinois, he recognizes something has changed. He isn’t simply leaning on his legs.
“At Marian, I think I was just a very raw player,” he said last week. "Now, I don’t think I have to rely on my athleticism as much. I don’t drop back and think I have to run. I think I’m just getting better at understanding how to play quarterback.”
Entering the season, Streveler sits as the team’s backup quarterback behind Mitch Leidner, a redshirt sophomore who grabbed the starting job in the spring after Philip Nelson left the program. It’s a spot where he feels comfortable, where he’s growing, where’s he’s getting more reps. As the No. 2 starter, he takes snaps with the second team, a much bigger role than a year ago when he fought for a place on the scout team when healthy.
“That’s good,” he said of his place on the depth chart. “It doesn’t bother me where I am. I’m just going to prepare like I’m the starter every week. It’s a good spot, so hopefully I’ll see the field a bit this year.”
To date, the Crystal Lake native has yet to see the field at Minnesota. As a freshman last fall, he redshirted after tearing a tendon in his right thumb five weeks into the season. But after surgery and three months of rehab, the thumb is healed. “One hundred percent,” he said, and so that may change depending on how Leidner performs or whether he can stay healthy.
Streveler’s role is also more defined. Before Nelson transferred, coaches considered moving him to wide receiver – albeit briefly – as a way to simply get the athletic 6-foot-2, 219-pounder on the field.
“They liked me as an athlete, so it was just to experiment,” he said. “I worked as much as you can. It was never, ‘We’re moving you to receiver and we’ll see how it goes.’”
He added he’s “totally settled in” at quarterback. After recovering from the thumb injury, he returned to the field to throw during bowl practices and competed throughout spring practice without any hiccups.
The Golden Gophers’ offense seems to fit Streveler rather well, too. Under fourth-year coach Jerry Kill, they run a mixture of formations from the traditional power running game as often seen in the Big Ten to spread formations, which allow him to make use of his running ability.
No matter how much he sees the field in 2014, however, he hopes to keep the Golden Gophers rolling. Last season, they went 8-5, including a trip to the Texas Bowl. It marked the program’s first winning season since 2008 and only its fourth eight-win season since 1967. With Kill in charge, Minnesota has safely left the Big Ten cellar.
“He obviously has a reputation for turning around schools,” Streveler said of his coach. “Everybody kind of knew that coming in. He’s not going to take 'no' for an answer. He’s such a competitive guy. We all just jump on that. Losing is not acceptable. He really expects the tone. With the way we’re headed, we feel we’re poised for a pretty good season."