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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Update: Stelter, Lingen among true freshmen expected to play; linebacker depth a concern

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers preseason practice Updated: August 18, 2014 - 11:57 AM

First, a clarification: I went back and listened to Jerry Kill's interview with Sid Hartman and Dave Mona from Sunday on 830-AM, and I had missed an answer where Kill was more definitive about the redshirt plans.

Kill said Andrew Stelter, a true freshman defensive lineman from Owatonna, will definitely play this year, and the same goes for Brandon Lingen, a true freshman from Wayzata.

Among the other true freshmen Kill expects to play are defensive linemen Steven Richardson and Gaelin Elmore, linebacker Jonathan Celestin and cornerback Craig James. I wrote about Richardson and Elmore last week, as those could be impact moves for the defense.

Kill said he has five or six more true freshmen in the mix for playing time. I know that list includes TE/WR Jerry Gibson, WR Melvin Holland Jr., and WR Isaiah Gentry. Some of these decisions will get made this week, and some could linger into the season, Kill said.

Linebacker depth a question mark

The Gophers expect big things from their first-team linebackers -- De'Vondre Campbell (6-5, 240 pounds), Damien Wilson (6-2, 240) and Jack Lynn (6-3, 240) -- but there is some concern about their linebacker depth.

Junior college transfer Cody Poock appeared headed for a starting role before he tore an ACL during spring practice. Poock has pushed hard to return in time for the Big Ten opener (Sept. 27 at Michigan), but I'll be surprised if he doesn't redshirt.

The second unit has been De'Niro Laster (6-4, 230), Nick Rallis (5-11, 228) and Ray Dixon (6-3, 209). Rallis can play all three LB spots, much like Lynn. Laster and Dixon, both redshirt freshmen, made good strides during spring practice, but Dixon has been banged up during camp.

Celestin (6-1, 209, from Jonesboro, Ga.) will play, and the Gophers like Everett Williams (6-1, 230, Mansfield, Texas) a lot, too.

"Those are guys we’re going to push to not be redshirted because they’re both athletic enough, and they both work really hard," Linebackers coach Mike Sherels said Friday. "Those two guys have done a great job of coming in and inserting themselves and learning the process. The freshman factor hasn’t caught up with them yet."

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