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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Less than two weeks now, until the start of spring practice (March 26), let’s take a look at another returning starter on defense:
Position: Defensive lineman
Eligibility: Redshirt junior
High School: Milwaukee Marquette
Recruiting flashback: Botticelli was an All-State linebacker who helped lead Marquette University High School to a 2009 state championship. He was listed as a two-star recruit by Rivals.com, and walked-on with the Gophers.
Early college: He redshirted in 2010 and played in all 12 games in 2011, recording six tackles.
2012 rewind: Botticelli’s emergence was notable last spring, when defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys explained the appeal of having nimble 280-pound defensive tackles, especially with so many offenses moving to the spread. Botticelli started all 13 games at defensive tackle, playing next to Ra’Shede Hageman, and finished with 21 tackles.
2013 outlook: Outgoing senior D.L. Wilhite called Botticelli the “unsung hero of the defensive line. I know there are times I make a play just because he’s in his gap, doing his thing, keeping people occupied.” Now, along with Hageman and fellow returning starter Michael Amaefula, Botticelli will work to keep the D-line a strength of this team moving forward.
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