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 linebackers coach Bill Miller is leaving to become the linebackers coach at Florida State, according to CoachingSearch.com.
Update: Gophers coach Jerry Kill confirmed that Miller is heading to Florida State.
Miller, whose title with the Gophers also included assistant head coach, has been a well-respected member of the staff with 36 years of experience. He had a previous stint with the Gophers, coaching the defensive backs from 1986 to 1988. He went on to become defensive coordinator at Miami, where he coached Ray Lewis.
Miller returned to Minnesota when Coach Jerry Kill took over in 2011.
Jerry Kill got his long his long-expected raise Saturday.
The University announced that Kill's contract has been restructured through 2018-19. He'll make $2.1 million next year, up from $1.2 million last year, which was the lowest salary among Big Ten coaches.
“Coach Kill is proving his model works here at the University of Minnesota,” Athletics Director Norwood Teague said in the press release. “It is right to support him as he builds a program that will make the state of Minnesota proud.”
The Gophers have gone 3-9, 6-7 and 8-5 in Kill's first three seasons, and Kill has turned around the team in the classroom, too.
“Jerry Kill is the right coach for the University of Minnesota,” University President Eric Kaler said in the press release. "He has clearly moved our program forward and I am pleased we have come to this agreement to secure his long-term leadership of Gopher football.”
Kill thanked Kaler and Teague for their support in his statement.
The coach added, "I am extremely proud of what our players and coaches accomplished on and off the field last season. We still have a lot of work to do, but are moving the program in the right direction. I look forward to continuing to build a program that positively represents the great people of Minnesota and am excited to work with our players again when we start spring practice in early March.”
Update: Kill's new contract will increase his salary by $100,000 each year. So he'll make $2.1 million, $2.2 million, $2.3 million, $2.4 million and $2.5 million over the next five years.
The contract also has language that guarantees that the Gophers assistant coaches' salary pool will rank in the Top 6 of the Big Ten.
Happy National Signing Day, everyone.
You can get the latest on the Gophers and other National Signing Day news on our Live Blog.
Jeff Jones made it official today, picking the Gophers in an announcement at Minneapolis Washburn. And soon after, the Gophers announced that Gary Moore signed his letter of intent.
That means all the players that were reportedly commited and speculated on heading into Wednesday, are in the fold. As of 11:25 a.m., the Gophers class ranked 49th in the Rivals.com rankings.
Earlier, Defensive back Craig James, who also delayed his official announcement until Wednesday, picked the Gophers. And the Gophers officially signed Jerry Gibson, who visited South Carolina last weekend. Here's a tweet from Gibson this morning:
Who can say that coach kill got on the phone and sung happy birthday #ICAN— Jerry Gibson (@TheNew_JG3) February 5, 2014
Here's a list of players already signed, sealed and delivered for Minnesota:
-Jonathan Celestin, LB, Jonesboro (Ga.) Mundy Mill, 6-1, 205: Gophers found this under-the-radar recruit while working on his high school teammate, Rodney Smith.
-Gaelin Elmore, TE, Somerset (Wisc.), 6-6, 245: Committed last June and held firm, despite offers from Wisconsin, Nebraska and Vanderbilt.
-Isaiah Gentry, WR, Cincinnati Moeller, 6-4, 185: Speedy receiver flipped his commitment from Kent State. Also had an offer from Rutgers.
-Jerry Gibson, ATH, Theodore (Ala.), 6-3, 220: Visited South Carolina last weekend. Top athlete who could be a tight end, defensive end or linebacker.
-Melvin Holland Jr., WR, Ashburn (Va.) Briar Woods, 6-3, 190: A converted linebacker who turned heads as a senior receiver. Had offers from Wisconsin and Rutgers.
-Craig James, CB Edwardsville (Ill.), 5-11, 175: Had strong interest from Indiana and delayed official announcement until Wednesday but signed with the Gophers.
-Jeff Jones, RB, Minneapolis Washburn, 6-0, 198: Co-MVP from Under Armour All-American Game announced his final decision Wednesday.
-Julien Kafo, DE, Montreal (Que.) Vanier College, 6-4, 245: Had offers from Iowa and Nebraska, according to Rivals.com. Will be a 20-year-old freshman.
-Conner Krizancic, WR, Mentor (Ohio), 6-2, 190: Flipped his commitment from Cincinnati. Played quarterback as a high school senior.
-Brandon Lingen, TE, Wayzata, 6-5, 245: Wasn’t heavily recruited after being injured as a junior, but added 35 pounds and was a force as a senior.
-Connor Mayes, C, Van Alstyne (Texas), 6-5, 315: Played in U.S. Army All-American Game. Brother of Gophers lineman Alex Mayes.
-Gary Moore, DT, Mobile (Ala.) Murphy, 6-4, 285: Flipped his commitment from Southern Mississippi. Big, strong kid who can run the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds.
