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.

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Thursday update: Available scholarships; Tusler picks UNI; Four walk-ons commit to U

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher recruiting Updated: January 24, 2013 - 1:56 PM

After signing 27 players last February, the Gophers have been working on a much smaller class heading into this year’s signing day, on Feb. 6.

The Gophers had just 12 graduating seniors. But Max Shortell and a few others have left the program, opening up some spots.

As Sid Hartman reported in today’s column, LB Brendan Beal is taking medical leave after a series of knee injuries, and defensive ends Matt Garin and Eric Jacques have both graduated and left the program.

I believe the Gophers now have at least 18 scholarships available and am checking to confirm. According to GopherIllustrated.com, they currently have 15 verbal commitments, and that number can fluctuate as signing day nears.

TUSLER PICKS NORTHERN IOWA

Bridgeport Tusler wanted one of those scholarships, but now he’s committed to Northern Iowa. The do-everything Osseo senior cleaned up on the postseason awards. He was named the Metro Player of the Year by the Star Tribune, and Minnesota Player of the Year by the Associated Press and Gatorade.

The 5-11, 200-pound RB/DB rushed for 1,173 yards, had eight interceptions and racked up 23 touchdowns -- including 16 rushing, three receiving, one passing, two on punt returns and one on a pick six.

The Gophers offered to make Tusler a preferred walk-on, but he took the full scholarship from UNI.

“His first choice was the U of M,” Osseo coach Derrin Lamker told me. “He’s the all-around package. He’s 200 pounds. He’s the best punt returner, kick returner in the state of Minnesota. He has a 3.6 GPA. He’s a can’t miss leader. The Gophers must have a great recruiting class this year to be able to avoid Mr. Tusler.”

FOUR WALK-ONS COMMIT

According to GopherIllustrated.com, the Gophers have received recent commitments from four preferred walk-ons, who will add to the list of incoming players on Feb. 6. That list includes Wayzata WR Jeff Borchardt, Wayzata OL Chandler Wright, Prior Lake TE Nick Hart and Cretin-Derham Hall QB Conor Rhoda.
 

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