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.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
The Gophers will release their first official injury report Tuesday, but for now, team officials insist they feel good about the health going into their Aug. 28 opener against Eastern Illinois. A few items of note:
* Wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky and defensive end Michael Amaefula have both been hobbled of late, but coaches say they still think both could be ready for the opener.
* Tight end Duke Anyanwu tore his ACL the first weekend of practice, and that was a tough blow because Anyanwu would have been one of the first replacements for Maxx Williams.
* Offensive lineman Jared Weyler also tore an ACL during camp, but he's a true freshman who likely would have redshirted anyway.
* The Gophers continue to take it slow with offensive lineman Jon Christenson, who is making his way back from last November's broken leg. They hope left tackle Ben Lauer (high ankle sprain) is ready to practice at full-speed Sunday.
From what I've gathered, that's about all there is to report on the injury front.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill gave a couple quick injury updates after Tuesday's practice.
* Starting left tackle Ben Lauer has a high ankle sprain and won't be full-go until at least Sunday. It sounds like the 6-7, 315-pound Lauer is questionable for the Aug. 28 opener against Eastern Illinois.
"He’s slowly getting back," Kill said. "He did individual stuff today, but those things take a while. And certainly, where we’re at now, we’re not going to take any chances. He’s progressed a long way in three or four days. I anticipate him hopefully practicing Sunday, but we’ll see."
* If Lauer can't play, the Gophers likely would start Jonah Pirsig at right tackle, with Josh Campion sliding over to left tackle. Pirsig recently missed three or four days with a groin injury, but he was full-go at practice Tuesday.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill gave Sid Hartman and Dave Mona several new insights this morning on WCCO AM-830. Notably:
* Senior defensive tackle Harold Legania has moved to the offensive line, a switch to give him a better chance at playing time this year.
* Offensive lineman Jonah Pirsig has been out for four or five days with a groin injury. Nothing serious, but another bump in the road for the redshirt sophomore.
* Starting left tackle Ben Lauer has a sprained ankle but should be back Tuesday.
* Junior lineman Josh Campion has played right tackle, left tackle and right guard during camp because of those injuries.
* Kill reiterated that Gaelin Elmore will play this year at defensive end.
* Kill said true freshman Jerry Gibson has been playing H-back (tight end), as well as inside wide receiver.
* Jonathan Celestin, a true freshman linebacker from Jonesboro, Ga., had a “real nice scrimmage” and will play this year.
* Kill also praised true freshman tight end Brandon Lingen, from Wayzata, saying he’ll play, too. Kill said true freshman DE Andrew Stelter has had an “outstanding camp,” though it wasn’t clear if that means Stelter will play this year.
Note: I accepted the #icebucketchallenge from Chip Scoggins, and issued my own to Cedric Thompson, Mitch Leidner and David Cobb. Check out the clip -- our daughter steals the show. Fun way to support a great cause. Help #strikeoutALS.
Gophers tight end Duke Anyanwu will miss the season with a knee injury, Coach Jerry Kill said Monday.
Anyanwu injured his right knee while trying to catch a pass in Saturday's practice. He had surgery to repair a torn ACL in 2012, but that was his other knee. He also broke a forearm during spring practice in 2013 and was limited to one game last season.
"Duke’s loved by our team and our coaches; he’s just such a special kid," Kill said. "But he’ll always bounce back, and I know he’ll come back and he’ll compete his tail end off. But it’s too bad because he would have definitely played for us."
The Gophers just wrapped up their fourth practice. I'll have a full report in tonight's first editions.
Gophers tight end Duke Anyanwu suffered an apparent right knee injury Saturday in the team’s second practice.
Anyanwu went over the middle in an 11-on-11 drill and fell to the ground, trying to catch a pass from Chris Streveler. Anyanwu was in obvious pain and had to be helped off the field by the team’s trainers.
Coach Jerry Kill declined to comment on the injury but said of Anyanwu, “Great kid. Ain’t none better than Duke. Great kid.”
Anyanwu played quarterback at Blaine High School and converted to tight end with the Gophers. He torn an ACL during captain’s practice in 2012 – not sure if it was the same knee – and took that year as a redshirt. UPDATE: I'm told it was his other knee that time, so that's definitely good news.
Anyanwu broke a forearm during spring practice in 2013 and was limited to one game, on special teams, last fall. But Kill called Anyanwu one of the team’s most improved players this year during spring practice.
Anyanwu led the team with three receptions in the spring game, and quarterback Mitch Leidner raved about the speed Anyanwu has shown during summer workouts. Leidner and other players looked visibly shaken watching Anyanwu being taken off the field today.
Kill's wife, Rebecca, was among those who went over to comfort Anyanwu through his dismay.
As written here for today's editions, the Gophers have a plethora of tight end options, but Anyanwu will definitely be missed if he's out for an extended time.
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