Nelson's Arrest Leaves Rutgers In Bind
By Matt Seidel
Philip Nelson represented the future for Rutgers at quarterback. Now he's the past.
His career with the Scarlet Knights came crashing down this month when he was charged with first- and third-degree assault after allegedly kicking an unconscious man during a street fight. The heinous act left the victim, Isaac Kolstad, in a medically-induced coma.
Head coach Kyle Flood wasted no time in booting Nelson from the program after charges were filed.
The ramifications won't be felt on the field this fall with Gary Nova set to start, but the future is slightly more bleak without a definitive answer at quarterback for 2015. Although uncertainty at quarterback takes a backseat to the horrific circumstances, Rutgers must now deal with the situation as the school transitions into the powerful Big Ten.
Nelson started 16 games for the Minnesota Golden Gophers the past two years before transferring to Rutgers. He threw for 1,306 yards and completed 50.5 percent of his passes in his sophomore season. However, the modest numbers stem from Minnesota's heavy emphasis on the ground game. The Gophers had 586 carries on the season and Nelson was a significant contributor with 93 carries for 364 yards and six touchdowns, including a 48-yard touchdown scamper.
But he still lost playing time to Mitch Leidner, and with the writing on the wall after dismal performances down the stretch, he elected to leave for Rutgers.
Nelson was not an unparalleled success at Minnesota, but he did lead the Gophers to four conference victories last season and could have tapped into that experience to benefit Rutgers. Barring a recruiting coup or a radical ascent from depth chart obscurity, Rutgers does not have a solution at quarterback for 2015. Nelson could have provided security if he hadn't made an unconscionable mistake.
The Scarlet Knights will likely endure another year of diminishing returns from Gary Nova, which are only exacerbated by the steep increase in competition. Nelson would not have been a Heisman Trophy candidate in Piscataway, but having a competent signal-caller could have made the transition to a powerhouse conference smoother.
Without the tradition, financial resources, proven coaching track record or a healthy blue-chip pipeline, landing a game-changing quarterback seems impossible. Rutgers' status as a conference doormat, at least at the outset, might be inevitable.