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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Posts about Gopher recruiting

Gophers land four-star offensive tackle from Illinois

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: April 12, 2015 - 9:54 PM

The Gophers are rolling on the recruiting front.

Sean Foster, a consensus four-star offensive tackle from Illinois, committed to Minnesota on Sunday, passing up other offers from the likes of Nebraska, Virginia Tech and Kentucky.

The 6-8, 285-pound Foster, from Mundelein (Ill.) Carmel Catholic, is ranked as the No. 15 offensive tackle in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.com.

His commitment came one day after the Gophers landed Mayer Lutheran offensive tackle Sam Schlueter, who chose Minnesota over Wisconsin and Michigan State. The Gophers now have six players committed for the Class of 2016.

Schlueter picks 'U' over Wisconsin, Michigan State

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: April 11, 2015 - 8:48 PM

The Gophers landed a big recruit after Saturday's spring game, when Mayer Lutheran offensive lineman Sam Schlueter picked Minnesota over Wisconsin and Michigan State.

Schlueter had narrowed his list down to those three schools, keeping the suspense going, but he wound up staying with his home-state school. Rivals.com ranks the 6-6, 275-pound junior as the 41st best offensive tackle in the Class of 2016.

He was a big priority for the Gophers staff, and he joins four other in-state recruits already committed for 2016: Eden Prairie linebacker Carter Coughlin, East Ridge defensive tackle Jojo Garcia, Robbinsdale Cooper athlete Phillip Howard and Robbinsdale Armstrong linebacker Thomas Barber.

Schlueter posted the news on Twitter:

Howard gives Gophers their fourth in-state commitment

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: March 31, 2015 - 7:27 PM

The Gophers plucked another recruit from a deep in-state class Tuesday, when Phillip Howard, a multi-position athlete from Robbinsdale Cooper, announced he was committing to Minnesota.

Howard attended the Gophers’ practice and notified the coaching staff there. He is the fourth top Minnesota recruit to commit for the 2016 class, joining Eden Prairie linebacker Carter Coughlin, East Ridge defensive tackle Jojo Garcia and Robbinsdale Armstrong linebacker Thomas Barber.

Howard has played quarterback for Cooper and could be either a wide receiver or a cornerback in college. He also had reported offers from Wyoming, Western Michigan and North Dakota State, among others.

Howard posted the news on Twitter:

Thomas Barber extends his family's legacy with the Gophers

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: March 13, 2015 - 3:43 PM

The Gophers landed another legacy recruit Friday, when Robbinsdale Armstrong linebacker Thomas Barber announced he is committing to Minnesota.

Barber's two older brothers -- Marion III and Dom -- both played for the Gophers, as did their father, Marion Jr. The 6-1, 225-pound Thomas Barber is listed as a three-star recruit by 247Sports.com.

His commitment comes one day after the Gophers landed Carter Coughlin, a four-star linebacker from Eden Prairie who had narrowed his choices to Minnesota, Ohio State and Oregon. Coughlin is the son of former Gophers defensive lineman Bob Coughlin.

Last weekend, the Gophers hosted Coughlin and Barber on unofficial visits, along with two top offensive line recruits: Sam Schlueter from Mayer Lutheran and Matt Kegel from Chaska. Eventually, the Gophers hope to bring all four of them into the fold.

Barber made his announcement on Twitter:

Gophers hope Johannesson is their next standout from North Dakota

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: February 5, 2015 - 5:30 PM

There's an interesting story in the Fargo Forum about the tough decision James Johannesson had, choosing the Gophers over North Dakota State:

>For Johannesson, the 6-foot-1, 221-pound running back who amassed an amazing 6,198 yards rushing during his high school career at Fargo South, the lure of playing for a Big Ten program in front of 50,000 fans was too hard to pass up.

>But he said picking between Minnesota and NDSU was still a tough decision. Last August when he verbally committed to the Gophers, he had a hard time breaking the news to Bison running backs coach Tyler Roehl and head coach Chris Klieman.

>“I didn’t even want to tell them … I almost couldn’t do it,” Johannesson said Wednesday morning, moments after he signed his national letter of intent during a ceremony in the South gymnasium. “I felt like I was breaking up with my girlfriend or something.”

>Johannesson said he has no regrets becoming a Gopher – even after watching the Bison win a fourth straight national title last month.<<

How good of a player are the Gophers getting? Coach Jerry Kill sounded pretty impressed Wednesday.

"North Dakota, it seems like every time the Gophers have gotten a player from that area, they’ve been an All-American," Kill said. "James Johannesson being 6-1, 220 pounds, and he ran a 4.55 [seconds in 40-yard dash] at our camp -- a lot of people don’t know all that stuff."

Kill mentioned Bismarck native Greg Eslinger, the Outland Trophy winner. Another Fargo South grad, Justin Conzemius, was a standout defensive player for the Gophers and an Academic All-American in the mid-90s. (I'm sure there have been other standout North Dakotans, too. Gophers historians, please let me know in the comments.)

Update: Eric Peterson, with the Fargo Forum, reached out with a couple more names: Sean Hoffman, a linebacker from Fargo North who played for the Gophers from 1997-2000, and Neil Fredenburg, an O-lineman from Fargo South who played for Minnesota from 1991-93. ... Dan Kwapinski from Lisbon was a D-lineman from 1999-2003 (Hat tip @tikemanner).

"Maybe need to take one or two [players from North Dakota] each year," Kill said.

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