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.
Not much new about the Gophers' preseason media day; everybody is excited to get started and optimistic about the season, of course, same as every year.
One reason for the optimism this year, according to sophomore safety Brock Vereen, is the way that offseason workouts became competitions of their own. At strength coach Eric Klein's direction, the Gophers were split into teams, and points were awarded for progress in the weight room and during drills.
"Just because of that whole competition aspect, guys couldn't wait to get to practice," Vereen said. "When you're excited to get to practice, you're doing something right."
The notion worked so well, it's being renewed again this month. A dozen "captains" were picked to head up six different teams -- Vereen and fellow defensive back Troy Stoudermire captained one team -- and they took turns drafting teammates until everyone was on a team, with points awarded for winning various competitions like races, lifting, and tug-of-war. Teams are also docked points for missing class or being late to meetings. Vereen and Stoudermire had third pick, and chose another DB, sophomore Briean Boddy.
So who was the first pick in the Gophers' workout / fantasy draft?
"First overall was Dave Ramlet, our long snapper," Vereen said of the sophomore walk-on from Appleton, Wis. A surprising pick? Not at all. In addition to being 6-2 and 240 pounds, Ramlet is enrolled in the Carlson School of Business. "He's awesome in school, in the classroom" as well as in the weight room, Vereen said. "There's a lot of strategy to this. For the summer, it's a lot more about academics, and not getting in trouble."
While attention is focused this week on players transferring out of Penn State, the Gophers are excited about a transfer student from another Big Ten power. Brian Bobek, who saw action at center for Ohio State last season, announced in June that he will join the Gophers in 2013, after sitting out a season under NCAA rules, and "we're certainly glad to have him coming into our program," Kill said.
Bobek attended Fremd High in Chicago's northwest suburbs, and Kill and his staff pursued him while they were at Northern Illinois. "We didn't recruit [him] very long," Kill said with a laugh, because NIU had little chance once Ohio State joined the chase. "But we knew about him," Kill said.
Bobek played a few times as a freshman, but his smallish size for a center -- 6-2, 275 pounds -- didn't impress incoming coach Urban Meyer, who dropped him to third team. "When he decided that [OSU] wasn't going to be what he wanted to do, he contacted schools and sent a release out. ... He wanted to stay in the Midwest."
Bobek was all-Illinois during his senior year of high school, and made a couple of all-America teams, so he is potentially a big recruit for the Gophers, despite having only two years of eligibility remaining when he arrives. "We're very excited about it," Kill said. "He's a young man that was very sought-after in recruiting. ... We look forward to it."
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