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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Gophers pro day notes: Hageman, Vereen, Johnson, Baltazar, Manuel, Engel

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Football Updated: March 3, 2014 - 1:23 PM

After strong showings at last month’s NFL Combine, Ra’Shede Hageman and Brock Vereen had little to prove Monday at the Gophers’ annual Pro Day.

But Hageman and Vereen were both among the Gophers who turned out for an event that drew officials from 19 NFL teams at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex.

The Vikings had at least 15 people there, including new head coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman. Zimmer was on the field giving instruction as the players went through their position drills. What did he say to Hageman?

“He just said I was doing well,” Hageman said. “There were some good things they saw, and obviously, ‘Keep my phone on.’”

Indeed, Hageman has a good chance of becoming first Gophers player picked in the first round since Laurence Maroney in 2006.

Of course, Hageman will have to wait two more months to find out, as the NFL Draft has been moved back to May 8-10.

“That is a very long time,” he said. “So I think I’m just going to barricade myself in my room. Just play video games and just work out.”

Vereen stays focused

Vereen and Hageman did position drills and let their numbers from the Combine speak for themselves.

At the Combine, Vereen ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds and did 25 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press – more than any other defensive back.

“I feel like I opened some eyes at the combine and I wanted to show them [during Pro Day] that it wasn’t a fluke or anything like that,” Vereen said.

Vereen is a potential mid- to late-round pick, but don’t get him going about the speculation.

“I haven’t watched ESPN in two months,” he said. “I haven’t watched NFL Network. If somebody starts a conversation about that, I tell them to stop. I’ll worry about that in May.”

He said he plans to watch the draft with his family in California, including his brother Shane Vereen, the New England Patriots running back.

“I can’t just sit and watch the TV,” Brock Vereen said. “We’ll probably go bowling or something.”

Engel update

Former Gophers wide receiver Derrick Engel had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee on Dec. 3, so all he could do was watch Monday.

But Engel hopes to be running full speed in April and be cleared for free agent workouts in May. How fast could Engel run the 40 if he were healthy?

“I think if I really trained for it, I’d have the potential to go sub 4.4 [seconds],” he said. “That’s kind of the goal I’ve set for myself. … Judging off Brock, I know we’re pretty close in speed and I’ve beat him in conditioning races.”

Other Gophers standouts

* One highlight of Pro Day came in the weight room, where former Gophers defensive tackle Roland Johnson did 40 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. For comparison, Hageman did 32 at the Combine.

“Actually, I expected to get 50,” Johnson said. “The record is 49, and that was my goal.”

* Former Gophers cornerback Jeremy Baltazar ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds and did 27 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press.

* Former Gophers linebacker James Manuel ran the 40 in 4.53 seconds and posted a 37-inch vertical jump.

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