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 acting head coach Tracy Claeys met with the team's beat writers this morning. A few highlights:
* Claeys said Jerry Kill is making good progress but isn't yet ready to return from his leave of absence. Claeys guessed that Kill would watch next Saturday's game against Nebraska from the coaching box, and that Kill might even want to stop by to watch practice this week if he's feeling up to it.
Those would be considered steps in his progression toward returning full-time.
"In my opinion," Claeys said, "I don’t anticipate it'll be all of a sudden, wham, he’s back going full speed. There’ll be a build up to it, and when the time’s right, he’ll be ready to go."
* Claeys didn't name a starting quarterback for the Nebraska game, but said he expects the offensive staff to evaluate that so a decision can be made by Tuesday. Claeys said whether it's Philip Nelson or Mitch Leidner, the non-starter will still see time in the first half, just as the plan went against Northwestern.
"The one thing I can tell you we’re not going to do, we’re not going to get into alternating series," Claeys said. "I just don’t believe in that. I think you play the guy who gives you the best opportunity to win."
* Claeys said the team came out of Saturday's game relatively healthy. Return man Marcus Jones is dealing with an ankle injury, and left tackle Ben Lauer (corrected) has a shoulder issue, but those were the only new injuries of note.
* Rodrick Williams played on special teams but not at tailback.
"Rodrick has got to grow up a little bit off the field," Claeys said. "He’s a good football player, and we need him, but the principles are in place that we’ve set since we’ve been here. He had a little bit of a rough week off the field on things he was asked to do. So as soon as he takes care of those issues we’ll make sure we get him back in there."
* Claeys was asked about the team's approach to its final possession before the first half against Northwestern. After taking over at midfield, the Gophers were cautious, running the ball before a Nelson pass put them in field goal range. Chris Hawthorne missed a 44-yarder as time expired.
"I told the offensive guys, 'Hey, be careful with the football here ... because we haven’t finished right before the half very well defensively the last few weeks. And going into halftime tied 7-7 on the road -- there’s no shame in that. And we felt like momentum had turned our way in the second quarter, and I didn’t want to do anything to give that back to them."
Claeys noted that the Gophers gave up a late second-quarter touchdown to fall behind at Michigan, and saw Michigan take the ball for another touchdown to open the third quarter in an eventual 42-13 defeat.
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