BROOKINGS - No one expected South Dakota State quarterback Kanin Nelson to be a finished product immediately.
And admittedly, the Mitchell native has said he's got a long way to go in his development as a college football player.
But that's why the 6-foot-4, 200-pound signal caller decided to graduate Mitchell High School early in December. He's determined to get a kickstart on learning the game at the collegiate level.
"You definitely have to put your time in, I learned that right away," Nelson said. "You have to read coverages and know exactly what you're doing. It's definitely different than high school."
Nelson enrolled at SDSU in January to partake in the Jackrabbits' spring practices. He wasn't expecting to take reps with the second-team offense in that short of a time frame, but he was thrust into that role when SDSU quarterback Zach Lujan got hurt in practice.
"He came in as a confident and goal-oriented young man, so he didn't come in here with his eyes big and thinking he's somewhere he shouldn't be," SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. "He came in here with a goal and focus. He's the first guy we've had who's graduated early and come to school and so he had that in his mindset. He's a good student, he's a good athlete and the guys accepted him. He's taken just about all of the No. 2 reps this spring, so he had a lot of opportunities as well."
Getting plenty of reps behind quarterback Taryn Christion in SDSU's spring scrimmage on Saturday, Nelson showcased why Stiegelmeier thought so highly of him out of high school.
Nelson displayed poise in the pocket not normally seen from freshmen and the ability to make plays with his feet. Albeit, there was a "no contact" rule with quarterbacks at the event.
He finished the game 8 of 12 passing for 98 yards and two touchdowns while leading the offense to a 62-47 win over the defense in Brookings. He also ran nine times for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Even Stiegelmeier wasn't expecting that.
"He didn't come a long way in the spring, he came a long way from yesterday to today," Stiegelmeier said. "I mean, I don't know what he had for breakfast but he needs that every day. I thought he did a phenomenal job. His poise seemed to come all at once. He needs to walk off this field and say 'Yes!' It was a good day for Kanin."
On his third drive of the scrimmage, Nelson completed all four of his passes, including a four-yard touchdown pass to Alex Wilde. Perhaps his most impressive play of the day came on a 45-yard strike to Marquise Lewis for his second passing touchdown of the day. Nelson launched the pass and fit the ball in-between two Jackrabbit defenders for the score.
"It was cool, having my first college game like that," Nelson said. "Having people in the stands there for me, thought it was a good experience. I was a little nervous, but with how it all played off, it gave me confidence heading into fall camp."
When fall practices begin in early August, Nelson is expected to be the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart behind Lujan and Christion barring unforeseen events. But that's alright with Nelson.
"Being on this team is just about being something bigger than yourself," he said. "Everyone wants to win. "I want to develop every day, that's just my goal right now. If I keep doing that and working hard, everything will work out."