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.
ORLANDO, FLA. -- The Gophers held their first Florida practice today in preparation for the Citrus Bowl, and Star Tribune photographer Liz Flores and I made it just in time to see it. The team allowed photo and video access for the first 20 minutes, so we'll wrap some of that into tonight's coverage.
Some quick jottings off practice:
* Gophers coach Jerry Kill confirmed that running back Jeff Jones finished the fall semester with a high enough GPA (Jones needed a 2.5 or above) to gain eligibility for spring practice. Sid Hartman had this news in his Sunday column. The Gophers were just waiting for the grades to become official, and now that's a done deal.
* Drew Wolitarsky, who missed the last four games with a sprained ankle, looked very good running drills. Kill said Wolitarsky is good to go for the bowl game.
* Kill said offensive tackle Ben Lauer, who has been out with mono, would have a limited role, at the most, in the bowl game. That limits the Gophers depth. They have Josh Campion and Jonah Pirsig starting at tackle, and those two will have their hands full against Missouri's defensive ends.
* It was overcast at Freedom High School but a very comfortable 72 degrees. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 80's the next three days.
The Gophers lost one of their 2015 recruiting commitments over the weekend, when Almonzo Brown, a wide receiver from Suwanee, Ga., made it public that he was back on the market.
I will be Decommitting from the university of Minnesota. Thanks to all the fans and the coaches for the opportunity.— Almonzo Brown (@the_OCHO_brown) December 21, 2014
Brown is a consensus three-star recruit who has received offers from Florida, Iowa, Georgia Tech and Kansas State. He committed to the Gophers in August, so they'll be back on the market for at least one more receiver in this class.
Meanwhile, coach Jerry Kill continues to rave about the four wide receivers who redshirted this year, especially Isaiah Gentry. After coming back from knee surgery, Gentry has been opening eyes this month in practice. It sounds like Gentry has a very good chance to start next year. Desmond Gant, Melvin Holland Jr., and Conner Krizancic aren't far behind.
The Citrus Bowl Parade will run through downtown Orlando on Dec. 30, two days before the Gophers play Missouri, and Wednesday, the honored guests for the parade were revealed.
According to a Citrus Bowl spokesperson, the grand marshal will be former NBA All-Star Grant Hill. Minnesota’s VIP Guest will be Al-Star closer Glen Perkins, and Missouri’s VIP guest will be its chancellor, Dr. R. Bowen Loftin.
Perkins went 19-5 with a 2.87 ERA in two seasons for the Gophers before the Twins signed him as a first-round draft pick in 2004. The lefthander has posted 70 saves over the past two seasons for the Twins, making the All-Star team both years.
Last year’s Citrus Bowl pitted Wisconsin against South Carolina. The parade grand marshal was PGA veteran Justin Rose, and his “VIP guests” were both Heisman winners – George Rogers from South Carolina and Ron Dayne from Wisconsin.
The parade will feature the Gophers and Missouri marching bands, as well as various high school bands and citrus floats. For more on the parade, visit FloridaCitrusParade.com.
Note: Sun Country Airlines added five flights from Minneapolis to Orlando for the bowl game. Details here.
Gophers sophomore tight end Maxx Williams was named a second-team All-America by the Associated Press on Tuesday, adding to his list of postseason awards.
The Gophers haven't had an AP first-team All-America since tight end Matt Spaeth in 2006. Defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman was an AP third-team All-America last year.
Williams was on the second team behind Florida State senior Nick O'Leary, who also edged Williams for the Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end.
Williams was also named a Walter Camp second-team All-American, Big Ten Tight End of the Year, and a Capital One Academic All-American.
Williams is an exceptional blocker and led the Gophers with 29 receptions for 471 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Gophers added another coveted offensive lineman to their 2015 recruiting class Tuesday, when Tyler Moore, a center/guard from Houston North Shore High School gave a verbal commitment to Minnesota.
Moore, a consensus three-star recruit, also had reported offers from Texas, Kansas and BYU.
I am glad to announce my commitment to the UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA! #Ski-U-Mah I could be more fired up!— Tyler Moore (@Ohh_MOE) December 16, 2014
He is Minnesota's 18th commitment for the 2015 class and fifth offensive lineman. The Gophers have made the offensive line and secondary big priorities in this class. The other O-line commits are Nick Connelly (Red Wing), Bronson Dovich (Chaska), Ted Stieber (Akron, Ohio) and Quinn Oseland (Springfield, Ill.).
Here's a highlight video:
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