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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Two linebackers shelved for opener at USC

Posted by: Phil Miller under College football, Gophers injuries Updated: September 1, 2011 - 6:13 PM

     The Gophers' deepest position is being dinged to death. Linebackers Brendan Beal and Aaron Hill will not suit up for Saturday's season opener, coach Jerry Kill announced Thursday, removing a couple of key backup players from Minnesota's lineup.
     Beal has a previously undisclosed knee injury, and Kill's announcement did not specify the severity of the injury. The transfer from Florida had been expected to back up Gary Tinsley at middle linebacker, a task that now likely falls to junior Ryan Grant.
     Hill is still sidelined with a hamstring injury that has kept him out of practice for a week, though Kill indicated earlier this week that his condition had improved. Hill was to be the top backup behind weakside linebacker Keanon Cooper. Sophomore Joey Balthazor is in line for that responsibility now.
     In addition, Kill said offensive tackle Josh Campion is still suffering from effects of a concussion and will not play.
     The loss of two backup linebackers makes keeping the starters healthy even more important, but all three have dealt with injuries or illnesses this year. Cooper is wearing a cast on his right wrist after undergoing surgery last week. Tinsley missed several spring practices with a hamstring injury, though he's been fine this fall. And strongside linebacker Mike Rallis missed a few practices with a flulike illness last week, though he has gained back the weight he lost and will play Saturday.
     -- The USC Trojans experienced some unexpected tumult on Thursday, when secondary coach Willie Mack Garza abruptly resigned, according to the Los Angeles Times, due to personal reasons unrelated to USC. 

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