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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Adding new wrinkles produces a sloppy practice

Posted by: Phil Miller under College football, Gophers spring football Updated: March 27, 2012 - 8:56 PM

     Jerry Kill wasn't particularly happy with his football team on Tuesday, after a sloppy session that may have included more fumbles and interceptions than the previous three practices combined. It was a particularly trying day, especially with the constant chilly wind, for the backup quarterbacks; the freshmen looked more like freshmen than they did last week, and I saw Max Shortell fumble the ball after merely being tagged on the back by a pass-rusher.
     But Kill didn't appear particularly bothered by the mistakes. Sounded like he was expecting them, actually.
     "We're installing a lot on both sides of the ball," he explained afterward. "A lot of times, people won't go full speed against each other when you're doing that. There's a lot of thinking and processing going on."
     Especially in the minds of players who were in high school just three months ago. Philip Nelson fumbled a snap and threw a handful of shaky passes in the blustery wind, including one that was easily picked off. But as though offering a reminder of the talent at his disposal, the teen-ager also drilled a nice 20-yard pass over two defenders and into the hands of receiver Cameron Wilson at one point.
     Same for Mitch Leidner, who threw a pick-six into the arms of linebacker Aaron Hill at one point, and took an inadvertent hit from linebacker Jephte Matilus once when he tried to take off with the ball. But Leidner also threw a couple of nice passes, one that Marcus Jones caught up to across the middle.
     Grayson Levine had a nice day in the secondary; the Eden Prairie grad came up with interceptions on consecutive plays (well, consecutive for him) during the skelly drill.
     What I noticed most, though, was the pace. During their 11-on-11 running-play workout, the Gophers were snapping the ball three times a minute. The offense would rotate every play, but the defense was on for several plays at a time, getting used to bringing down the ball-carrier, then resetting themselves at a high speed. It looked exhausting, but the Gophers must have kept it up for 7-10 minutes.
     Practice resumes Thursday at 3:15 p.m., and moves to TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday. That session has been shifted to noon.
 

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