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 didn’t have anyone drafted this year, but three players have latched on with NFL teams as undrafted free agents:
* TE/QB MarQueis Gray agreed to a deal with the 49ers.
* CB Troy Stoudermire agreed to a deal with the Bengals.
* And CB Michael Carter announced today that he has agreed to a deal with the Vikings.
Also, GopherIllustrated.com reported today that the Gophers have received their third verbal commitment for the 2014 class. Steven Richardson, a DE from Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago, joins Minneapolis Washburn RB Jeff Jones and Kansas City Wyandotte QB Dimonic McKinzy on Minnesota’s commitment list.
The Big Ten officially announced today that it will scrap its Legends and Leaders football divisions for 2014, and split into East and West. And beginning in 2016, each Big Ten team will play a nine-game conference schedule.
The Gophers will play in the Legends Division for just one more season, along with Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern.
Beginning in 2014, the Gophers will be in the West Division, along with Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin.
The East Division will feature Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers.
As written here last month, the new format should make things easier for the Gophers.
The conference's presidents and chancellors voted unanimously today to approve the new division format, along with the nine-game conference schedule for 2016 and beyond.
“Big Ten directors of athletics concluded four months of study and deliberation with unanimous approval of a future football structure that preserved rivalries and created divisions based on their primary principle of East/West geography,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said in the press release. “The directors of athletics also relied on the results of a fan survey commissioned by BTN last December to arrive at their recommendation, which is consistent with the public sentiment expressed in the poll.”
The Gophers have announced the rosters for Saturday’s spring game, which will be a battle between the first-stringers (Maroon Team) and second-stringers (White Team). In other words, the Maroon Team should win, but the White Team will be hungry to prove they belong on the other roster.
At middle linebacker, for example, redshirt freshman Jack Lynn has been playing with the first-team defense for most of the spring, but he finds himself on the White Team, with junior college transfer Damien Wilson starting for the Maroon Team.
At quarterback, it sounds like Philip Nelson (Maroon Team) and Mitch Leidner (White Team) will get a lot of snaps. I’m guessing Chris Streveler (White Team) and Dexter Foreman (Maroon Team) will see action in the second half.
Coach Jerry Kill said some upperclassmen with little to prove, such as senior safety Brock Vereen, might see limited time, but almost everyone who isn't injured should play.
“We’ll start the game with a 15-minute [quarter], like a regular game, and we’ll see how the first half rolls,” Coach Jerry Kill said. “And then, if it goes a little bit longer, and I feel like we’ve gotten what we needed, we might cut it down to a running clock. We’ll divide the teams ... and let them have a little bit of fun.”
What: Gophers Spring Football Game
Where: TCF Bank Stadium
When: 1 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network (7 p.m., tape delayed)
Online: Game will be streamed live on BTN2GO.com
Admission: Free (Gophers encourage a $1 minimum donation toward the Gary Tinsley Memorial Scholarship Fund.)
And did I mention, they’re selling beer?