-Cody Poock, LB, Iowa Western Community College, 6-2, 230: Picked the Gophers over TCU. Has three years of eligibility remaining. Already enrolled.
-Luke Rasmussen, OL, Brookfield (Wisc.) Central, 6-7, 270: Scored a 33 on his ACT exam, and had offers from Air Force, Harvard and Yale.
-Steven Richardson, DT, Chicago Mt. Carmel, 5-11, 285: Defensive MVP of the Chicago Catholic League had 34 tackles for a loss, including 17 sacks.
-Dimonic Roden-McKinzy, QB, Kansas City (Kan.) Wyandotte, 6-0, 210: Dual-threat passer had offers from Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas. Already enrolled.
-Andrew Stelter, DE, Owatonna (Minn.), 6-4, 250: Consensus three-star recruit had offers from Duke, Harvard, Yale, Iowa State and Northern Illinois.
-Rodney Smith, RB, Jonesboro (Ga.) Mundy Mill, 5-11, 195: Tore an ACL as a junior but bounced back to rush for 2,200 yards as a senior.
- Jared Weyler, OL, Dayton (Ohio) Centerville, 6-4, 280: Flipped his commitment from Bowling Green. He’ll be an interior lineman for the Gophers.
-Everett Williams, LB, Mansfield (Texas) Legacy, 6-2, 220: Strong tackler with terrific grades. He had offers from Western Michigan and Northern Illinois.
On Saturday at 4 a.m., ESPN’s national recruiting director Tom Luginbill was up studying videotape of recent Gophers commit Isaiah Gentry, a wide receiver from Cincinnati’s Moeller High School.
Luginbill tweeted about what he was doing, and this led to a quick exchange with a follower who has an Auburn logo for an avatar:
@ATL_JAY Yeah, good player too. Jerry Kill might be one of the top 5 coaches in CFB right now.— Tom Luginbill (@TomLuginbill) February 1, 2014
Two days later, ESPN held a media conference call with Luginbill, and I asked him to explain what inspired his tweet.
I used part of that answer in this story analyzing the class the Gophers are expected to unveil on National Signing Day. Here’s a longer version of Luginbill’s answer:
“Coaching can be defined in a lot of ways, but when you take a football team like the one [Kill] had this fall. You go through the off-the-field situation you had with the seizures and the epilepsy, you win eight-plus games with a roster -- and I don’t mean this to sound negative -- but that roster had no business winning eight games, and I think that’s a sign of coaching.
“In many ways, he’s like a Jim Grobe at Wake [Forest], when he had a great run there. There are guys out there that I don’t think get the credit they deserve, and [Kill’s] certainly one of them.
“And I think he’s in the process right now of enhancing the roster with more speed, more athleticism. It’s just not something you do overnight by waving a magic wand, it’s a process.
“All I know is, if you don’t believe in his process, then you haven’t been paying attention to his history because all he’s done is won.”
Note: Check back here in the morning for the latest Gophers signing updates, including the much anticipated decision by Jeff Jones at 10 a.m.
Twelve months after giving the Gophers a verbal commitment, Minneapolis Washburn running back Jeff Jones finally made it official Wednesday, when he announced his final decision to play for Minnesota on National Signing Day.
“The staff over there is great, and it’s just a great opportunity to come in and be able to contribute right away," Jones said at a press conference in the Washburn gym following his announcement. "Coach Kill’s a genuine guy. He seems to have the best interests for his players before and after football, and right now he has about five guys on his staff that he’s coached before, so I feel like that was the best spot for me.”
Rivals.com ranks Jones as the nation’s 44th best recruit and No. 7 running back. He had narrowed his choices to Minnesota, Iowa State and Tennessee.
Jones still needs to qualify academically to play Division I, but Washburn coach Giovan Jenkins has said that Jones is close, needing just one more point on his ACT score and two-tenths of a point on his GPA.
Jones has three more chances to take the ACT, with the next coming Saturday.
Then, his next goal will be to play as a freshman.
“Yeah, that’s my goal, work hard this summer and come in and possibly have a chance to play right away.”
Jones committed to the Gophers shortly before National Signing Day last year but kept his recruiting options open as he gained in national prominence. He was named co-MVP of the Under Armour All-American Game in January and was scheduled to visit Florida and Michigan before those schools canceled.
Jones joked with reporters about not really having any doubts about coming to Minnesota.
“I had to make it seem that way for you guys, but not to me," he said. "I knew Minnesota was the right choice for me. They run the ball, and Coach Kill’s staff – you look at his track record, they win games, and so I wanted to come into a program that’s going to win.”
“He’s the best player from Minnesota and one of the best running backs in the country,” said Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network. “I think he could become an impact player for [the Gophers]; that’s what they really need.”
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