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.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill said Tuesday that he's not sure when he'll return to the sideline during games, but he made it clear he's had an active role behind the scenes at practices, in meetings and dealing with recruiting.
Kill, who began a leave of absence to treat his epilepsy on Oct. 10, said he'll be coaching from the press box next Saturday at Indiana, as he has for the previous two games.
"I kind of enjoyed it up there," he said. "... We’re going to take it week by week. I can tell you this: We aren't going to screw it up right now, and I will be in the box at Indiana. And I've got enough trust in what we’re doing.
"Will I do that my whole career and that stuff? I'm not worrying about it. I’m taking it one day at a time. ... There’s a lot of ways to do things. I’m not going to make those decisions right now, but I am a little superstitious, and we’re not going to change a whole lot."
Tracy Claeys will remain acting head coach. As for a health update, Kill said he expects to be driving again by February, an indication he intends to be seizure free by then.
"I’m going to be driving that truck, too," he said. "As a matter of fact, I think I’m going to order the thing this week. And I ain't lying. ... I’m just talking from the heart. But I guess that sums it up. I’m going to beat the odds. I’ll be driving. You remember that, all right?"
Jerry Kill was back at Gophers football practice today. He's still on leave to treat his epilepsy but is gradually working his way back in.
"It's good being an assistant coach," Kill said on his way off the field.
* Running back Rodrick Williams suffered a foot injury this week and didn't practice today.
* Mitch Leidner, who was sick earlier in the week, practiced fully today. Acting head coach Tracy Claeys said no decision has been made over who will start at quarterback between Leidner and Philip Nelson.
Here’s the latest on the Gophers football team:
Head coach Jerry Kill, who is on leave to treat his epilepsy, was in the office for a few hours Sunday and Monday. He’ll likely watch Saturday’s game from the coaching booth.
“He’ll be in and out as he feels,” acting head coach Tracy Claeys said. “Like I said, he’s got a process that he’s got to go through, and the better he feels, he likes to be around the kids.”
As for how involved Kill will be in game planning for Nebraska, Claeys said, “I would be surprised if he’s heavily involved in it. But the fact he drove seven hours to Chicago [for the Northwestern game], I’m sure he’ll be in the press box for this game. And if he’s got some advice to help us win the football game, I’d be glad to listen to it.”
Claeys had planned to name a starting quarterback for the Nebraska game, but he said that will have to wait because Mitch Leidner is sick. Leidner started taking some antibiotics.
That would seem to increase the likelihood that Philip Nelson starts on Saturday, but Claeys didn’t indicate that.
“One thing we have here is a rule that if you’re going to play, you’ve got to practice,” Claeys said. “So we’ll see how Mitch handles this medication if he feels better.”
Gophers acting head coach Tracy Claeys met with the team's beat writers this morning. A few highlights:
* Claeys said Jerry Kill is making good progress but isn't yet ready to return from his leave of absence. Claeys guessed that Kill would watch next Saturday's game against Nebraska from the coaching box, and that Kill might even want to stop by to watch practice this week if he's feeling up to it.
Those would be considered steps in his progression toward returning full-time.
"In my opinion," Claeys said, "I don’t anticipate it'll be all of a sudden, wham, he’s back going full speed. There’ll be a build up to it, and when the time’s right, he’ll be ready to go."
* Claeys didn't name a starting quarterback for the Nebraska game, but said he expects the offensive staff to evaluate that so a decision can be made by Tuesday. Claeys said whether it's Philip Nelson or Mitch Leidner, the non-starter will still see time in the first half, just as the plan went against Northwestern.
"The one thing I can tell you we’re not going to do, we’re not going to get into alternating series," Claeys said. "I just don’t believe in that. I think you play the guy who gives you the best opportunity to win."
* Claeys said the team came out of Saturday's game relatively healthy. Return man Marcus Jones is dealing with an ankle injury, and left tackle Ben Lauer (corrected) has a shoulder issue, but those were the only new injuries of note.
* Rodrick Williams played on special teams but not at tailback.
"Rodrick has got to grow up a little bit off the field," Claeys said. "He’s a good football player, and we need him, but the principles are in place that we’ve set since we’ve been here. He had a little bit of a rough week off the field on things he was asked to do. So as soon as he takes care of those issues we’ll make sure we get him back in there."
* Claeys was asked about the team's approach to its final possession before the first half against Northwestern. After taking over at midfield, the Gophers were cautious, running the ball before a Nelson pass put them in field goal range. Chris Hawthorne missed a 44-yarder as time expired.
"I told the offensive guys, 'Hey, be careful with the football here ... because we haven’t finished right before the half very well defensively the last few weeks. And going into halftime tied 7-7 on the road -- there’s no shame in that. And we felt like momentum had turned our way in the second quarter, and I didn’t want to do anything to give that back to them."
Claeys noted that the Gophers gave up a late second-quarter touchdown to fall behind at Michigan, and saw Michigan take the ball for another touchdown to open the third quarter in an eventual 42-13 defeat.
After spending time a top epilepsy center in Grand Rapids, Mich., Gophers football coach Jerry Kill has returned home to Minneapolis, where he’ll continue receiving treatment while on leave from the team, a person familiar with the situation told the Star Tribune on Thursday.
There is still no timetable for Kill’s return. Acting head coach Tracy Claeys said he doesn’t expect Kill to be with the team for Saturday’s game at Northwestern.
The Gophers announced last Thursday that Kill was taking time to treat his epilepsy, as seizures had forced him to miss parts of four games in three seasons at Minnesota. Filling in for Kill on his weekly radio show Thursday on 100.3-FM, Claeys sounded upbeat about Kill’s progress.
"They feel very good about the process right now,” Claeys said. “It's just not going to be fast enough for [Kill]."
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