Weber gets nod as Gophers' starting QB

I got my first glimpse of Adam Weber in 2007, when he took the field as a redshirt freshman for Minnesota in a game at Northwestern.

That day, Weber passed for 341 yards and five touchdowns and added 89 rushing yards and a touchdown in a 49-48 double-overtime loss at Ryan Field. Northwestern escaped with the win after Weber's pass attempt on a game-deciding 2-point conversion attempt fell incomplete. Weber's 430 yards of total offense marked the third highest single-game total in team history.

My thought that day: this guy is going to be really good.

My thought today: Weber can still be really good.

As expected, Minnesota has announced that Weber will open the 2010 season as its starting quarterback. The man who has started the last 38 games for the Golden Gophers will lead the offense onto the field Sept. 2 at Middle Tennessee.

Weber had to compete to retain his job this spring, with MarQueis Gray as his primary challenger. Moses Alipate also was in the mix.

"We thoroughly evaluated every aspect of quarterback play throughout the spring and Adam has earned the right to be the starter entering the 2010 season," head coach Tim Brewster said in making the announcement on gophersports.com. "MarQueis Gray will be our No. 2 quarterback, with Moses Alipate No. 3.

"We are fortunate to have three very talented young men who can all lead our team. In the final analysis, Adam's command of the offense, his leadership, decision-making and his overall play won out and right now we believe he provides our program with its best opportunity for success."

Some Minnesota fans will be disappointed with this decision. After earning second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2008, Weber struggled mightily last season, completing only 52 percent of his passes with two more interceptions (15) than touchdowns. The Gophers' offense sputtered under his command, finishing last in the Big Ten in both scoring (20.9 ppg) and total offense (306.5 ypg).

Gray is a bigger and more athletic quarterback than Weber, and it's easy to see why a lot of folks wanted him to be the starter.

But Weber still has a major edge in experience, and it's hard to go away from that, especially for a coach like Brewster entering a pivotal season. Weber is still Minnesota's all-time leader in passing yards and completions. Gray isn't proven as a passer, completing just 6 of 15 pass attempts with a touchdown and an interception last year.

Why will Weber be better this fall? It starts with a simplified offensive scheme.

Not only did Minnesota install a dramatically different offense last season -- going from the spread, a system to which both Weber and Gray were recruited, to a pro set -- but the quarterbacks seemed to be flooded with information. I got to see this first hand before a game last season when I spent time with Minnesota and sat in on a quarterbacks' meeting.

New offensive coordinator Jeff Horton has simplified the system and tried to identify a few things that his quarterbacks do best. Weber and Gray both seemed to welcome Horton and the changes.

"Last year, my head was spinning in practice and in the meeting rooms," Gray said. "Coach Horton came in, and he did a lot of simplifying. His philosophy is getting better at what we're good at; start with little stuff and get better at it. That’s helping people out in a lot of ways."

"It’s not always another play when you come to the next practice," Weber said. "It’s getting better at the players you’re working on in yesterday’s practice."

Weber deserves another chance, not just from the team but from the fans. He separated himself early in spring practice and emerged as the likely starter. Now it's official.

This guy was a pretty good quarterback not that long ago. And he can be a good quarterback again.