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.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill took time in the middle of one of his youth football camps to meet with the media on Thursday at TCF Bank Stadium. Among the news items:
* Sophomore WR Andre McDonald, who missed spring practice and was not enrolled in school because of a personal matter, is in summer school and working out. “So I feel cautiously optimistic he’ll be ready to go” when fall camp opens Aug. 1.
* Kill indicated the biggest questions health-wise are OL Jonah Pirsig (knee surgery), WR Devon Wright (shoulder surgery), C Brian Bobek (viral infection), Zach Mottla (compound leg fracture) and Peter Westerhaus (lingering health concerns).
* Kill said the Gophers have 17 players recovering from surgery. That list includes OL Jon Christenson (ankle) and OL Zac Epping (elbow), but it sounds like they’ll be ready to go Aug. 1.
* Bobek, a transfer from Ohio State, missed much of spring camp and still hasn’t recovered. “He had a real, real serious viral infection,” Kill said. “And I think a lot of that’s gone around the country, but some of that stuff’s taken months and months -- two months, three months -- so it’s a very serious deal. So we’ll just see what they say. Right now, if we were starting tomorrow, he couldn’t go. We hope by camp he’s ready but that’s where we’re at right now.”
* The football team’s 994 APR (Academic Progress Rate) score for the 2011-12 school year was a program record. A 1,000 APR is considered perfect, and the football team has bounced back from a 917 score a few years ago that resulted in the loss of three scholarships. Last June, the Gophers narrowly avoided the same penalty with a 932 multi-year APR score, but this year’s multi-year score (spanning years from 2008-2012) was a 955.
“Someday I’ll write a book on it because to go where we were at, where we were one player away from losing scholarships -- having 25 people on academic warning and three suspended -- and now all of a sudden where we’re at, with basically only 30 new kids in the program," Kill said. "... I give credit to the kids, and I give credit to the coaches and then the academic people.”
Kill added, “All we did as a coaching staff is we held them accountable. We made them go to class, be on time and do what they’re supposed to.”
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