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.

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Scary moment from spring game shows Cockran can get to the QB, and that Leidner can take a hit

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher quarterbacks, Gophers spring football Updated: May 3, 2013 - 11:03 AM

Tackling the quarterbacks in the spring game is strictly forbidden for the Gophers and most other teams. But that didn’t stop defensive end Theiren Cockran from toppling Mitch Leidner in the second quarter last Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

It prompted the public address announcer to say, half-jokingly, “We don’t encourage that type of behavior in the spring game.”

Agreed. No team wants to see its quarterbacks suffer a senseless injury. But the moment told me two things:

1) Cockran can get to the quarterback. The 6-6, 245-pound redshirt sophomore will be counted on to help replace outgoing senior D.L. Wilhite, who led the team with 8 1/2 sacks last year.

“You’ve gotta control your aggression sometimes,” Cockran said. “I didn’t try to hit [Leidner] too hard. I tried to avoid him at the end, but I just got him a little bit.”

What did the coaches say?

“I haven’t heard about it, but I will soon,” Cockran said after the game. Here's more on Cockran from a story I did last month.

2) Leidner can take a hit. He’s 6-4, 233 pounds. He got up and led his team into the lead with two second-half touchdown passes.

Asked what he thought of the hit, Leidner smiled and said, “I forgot about it. Obviously, just get up right away and shake it off.”

Leidner's durability could be critical. If something happens to starting quarterback Philip Nelson, the Gophers will need Leidner to lead them forward. After him, there's a big drop on the depth chart, as true freshman Chris Streveler has a lot of learning to do.

Here's more on Leidner from last month.

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