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.
The Gophers will prepare for Illinois this week with their leading receiver, A.J. Barker, watching from the sidelines. "I really question whether he will play or not," coach Jerry Kill said at his weekly news conference on Tuesday. "That seems to be a little bit more of an issue than (the team's medical staff) thought at the beginning."
Barker sprained the back of his right ankle, near the achilles, while catching a touchdown pass against Purdue on Oct. 27. He didn't practice until doing some light drills on Thursday, and the Gophers decided before Saturday's game that Barker hadn't healed enough to play. Barker's 30 catches this season are twice as many as the team's second-leading receiver, Isaac Freuchte, and his seven touchdowns are five more than any other wide receiver has scored.
"A.J. is the biggest concern," Kill said. "Unless some miracle takes place, I don't look for him to be able to play on Saturday."
Kill said another receiver, Derrick Engel, injured a hamstring during Saturday's game, "and he's questionable." Engel, however, said the injury shouldn't be something that keeps him out of practice this week.
Left tackle Ed Olson, out for three weeks with ankle injuries of his own, is expected to practice, Kill said, and he hopes the junior will be available at Illinois. Derrick Wells should also play, after sitting out several practices -- but no games -- with a laceration on his leg.
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