Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.

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Gophers football recruiting: Where things stand

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher recruiting Updated: January 30, 2015 - 1:20 PM

Heading into the final weekend before National Signing Day (next Wednesday), here are some quick thoughts on the Gophers class:

* All 23 of their commitments currently have three-star rankings in the 247Sports.com composite index, which combines all the major recruiting rankings into one.

* Rivals.com has this Gophers class ranked No. 42 nationally and sixth in the Big Ten. 247Sports.com has the Gophers at No. 57 nationally and 12th in the Big Ten.

* The five offensive linemen in this Gophers class have an average height of 6-foot-6 and an average weight of 294. That's the average. Here's a closer look:

Nick Connelly (Red Wing) 6-7, 275
Bronson Dovich (Chaska) 6-6, 290
Tyler Moore (Houston North Shore) 6-4, 300
Quinn Oseland (Springfield, Ill., Sacred Heart) 6-6, 310
Ted Stieber (Akron Archbishop Hoban) 6-6, 295

"I think the headline of the class has to be the offensive line," said Zach Johnson, who runs GopherIllustrated.com, a Rivals affiliate. "Look at the guys they're bringing in. Offensive linemen don’t come to campus anymore at 6-4, 230 pounds, and you’ve just got to wait three years to get them up to playing weight."

Here's my overview of the full class. We'll have much, much more on this next week.

Gophers land Dior Johnson, a safety with a four-star rating from Rivals.com

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher recruiting Updated: January 28, 2015 - 10:22 PM

The Gophers pulled one of their biggest recruiting coups of the past year Wednesday night, when they convinced safety Dior Johnson, from Southfield, Mich., to commit one day after he de-committed from Wake Forest.

The Gophers now have 23 players committed in this year's class, and Johnson is the first one with a four-star rating from Rivals.com. He also had offers from Illinois and Indiana.

The 6-2, 195-pound Johnson is a high school teammate of Ray Buford, another highly-rated defensive back who committed to the Gophers in December. Coach Jerry Kill and defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel had in-home visits with both Buford and Johnson on Wednesday night. Johnson announced his decision on Twitter.

Cobb reflects on Senior Bowl, stays focused on boosting draft stock

Posted by: Joe Christensen under NFL draft, Gophers Updated: January 28, 2015 - 12:05 PM

David Cobb was right back to spending long days in the gym this week after returning to California from the Senior Bowl, where the former Gophers running back continued opening eyes among NFL scouts.

Cobb had 11 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown, and added two receptions for 16 yards, helping the North to a 34-13 win. His first carry was a highlight, as he took a handoff, made a nice cut toward the sideline and sprinted for a 25-yard gain.

I caught up with Cobb on the phone late Tuesday night, after his latest workout. He said his goals at the Senior Bowl were “to play fast, play confident and really come out there and compete and show a lot of the fans what I can do. And show some people who doubted what I can do.”

From all accounts, Cobb had an impressive week of practice leading up to the game, which could help his draft stock as much as anything. Standing 5-11, he weighed in at 229 pounds. As a rusher, he showed off his vision, balance and ability to make tackler's miss. Beyond that, he proved adept at pass blocking and pass catching, looking like the total package.

“I felt like it was a pretty good week, a successful week,” Cobb said. “I felt like I was able to go down there and stand out a little bit, and at least compete against some of the other guys, some of the bigger names.”

SI.com tabbed Cobb and Northern Iowa's David Johnson as its two running backs on its All-Senior Bowl team. ESPN's Mel Kiper has moved David Cobb to No. 8 among running backs in his latest Top 10 NFL Prospects by Position list. (Subscription required. Maxx Williams is listed as the No. 1 tight end, to no one's surprise.)

Cobb said one highlight from Senior Bowl week was getting a visit from Jerry and Rebecca Kill, along with Gophers defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel. They were down there recruiting in Alabama and stopped by to see him.

“I was definitely surprised. I didn’t expect to see them,” Cobb said.

Cobb returned to Manhattan Beach, Calif., where he and cousin Damien Wilson are sharing an apartment, training for the NFL. The draft is April 30-May 2. Cobb has a chance to be drafted on Day 2 (Rounds 2-3), or he and Wilson could both hear their names called on Day 3 (Rounds 4-7).

“I think everybody who’s gone through this process, they’re anxious, they want to know where they’re going to get drafted,” Cobb said. “We talk about it, but we don’t spend too much time thinking about it. We know what has to be done and how far away we are from that.”

The family’s dream scenario, of course, is to see both cousins drafted by the same NFL team.

“Of course, that’s the dream, to be on the same NFL team,” Cobb said. “But just playing in the NFL – first through seventh round – that’s our dream and that’s our goal. Just to make it there first.”

Edwards joins Gophers track team, knowing football still comes first

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers post season Updated: January 27, 2015 - 5:38 PM

Gophers running back Berkley Edwards was a top high school sprinter in Michigan, and now he'll have a chance to test that speed collegiately.

Edwards is joining the Gophers track and field team this season, the athletics department said Tuesday, confirming a report in the Minnesota Daily, by Jack Satzinger.

Football remains Edwards' top athletic priority, as he will go through a full spring practice and participate in track when there are no conflicts with football. Former Gophers receiver Devin Crawford-Tufts is another example of a player who competed in both football and track.

Edwards won the 100-meter (10.58 seconds) and 200-meter (21.37) dashes at the Michigan state meet for Chelsea High School and was also a member of the 4x100 meter relay at the Junior Olympics. The Gophers' next track meet is the Jack Johnson Invitational, which starts Friday at the U of M Fieldhouse.

Edwards played 12 football games for the Gophers last season, getting 30 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns. He was limited by a shoulder injury after redshirting with an ankle injury in 2013. He's expected to compete for more playing time this fall, as the Gophers look to replace standout running back David Cobb.

Gophers land commitment from Alabama defensive tackle Mose Hall

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher recruiting Updated: January 27, 2015 - 1:10 PM

The Gophers were determined to add defensive linemen to this year's recruiting class, and they got one Tuesday from the same high school that produced Gophers receiver KJ Maye and defensive tackle Gary Moore.

Mose Hall, a defensive tackle from Mobile (Ala.) Murphy High School, gave the Gophers a verbal commitment. Rivals.com rates Hall as a three-star recruit who also had offers from Maryland, Illinois and Wake Forest. He is the Gophers' 22nd commitment for the 2015 class. He announced his decision on Twitter:

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