# NAME POSITION HT WT YEAR
3 Dexter Foreman Quarterback 6-1 220 RS SO
4 KJ Maye Wide Receiver 5-10 197 SO
5 Damien Wilson Linebacker 6-2 254 JR
7 Damarius Travis Defensive Back 6-2 208 SO
8 Cameron Wilson Wide Receiver 6-3 215 RS JR
9 James Manuel Linebacker 6-2 225 SR
9 Philip Nelson Quarterback 6-2 215 SO
13 Derrick Wells Defensive Back 6-0 206 JR
14 Isaac Fruechte Wide Receiver 6-3 204 RS JR
18 Derrick Engel Wide Receiver 6-2 187 RS SR
20 Donnell Kirkwood Running Back 5-10 223 RS JR
21 Brock Vereen Defensive Back 6-0 202 SR
24 Aaron Marmer Wide Receiver 6-3 213 RS SO
27 Cedric Thompson Defensive Back 5-10 211 JR
29 Briean Boddy Defensive Back 5-11 186 JR
30 Mike Henry Fullback 6-1 231 RS SR
31 Eric Murray Defensive Back 6-0 194 SO
33 John McKelvey Defensive Back 6-0 209 RS FR
35 Rodrick Williams Jr. Running Back 5-11 235 SO
36 Cavonte Johnson Defensive Back 5-11 190 RS FR
46 Cameron Botticelli Defensive Line 6-5 290 RS JR
47 Alex Bisch Tight End 6-6 251 RS JR
52 Zac Epping Offensive Lineman 6-2 321 RS JR
55 Theiren Cockran Defensive End 6-6 238 RS SO
57 Aaron Hill Linebacker 6-2 231 RS SR
58 Ed Olson Offensive Lineman 6-7 309 RS SR
59 Joey Balthazor Linebacker 6-3 228 RS SR
62 Zach Mottla Offensive Lineman 6-2 277 RS SR
63 Jon Christenson Offensive Lineman 6-4 306 RS SO
65 Josh Campion Offensive Lineman 6-5 326 RS SO
68 Isaac Hayes Offensive Lineman 6-2 304 RS FR
73 Joe Bjorklund Offensive Lineman 6-5 288 RS SO
74 Marek Lenkiewicz Offensive Lineman 6-5 289 RS JR
80 Devin Crawford-Tufts Wide Receiver 6-2 193 JR
83 Drew Goodger Tight End 6-5 265 JR
85 Lincoln Plsek Tight End 6-4 265 SO
88 Maxx Williams Tight End 6-4 254 RS FR
91 Alex Keith Defensive Line 6-3 237 SO
92 Roland Johnson Defensive Line 6-1 286 SR
94 Harold Legania Defensive Line 6-4 308 RS JR
97 Scott Ekpe Defensive Line 6-4 281 SO
98 Michael Amaefula Defensive End 6-2 244 JR
99 Ra’Shede Hageman Defensive Line 6-6 311 RS SR
# NAME POSITION HT WT YEAR
3 Martez Shabazz Defensive Back 5-11 172 SR
5 Chris Streveler Quarterback 6-2 209 FR
6 Grayson Levine Defensive Back 5-11 202 JR
7 Mitch Leidner Quarterback 6-4 233 RS FR
11 Antonio Johnson Defensive Back 6-0 207 SO
16 Jamel Harbison Wide Receiver 5-11 199 RS FR
16 Steven Montgomery Defensive Back 5-10 210 RS SO
17 Nick Rallis Linebacker 5-11 227 RS FR
18 Peter Westerhaus Linebacker 6-3 230 RS SO
19 Cedric Dicke Linebacker 6-3 221 RS FR
19 Kendall Gregory-McGhee Tight End 6-5 273 RS SR
21 James Gillum Running Back 5-11 214 SR
22 Jeremy Baltazar Defensive Back 6-0 197 SR
23 Edward (EJ) Sardinha Wide Receiver 6-1 197 RS FR
27 David Cobb Running Back 5-11 225 JR
28 Moses Alipate Tight End 6-5 281 RS SR
31 Cole Banham Running Back 5-9 188 RS JR
32 Lamonte Edwards Linebacker 6-2 214 RS JR
34 Jephte Matilus Linebacker 6-1 238 RS SO
35 Dominic Schultz Linebacker 6-1 236 RS SO
39 Duke Anyanwu Tight End 6-4 241 RS FR
40 Alexander Starks Defensive Back 5-11 200 FR
42 JoJuan Harper Running Back 5-10 201 RS SO
44 Gabe Mezzenga Tight End 6-4 245 RS JR
45 Ben Holcomb Wide Receiver 6-4 200 RS FR
50 Jack Lynn Linebacker 6-3 234 RS FR
52 Yoshoub Timms Defensive Line 6-2 276 RS FR
53 Tommy Olson Offensive Lineman 6-4 301 JR
64 Caleb Bak Offensive Lineman 6-3 302 RS JR
66 Luke McAvoy Offensive Lineman 6-5 285 RS SO
67 Brian Bobek Offensive Lineman 6-2 282 JR
69 Tyler Hartmann Fullback 6-3 247 RS FR
71 Kyle McAvoy Offensive Lineman 6-5 305 RS SO
75 Ernie Heifort Offensive Lineman 6-5 281 RS SO
77 Foster Bush Offensive Lineman 6-5 303 RS SO
78 Ben Lauer Offensive Tackle 6-6 302 RS FR
79 Jonah Pirsig Offensive Lineman 6-9 308 RS FR
84 Victor Keise Wide Receiver 6-1 188 RS SR
87 Sahr Ngekia Tight End 6-4 236 RS SR
89 Logan Hutton Wide Receiver 6-1 181 RS JR
93 Ben Perry Defensive Line 6-5 253 RS JR
