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.
I caught up with Gophers offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover on Tuesday to get his thoughts looking ahead to spring practice, which starts March 3. Limegrover is always a good quote, so I'll be sprinkling his comments into my coverage throughout camp. For now, here are a few of the things I gleaned from the conversation:
* Limegrover plans to give Josh Campion a good look at guard this spring, knowing he could always move back to tackle. This would allow a potential starting O-line that includes the 6-7 Ben Lauer at left tackle and 6-9 Jonah Pirsig at right tackle, with the 6-5 Campion at one of the guard spots.
* But Limegrover isn't promising anything to Lauer or Pirsig. He challenged Lauer, specifically, feeling that he wasn't quite as driven as he need to be coming into last season after earning Freshman All-American honors in 2013. He knows Lauer dealt with a high ankle sprain and mono last fall but wants him to bring his A-game this spring. The same goes for Pirsig, even though he made big strides last season.
* With Tommy Olson graduated and Jon Christenson not expected to practice this spring, the center duties will primarily go to Brian Bobek and Connor Mayes. The Gophers expect Christenson to play a big role this fall, and they just want to him to focus on building strength after having a rod removed from his leg last week. Mayes and Christenson are candidates to start at center, as well as guard. Matt Leidner, Mitch's younger brother, provides depth on the center depth chart, and the Gophers might give some snaps to early enrollee Tyler Moore.
* Jerry Gibson will come to camp as a wide receiver. Someday, he might move to H-back, in the mold of Maxx Williams, but he hasn't put on enough weight for that yet. For now, Gibson is part of a talented quartet of wide receivers who redshirted last year, along with Isaiah Gentry, Desmond Gant and Melvin Holland.
* The two leading candidates to replace Williams at H-back are Duke Anyanwu (who tore an ACL in early August) and Nick Hart.
* The three leading candidates to replace Drew Goodger at the Y-tight end spot (more of a blocking position) are Lincoln Plsek, Brandon Lingen and Nate Wozniak. Lingen saw time behind Williams last year as a true freshman, but his future is at the Y-spot.
* As for replacing David Cobb, Limegrover said that will probably be a multi-person job, though he did say, "I think Rodrick [Williams] is working hard to prove that he can be a 22-25 carry, 55-65 play guy." Limegrover is also excited to see what Berkley Edwards, Rodney Smith and Jeff Jones can do this spring.
* Limegrover also can't wait to see how Mitch Leidner builds off the experience he gained as a full-time starting QB last fall. "I thought Mitch really settled down as the season went on, and I think there’s a comfort level," Limegrover said. "There’s just an air about him that’s completely different than it was last Feb. 17, just because it’s like, 'I've been through this all for a year. I’m going to be the starter. I’m going to be the guy.' There’s just a calmness to him now that I really like."
After watching video of Saturday’s win at Michigan, Gophers coach Jerry Kill was particularly impressed with quarterback Mitch Leidner.
“Probably the key to the game was, we did good things throwing the football,” Kill said Sunday. “Actually, Mitch was on target on every throw he made. Mitch got some pressure but he stood in there and threw it, didn’t turn the ball over.”
Leidner completed 14 of 22 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt sophomore had missed the previous game with a knee and toe injury after throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble in the loss at TCU.
The coaches thought Leidner relaxed and had fun at Michigan after pressing too hard in the season’s first three games.
“I know Mitch has his critics, but they still don’t understand the kid is young,” Kill said. “And he also played well in the Big House last year. So I think it was a really good game for him. He gained confidence.”
Gophers quarterback Chris Streveler was named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week on Monday after rushing for 161 yards in Saturday's 24-7 victory over San Jose State. Streveler shared the honor with Indiana linebacker Tegray Scales.
Filling in for injured starter Mitch Leidner, Streveler completed just one of seven passes for seven yards, but was a major part of the Gophers 380-yard rushing attack.
The last time the Gophers had a Big Ten Freshman of the Week was last year, when Leidner rushed for 151 yards and four touchdowns in a 43-24 win over San Jose State.
Here's a quick rundown on the news from Coach Jerry Kill's press conference:
* Mitch Leidner will practice today.
"Like last week, the trainer said that he's banged up and so forth, but said he'd be at full speed today," Kill said. "We'll see. I can't tell you until we get out there, but that's where we're at as far as I know."
Kill added: "He did not break his toe; that's all I can say. He was moving around on Sunday, so whether it's full speed or all of those things -- what I can say is the trainer said he was running pretty well. No different than last week. He basically got what they call turf toe, but he's not swelled up."
* Berkley Edwards and Donnell Kirkwood suffered shoulder injuries against TCU but are ready to practice today.
* Isaiah Gentry needs season-ending knee surgery. The freshman wide receiver will get a redshirt. And redshirt freshman offensive tackle Alex Mayes needs shoulder surgery.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill said Sunday that he's not sure if quarterback Mitch Leidner will be ready to play in next Saturday's game against San Jose State.
Leidner played with his left knee in a brace and was seen after the 30-7 loss at TCU wearing a protective boot on his left foot. Without giving any specifics on Leidner's injuries, Kill said he'd have to see how the sophomore progresses this week.
Update: Leidner suffered a toe injury Saturday, but there were no broken bones, according to people familiar with the situation. Leidner still hopes to play against San Jose State.
Kill also mentioned that starting guard Zac Epping played with a high ankle sprain in the 30-7 loss at TCU. David Cobb played with a low-ankle sprain, and right tackle Jonah Pirsig was limited with a right shoulder injury.
Kill seemed to think Cobb and Pirsig will be fine, but the coach was admittedly concerned about Leidner and Epping's ability to continue playing through their injuries.
Kill blamed himself for the team's poor performance at TCU. He thinks this is a resilient team that will bounce right back. I'll have more on the Gophers in tonight's first editions.
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