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.
Two days into fall camp, it’s clear the Gophers coaching staff is excited about junior college transfer De’Vondre Campbell, who’s a candidate to start at outside linebacker.
Campbell is 6-5, 225 pounds and just oozes athleticism. As one staffer put it today, he looks like MarQueis Gray at linebacker.
Without prompting, Coach Jerry Kill has praised Campbell after both practices. Today, it started with a question about fellow junior college transfer Damien Wilson.
“A guy that’s really impressed me early in camp, really, with the learning curve and catching on has been De’Vondre,” Kill said. “Because he’s a junior college transfer who’s got three years [of eligibility] left. He doesn’t mess around. He’s focused and locked in. He’s really done well the first couple days which surprised me a little bit.”
Campbell is easily the tallest linebacker in camp, and he’s quick, too.
“Everybody worries about height on the D-line; I’m more worried about it at linebacker,” defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said. “I like to have linebackers with more length. I think they cover up more passing zones. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take tall D-linemen too, but it’d be nice to get some length and some height at the linebacker spot.”
It also impressed Claeys the way Campbell learned from experience on Day 1.
“Early in practice, he made a huge mistake on a call,” Claeys said. “We got after him, and later on in the practice, the same thing happened -- he’d already had it corrected. So that’s what gets me excited.
“I think it’s important to him. I think he has some natural instincts when it comes to the game. And he has plenty of athletic ability to play.”
* Freshman De'Niro Laster could be another factor at linebacker, a position where the Gophers need to build depth in a hurry. Laster is 6-4, 230 pounds. "De’Niro has the size, where he could play right now, if he picks up on things and things go well," Claeys said. "It’s just too early to tell."
* Here's another notable quote from Claeys: "Somebody rated our D-line 10th in the Big Ten. I don’t believe that. If there’s nine D-lines better than ours, we’re in trouble, I’m just telling you. I feel good about them, our concern is getting the depth at linebacker."
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