95 Hendrick Ekpe Defensive Line 6-5 251 FR
96 Jordan Hinojosa Defensive Line 6-3 272 SO
# NAME POSITION HT WT YEAR
15 Marcus Jones Returner 5-8 166 JR
24 Kyle Fodness Kicker 5-11 198 RS FR
36 Chris Hawthorne Kicker 6-6 200 SR
37 Peter Mortell Punter 6-2 195 RS SO
40 Jared Hartman Long Snapper 6-3 229 RS SO
41 Dan Orseske Punter 6-3 205 RS SR
48 Jake Filkins Long Snapper 6-2 240 SR
94 Christian Eldred Punter 6-3 185 JR
96 Dave Ramlet Long Snapper 6-2 238 RS JR
The draft experts saw this coming, so it should come as no surprise. But the first round of the NFL Draft is in the books, and the Big Ten came close to getting shut out.
The SEC produced 12 first-round selections, the ACC had six, the Pac-12 had five, and the Big Ten had one -- Wisconsin offensive lineman Travis Frederick, who went to the Dallas Cowboys at No. 31.
This story advancing the draft by the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Doug Lesmerises compared the SEC and Big Ten's first-round draft production since 2006, when the Big Ten had eight first-round selections. As Doug wrote:
If you wonder why the league has struggled in nonconference and bowl games lately, with one winning bowl season since 2002, Thursday’s first round will show you part of the reason.
A few more Big Ten players should hear their names called Friday, in Rounds 2 and 3, including Purdue DT Kawann Short, Ohio State DT Jonathan Hankins, Wisconsin RB Montee Ball and Michigan State DE William Gholston. But the Draft remains an annual reminder of the declining talent in the Big Ten.
Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith, from the Big Ten Network, watched the Gophers second-to-last spring practice Thursday, inside the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex, and seemed to come away impressed.
On Twitter, DiNardo (@gerrydinardo) noted that Jerry Kill's program has looked better each time they've swung through camp, which would now be five times -- Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012 and today.
"For the 14th practice they got a bunch done," DiNardo tweeted, adding "14 is usually not a productive go."
Kill was less impressed. In an 11-on-11 drill, Cedric Thompson intercepted Philip Nelson and ran for a touchdown. It was among the examples when the offense looked out of sync.
"I think we’ve had 13 good practices," Kill said. "I think today wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as clean as I’d like it. We didn’t go very long, and I think our kids have kind of hit that wall a little bit. We’ve got some guys banged up, which everybody does in spring, and we feel like we’ll get those kids back. It’s been a grind."
Next up for the Gophers is Saturday's 1 p.m., spring game at TCF Bank Stadium. They'll divide into two teams and play 15-minute quarters.
"I’m excited to get out there Saturday, be outside, a little bit different element, and finish off the spring good," Kill said. "Let those kids play and let them have some fun because we’ve been after them pretty good. Split them up and have a good time and hopefully get out of there without any major injuries."
Earlier in camp, the players did some pushing and shoving in one of the practices, and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said that's usually a sign that it's time to scrimmage. The drills can get pretty frustrating. Today was no exception, as Thompson and tight end Drew Goodger got into it, leading to a long multi-player scuffle.
"At the end of camp, everybody is tired, and everybody’s trying to push through," Thompson said. "So at times, everybody loses a screw every now and then. But at the end of the day, we’re still a family. We all shake hands in the lockerroom. We all still love each other."
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