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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The running plays aren't going anywhere, the passes are overthrown or dropped, and the Gophers can't even snap the ball correctly. Uh-oh, is this team going to score any points this season?
Matt Limegrover laughs. He's responsible for this group, and he like what he sees -- because he's seen it before.
"It happens every year. Every year," Minnesota's offensive coordinator said. "Right now, it's tough because we're at the point in camp -- practice 5 to practice 9 or 10, usually -- where we feel like we're always a step behind. We solve yesterday's problems, and then the defense throws a new set of problems at us today."
So while he wishes the running backs had hit the holes with more authority, and the quarterbacks weren't rushing their reads, Limegrover sounded like the most relaxed man on campus after Saturday's scrimmage. Even though he was about to head into the film room to dissect another set of screw-ups.
"No, it's never a good situation, but when you have a veteran team, they'll handle it pretty quick," said Limegrover, who definitely does not have a veteran team here. "These poor guys, just when we get one thing fixed, we have to go, 'OK, look at the film -- here's the next thing that's going wrong.' "
While fans (and reporters) may see all the things that are going wrong -- and watch coach Jerry Kill make his offense do up-downs as punishment for not executing cleanly during the scrimmage -- Limegrover said he detected plenty of reason for optimism.
"Maybe an older group of kids can answer those problems before they even get asked. Here, they have to learn. But they really are willing, and they really are learning," he said. "I think the guys are really starting to see, 'OK, here's how A and B and C connect.' I can see that we're getting there. It's just hard to tell during this stretch, which we always go through."
A few more notes from the first two-a-day session of the fall:
-- Sean Ferguson filled in for Jimmy Gjere at left tackle during the latter part of practice, mostly to see how he would respond to the pressure of playing with the first unit. The former defensive lineman, a redshirt freshman from Philadelphia, "has wonderful physical gifts, but there's a consistency factor with Sean," Limegrover said. "I wanted to give him some sugar and see what he could do."
-- I wrote for Sunday's paper about Lamonte Edwards, and his wish that he was lower to the ground like Duane Bennett and Donnell Kirkwood. Limegrover understands what he's saying, but he likes what he sees. "I can see he's thinking maybe he doesn't fit the way we want him to be," the offensive coordinator said, "but he's a lot closer than he realizes. So that's pretty exciting for us."
So is David Cobb, the freshman from Killeen, Texas, who broke outside for a 25-yard gain during the scrimmage. "David Cobb has surprised me how quick he's learning," Kill said.
-- The Gophers won't post 11-man depth charts for offense and defense, Kill said. "It's a starting 22 on offense and a starting 22 on defense. We'll play a lot of people," he said. "It's just going to be an educated guess going into the first game of the season. A hypothesis. You're just not going to know until they play on Saturday."
-- A couple other notable plays from the scrimmage: Tom Parish was in the four-man quarterback rotation, and had a couple of nice completions, including a 15-yarder across the middle to Victor Keise and a 40-yard touchdown strike to Logan Hutton, a pretty play that earned a round of applause from the 150 or so fans in attendance.
-- Proof that he's human: Senior Da'Jon McKnight dropped an easy pass from MarQueis Gray early in the session.
-- There were several overthrows, but only two incompletions, both by freshman quarterback Dexter Foreman. Still, Limegrover said the Gophers are enjoying watching the Texan display his physical gifts. "He played in a system where he got the ball and he ran around a lot and he had a good arm. But he's really an unknown, how he'll adapt to this level," Limegrover said. "We have to find out how he'll respond when the bullets start flying."
-- The Gophers take Sunday off, but return for two-a-day workouts Monday morning at 8:50 a.m. Those workouts, Tuesday's practice and a scrimmage next Saturday in TCF Bank Stadium are the final sessions that will be open to the public.
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