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 begin workouts for the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Friday, and will spread the 15 sessions out over three weeks until the Dec. 28 Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Max Shortell won't be taking part. Instead, he will spend the semester break, once final exams are finished, touring schools that invite him for unofficial visits, a list that the Shortells are optimistic about. The 20-year-old sophomore couldn't inquire about possible destinations until receiving his release from the Gophers, but he has studied schools that run offenses that better fit his 6-foot-6 frame and pocket-passer arm.
"There are some pro-style offenses there," said his father, Tom Shortell, "and there are people who know Max would be a good fit."
That's as opposed to the Gophers' zone-read offense, which frequently calls for the quarterback to tuck the ball away and scramble downfield. While his son is "sneaky fast," Shortell said, "they like to run a shorter, more mobile style of quarterback."
The quarterback's experience at such a young age -- 15 games played, five starts, 53.5 completion percentage, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions as a freshman and sophomore -- should earn him a scholarship somewhere.
Shortell preferred to remain vague about potential matches, saying his son expects to hear from recruiters now that the Gophers have announced his departure.
But he did say that the family has reason to believe that a handful of Midwestern teams, and perhaps a few in the SEC, might be interested.
So consider this paragraph to be mere reporter's speculation, nothing more. But the coach who originally talked Shortell into coming to Minnesota is at an SEC school. Former Gophers coach Tim Brewster, who spotted Shortell at Bishop Miege High in suburban Kansas City, now coaches wide receivers at Mississippi State, where Tyler Russell has quarterbacked the Bulldogs to an 8-4 record and berth in the Gator Bowl. Russell, a tall, accurate pocket passer like Shortell, will be a senior next season; Shortell must sit out the 2013 season under rules governing NCAA transfers. Hmm.
Wherever Shortell ends up, his father wanted one point to be made very clear. Max Shortell threw three of the passes that A.J. Barker carried into the end zone this season, but that connection didn't extend to their departures from Minnesota.
"I just want people to know, Max absolutely loved it there. The city, the university, the people there, his teammates, his coaches -- he had a great experience," Shortell said. "Our whole family loved it up there. We got to know some of the other parents, too. ... We're sad about the decision, but we're going to support whatever Max wants to do."
Barker also announced his intention to transfer recently, but ignited a controversy over Kill's coaching methods by writing a 4,000-word blog post that lambasted the coach for yelling at him in front of his teammates, among other things.
The Shortells' opinions are different, Tom Shortell said.
"Coach (Jerry) Kill is a great guy, and he was always very supportive of Max," Shortell said. '"He tried to talk Max out of transferring. I know Max really wishes it had worked out there."
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