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.
Last Saturday's practice, cancelled in the wake of Gary Tinsley's death, was supposed to take place in TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers need more time here, coach Jerry Kill decided this week.
So Thursday's session was moved down the street, in order to acclimate the newcomers to the place, and get everybody used to game-day situations. The coordinators observed and called plays from the press box, the quarterbacks read signals from the sideline, referees supervised the action and only Kill was on the field as the ball was snapped.
"Unless we come over here, it's hard to simulate everything. We need to be getting used to down-and-distance situations. There's something about it -- there's always a jitter or two," Kill said. It's much simpler to practice at the Gibson-Nagurski complex, because some players have post-practice classes. But it's worth the extra effort, the coach said.
"Life's about making adjustments," Kill said. "Hopefully we got some good work in, and we'll be sharper tomorrow."
Only a handful of notable plays during the scrimmages, one of which was a beautiful catch-and-run by sophomore receiver C.J. Cesario. And freshman quarterback Philip Nelson avoided a leaping linebacker, then cut to his right and scrambled for at least 25 yards, showing once again his faster-than-you'd-think footwork.
The Gophers spent an extended time Thursday working on punting, a nagging problem over the past few seasons. Specifically, the coaches sent 10 players to rush the punter, challenging them to deflect a punt, and twice they did.
Kill said redshirt freshman Peter Mortell, a Green Bay., Wis., native, impressed him, particularly on his last punt, which traveled at least 50 yards in the air. "Right now, he's showing me he'll sit in there during difficult times. He doesn't get real nervous," the coach said. "He's certainly shined in that area."
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