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Minnesota Football: Meet Conor Rhoda

Everything you need to know about the former walk-on quarterback set to terrorize the Terrapins

Indiana State v Minnesota Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Conor Rhoda might be the best kept secret in the Big Ten.

But when the Golden Gophers take the field against the Maryland Terrapins, the secret will be out, and the college football world will finally meet the 6’3’’, 215-lb. redshirt junior and Minnesota native who graduated from Cretin-Derham Hall before joining the Gopher football team as a walk-on in fall 2013.

I call Rhoda the best kept secret in the Big Ten because not much is known about the Gophers’ back-up quarterback — literally. Over the last four seasons, Rhoda has seen the field in three games, two in 2014 and one in 2016. His first pass attempt — an incomplete pass on 3rd and 12 — came against the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2014. But Rhoda would avenge that incompletion with a six-yard completion to Hunter Register against Indiana State this season, improving his career completion percentage to 50 percent.

Not bad for a walk-on quarterback. But on that same drive against Indiana State, Rhoda also handed off the ball to running back Kobe McCrary, who would rack up 92 rushing yards on 3 carries with Rhoda under center. Gopher running backs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks have to like their chances of running wild against Maryland on a Saturday with a quarterback like Rhoda handing them the ball.

As far as accolades are concerned, Rhoda has some hardware to his name after being named Offensive Work Team Player of the Year in 2015. Rhoda was also granted a scholarship that same year.

Rhoda will be first quarterback not named Mitch Leidner to start for the Gophers since Chris Streveler started in place of an injured Leidner against San Jose State in 2014. Freshman Demry Croft sat ahead of Rhoda on the depth chart last year, but Rhoda was able to climb his way into the back-up quarterback role through his consistency. Offensive coordinator Jay Johnson had this to say about Rhoda during preseason camp in an excerpt from an article from the Pioneer Press’ Andy Greder:

“I’ve tried to put him in challenging situations, and he’s really done well,” Johnson said.

“Conor is a little bit older and has been around a little bit longer,” Johnson said. “His management of the huddle and how he handles the team is very, very positive for him.”

He also has latched onto the mental approach to Johnson’s new offensive schemes, which require the quarterback to make decisions each time he looks at the defense. “I think he’s really done a great job of picking those things up,” said Johnson, who came over from Louisiana Lafayette in the winter. also conducted a Q&A with Rhoda about a week ago — which is very eerie, in hindsight — where the Gophers’ new starting quarterback shares some relatively harmless personal information about himself. You can read that here.

I know quite a few people have been critical of Leidner’s ability to throw a spiral, so I’ve managed to obtain a video from last season of Rhoda throwing a deep pass to wide receiver Rashad Still in a scrimmage for your analysis. Feast your eyes:

I’m also including highlights from Rhoda’s senior season at Cretin-Derham Hall to help you pass the time between now and Saturday.

What will we see from Rhoda on Saturday in his first college start? It’s anyone’s guess. It could be a complete and utter disaster or a pleasant surprise. The latter is probably the more likely outcome, but never rule out a Christmas miracle.

For what it’s worth, Rhoda seems to be looking forward to it: