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.

Posts about Gophers recruiting

Pregame: Gophers need to be sharp early against Purdue

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: October 18, 2014 - 9:01 AM

The Gophers are 6-1 since the start of last season in games that start at 11 a.m., and they’ll need to be strong early risers again Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium against Purdue.

It’s homecoming, and the fraternity houses along University Avenue are all decked out with big, hand-made signs, but we’ll see how much energy the students have for kickoff.

My main story today analyzes the possibilities of the Gophers pulling the unthinkable and winning the Big Ten West. National analysts are saying it’s possible, and the team has a conference title atop its list of goals.

Here’s what happens if there’s a tie atop the standings at regular season’s end, with a look a the division’s top five contenders.

Obviously, the Gophers must first focus on Purdue. Here’s my prediction for the game.

And here’s a column from Patrick Reusse on Jack Lynn, the “other guy” at linebacker, who’s underrated performance has been a big key for the defense.

Check back here for pregame updates.

Follow us on Twitter: @JoeCStrib and @ChipScoggins

Aug. 16: Kill wants ground broken on new practice facility by April; U not giving timetable

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: August 16, 2014 - 2:03 PM

Gophers coach Jerry Kill has made no secret that he wants to break ground on a new practice facility as soon as possible. Today, Big Ten Network visited campus, and writer Tom Dienhart issued this tweet:

I don’t know the context of Kill’s conversation with Dienhart, but I do know that the university has yet to set a formal timeline for building any new practice facilities. They remain in the "silent fundraising phase" of their $190 million facilities plan.

“We are going to break ground as soon as we possibly can; that hasn’t changed,” Senior Associate Athletics Director Chris Werle said today.

At Big Ten Media Days last month, Kill was outspoken about his facility goals.

“I tell recruits, we’ve got a good idea where it’s going to be,” Kill told reporters. “We’ve got spring ball starting. In April, we finalize it, and start getting in the ground as soon as we can.

“April would be [a good time] to me. They can even do it in December the way they work around here in the weather. … That’s what Coach wants, and that’s what we need, and anything different than that, I’m not going to be happy.”

Gophers spring game set for April 12; Wells, Maye have surgery

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: January 9, 2014 - 3:17 PM

Caught up with Gophers coach Jerry Kill in his office today. Some quick notes:

* Spring practice will start on March 4, with the spring game on April 12. That’s much earlier than last year, as the team waited to start until March 26 with the spring game on April 27. This year, the team will hold two weeks of camp before spring break (March 17-21) and three weeks after the break.

* Players scheduled for offseason surgery include: CB Derrick Wells (shoulder), WR KJ Maye (groin), T Jonah Pirsig (hand), TE Alex Bisch (ankle), FB Tyler Hartman (shoulder).

CB Briean-Boddy Calhoun (knee surgery) will be ready for spring practice, but the Gophers plan to be careful with him. C Jon Christenson (broken leg) is doing well with his rehab but won’t participate in spring practice. C Matt Leidner (quarterback Mitch Leidner’s younger brother) has a foot injury but should be ready for spring practice.

* Two players from the 2014 recruiting class are scheduled to begin classes this month, allowing them to compete in spring practice: LB Cody Poock (a transfer from Iowa Western Community College) and QB Dimonic McKinzy from Kansas City (Mo.) Wyandotte High School.

Big recruiting weekend on tap for Jerry Kill and the Gophers

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: July 19, 2013 - 12:42 PM

It sounds like this could be a big recruiting weekend for Jerry Kill and the Gophers.

Ryan Burns, from, reports via Twitter (@RyanBurnsGI) that four high-profile Minnesota recruits will be visiting campus Saturday:

* Jeff Jones, the four-star Minneapolis Washburn running back who has given Minnesota a verbal commitment for 2014. (Star ratings from

* Andrew Stelter, the three-star defensive end from Owatonna. He's on Stanford's radar, too.

* Frank Ragnow, the three-star offensive tackle from Chanhassen. Besides Minnesota, he has offers from Arkansas, Florida State and Nebraska. Here's a Q&A Ragnow did with the Star Tribune in May.

* Jashon Cornell, junior defensive end from Cretin-Derham Hall who was recently ranked by ESPN as the nation's No. 1 recruit for the 2015 class.

Several other recruits will be in town this weekend, as well, as Kill is hosting his Junior Elite Camp on Sunday. Jones reportedly has been working hard on his fellow Minnesota natives to commit to the Gophers. It seems like a long shot that Cornell would commit now, but Stelter and/or Ragnow would be huge additions for Kill this summer.

Today Burns tweeted, "Some big recruiting news for Coach Kill tomorrow when it breaks."

Gophers spring practice notes: Pirsig injured, two big recruits on hand

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: April 6, 2013 - 6:13 PM

I'm writing a story on Gophers defensive back Derrick Wells for our Sunday editions. In the meantime, here's some quick notes from Spring Practice #6:

  • Jonah Pirsig, a redshirt freshman tackle from Blue Earth, went down with an apparent knee injury and had to be carted off the field after being helped to the sideline. The extent of the injury was not known, but he was on crutches after practice.
  • CB Jeremy Baltazar was in an orange non-participation jersey with a back injury.
  • The Gophers had two more highly coveted recruits visit practice -- Jeff Jones, the junior running back from Minneapolis Washburn, who has given the Gophers a verbal commitment for 2014, and Jashon Cornell, the sophomore defensive end from Cretin-Derham Hall, who has offers from Minnesota, USC, Notre Dame and Florida.
  • The Gophers have held a moment of silence before each practice honoring linebacker Gary Tinsley, who died with an enlarged heart April 6, 2012. On Saturday, linebacker Aaron Hill wore Tinsley’s No. 51 as a tribute on the one-year anniversary of his death.
  • There were two scuffles during practice, including one between defensive end Therein Cockran and offensive lineman Josh Campion. Coach Jerry Kill jumped right in both times to help restore order.


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