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.
With Philip Nelson's right hamstring injury currently about 80 percent healed, it's a good bet that Mitch Leidner will be the Gophers' starting quarterback for next Saturday's showdown with Iowa.
Coach Jerry Kill didn't say that definitively Sunday, but he explained the team's thinking with Nelson and Donnell Kirkwood, who is coming back from a sprained ankle.
Kirkwood's ankle is about 90 percent healed, Kill said. Kirkwood played on special teams Saturday against San Jose State but did not play at tailback.
"He’s not where he needs to be to go in there and make a cut in a football game," Kill said. "But I think he will be this week [against Iowa]. And we need him."
But with the Gophers about to start their eight-game Big Ten schedule, Kill said it's important to keep players' long-term health in mind.
"You can’t sell out and play kids that are 85 percent," Kill said. "Number one, it’ll get you beat. Right now, 100 percent out of Mitch is better than 80 percent out of Philip. One hundred percent out of David Cobb is better than 90 percent out of Donnell.
"If you’ve got 100 percent of Philip Nelson or 100 percent of Donnell, that’s a different deal."
This is me talking now, not Kill, but I'll say this: Unless Nelson gets back to 100 percent in time to get the practice reps he'll need to get his rhythm back, Leidner will start against Iowa.
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