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.
Sure seems like the heat and the repetitiveness are starting to wear a little bit on the Gophers, who fortunately (well, except for the heat part) get to put on their full uniforms tomorrow and start hitting for real. It'll come as a relief to linebacker Brendan Beal, I'd bet, who was told in no uncertain terms by Jerry Kill on Tuesday to stop knocking offensive ball-carriers around.
Beal has been one of the best stories of camp, moving extremely well just a year after his second major knee surgery, so his overeagerness probably comes as no surprise. The guy wants to play football.
Still, it's been four mornings of practicing in shorts, and the Gophers -- especially the offense -- looked far more ragged today than in the previous three. MarQueis Gray tried threading a few passes into traffic, there were a handful of fumbled snaps (say this for freshman QB Philip Nelson: He can smother a fumble in a big hurry), and the coaches seemed annoyed by all the mistakes. At one point, tight ends coach Rob Reeves must have gotten tired of hearing excuses, because he snapped at one player, "You're tired? I'm tired! We're all tired! You've got to fight through it!"
There were a few nice pass plays, though it seemed like the most notable one was thrown by backup quarterback Max Shortell. He hit K.J. Maye, who had lined up in the backfield, with a short pass in the flat, and Maye just flew past a couple of defenders and into the open field. You could hear the buzz from the hundred or so spectators watching from the sidelines -- wow, that kid is fast. The freshman from Mobile, Ala., has split his time between receiver and running back, so I asked offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover afterward what position Maye plays. His cryptic answer? "Offense!"
One other play that I enjoyed in particular: Mike Henry, whom I wrote about for Tuesday's paper, the fullback who does nothing but block, caught a pass from Shortell and got upfield about 10 yards. See, he's a threat with the ball, too.
The veterans are taking their role as advice-givers seriously, too. Gray pulled aside a receiver a couple of times, and in the day's final scrimmage, I noticed senior cornerback Troy Stoudermire spend a minute giving a few tips to freshman Eric Murray.
Full-pad practice starts at 10:30 Wednesday morning at the Gibson-Nagurski practice field. Only the next three days remain open to the public.
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