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.
Former Gophers linebacker Jephete Matilus has transferred to North Dakota, his new school announced Tuesday.
Matilus, a senior from Delray Beach, Fla., played in 21 career games for the Gophers, mostly on special teams. He came to Minnesota as a linebacker and switched to fullback before last season. Matilus will switch back to defense at North Dakota and will be eligible to play this fall.
"We are always looking for ways to improve our football team, and I think we have done that with the addition of Jephete," North Dakota coach Bubba Schweigert said in the press release. "He is an athletic linebacker from a successful Big Ten program that will have one season to play for us. He contributed on a number of special teams for the Gophers and we expect him to do the same here, while competing for playing time at outside linebacker."
After getting dismissed from the Gophers football team in late-December, wide receiver Donovahn Jones has signed at North Carolina A&T. The school announced Jones' arrival this week when it unveiled its 2015 recruiting class.
North Carolina A&T is an Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) school, so Jones will be eligible to play immediately and will be a junior this fall. The Aggies won the MEAC title last year, going 9-4 overall.
Jones, who hails from Stockbridge, Ga., and had offers from several SEC schools coming out of high school, started nine games for the Gophers last year, making 11 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns. The Gophers dismissed him from the team in Orlando, Fla., before the Citrus Bowl, for an unspecified violation of team rules.
(Hat tip to @Gobie247 for making note of Jones' signing at North Carolina A&T today on Twitter.)
Two other Gophers tranfers to report: wide receiver Conner Krizancic to Ohio and defensive tackle Demaris Peppers to Jackson State. It's that time of year, and these are expected to be the last ones before spring semester starts next week.
Krizancic announced today on Twitter that he is transferring "to fulfill my dream of being a Division 1 quarterback at Ohio University."
Krizancic was a consensus three-star recruit coming out of Mentor (Ohio) High School. He moved from wide receiver to quarterback as a high school senior but was recruited as a receiver. He redshirted last fall after suffering a hamstring injury before training camp.
Without Krizancic, the Gophers still have three wide receiver recruits from the 2014 class that they really like: Isaiah Gentry, Desmond Gant, Melvin Holland Jr. Jerry Gibson, another receiver, is a dynamic athlete who could switch to tight end.
Ohio, from the Mid-American Conference, went 6-6 this year. The Bobcats will play the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium on Sept. 26, but Krizancic will have to sit out a year under NCAA transfer rules.
Peppers, a consensus three-star recruit from the 2013 class, is transferring to Jackson State after redshirting in 2013 and playing in just one game last season. Jackson State is an FCS (former Division-IAA) school in Mississippi.
Dimonic Roden-McKinzy, a quarterback who redshirted for the Gophers last season, has enrolled at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, a Hutchinson official confirmed for the Star Tribune today.
The news of Roden-McKinzy's transfer was first reported by Gopher247.com. There had been speculation that Roden-McKinzy would transfer after being passed on the depth chart last season by fellow freshman Jacques Perra, a walk-on from Roseville.
Jerry Kill's staff has a good relationship with Rion Rhoades' staff at Hutch, so it's possible the Gophers helped arrange this with the understanding that Roden-McKinzy could get playing time and possibly return to Minnesota. Classes at Hutchinson started on Monday, and Roden-McKinzy is currently listed as a provisional student.
Roden-McKinzy was a consensus three-star recruit coming out of Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kan. He ran the scout team offense leading up to the Citrus Bowl, mimicking Missouri's Maty Mauk. But Perra had already passed him on the depth chart, behind Mitch Leidner and Chris Streveler.
I caught up with Gophers coach Jerry Kill today and got his thoughts on a few subjects:
On Maxx Williams turning pro:
"You give all the information to their family, and they’ve got to make a decision," Kill said. "As I told Maxx, ‘Boy it would be great to have you back. At the same time, you go out, all these are going to help our program.
"People are going to say, 'Those guys are doing things right. They’re recruiting good people, they’re getting developed and shoot they’re leaving early.'
"Plus Maxx is smart. He’s going to get his education and so forth. So to be honest, certainly we’d like to have him back. But at the same time, you do what’s best for his family, and he’s also helped our program by doing that in a lot of ways."
I asked Kill for his thoughts on recruiting heading into signing day, Feb 4, mentioning that a couple Minnesota commits have torn it up in recent All-Star Games. Running back Jonathan Femi-Cole was named the MVP of the NUC All-American Game in in South Carolina, with 23 carries for 137 yards. And quarterback Demry Croft completed 12 of 15 passes for more than 200 yards, with two touchdowns, in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl. Kill can't talk about specific recruits, but he gave a general answer:
"I think things are going pretty good. You know, some of those guys playing, I don’t want them playing that good. That means they’ll get a lot more attention and with [new Michigan coach Jim] Harbaugh running around here late, that’s the whole thing. When these coaching jobs change, you never know what’s going to happen, so you’ve got to stay on the kids you’ve got committed, and then you’ve just got to continue to recruit.
"But so far, our class is exactly what we need, and certainly with the athletes we’ve got redshirted. We feel right now, we’d like another defensive back, another linebacker, three defensive linemen, which I think we’re fairly close on one. Offensively, we want another wide receiver, and really trying to figure out whether we wanted another tight end or not."
Finally, I asked about Jon Christenson playing right guard in the Citrus Bowl. It was Christenson's first start since he broke the tibia and fibula in his left leg at Indiana in November 2013. With center Tommy Olson and guard Zac Epping both graduating, Christenson's return to health has been a big development, as he has experience at both center and guard:
"That’s huge," Kill said. "And I wished we could have redshirted him because of injuries, but Connor Mayes -- that allows him to be the guard, or we could flip that with Joe Bjorklund. We know we have Joe, Connor, and Jon between the center, two guard spots. Jon being able to be healthy and come back -- he’ll be a leader and a captain on our team. I can tell you that because of the way he is.
"The reason [Christenson] played in that game was because of his size, and Joe did a good job, too, but the physical size of Jon helps you against their D-line. And then with Joe’s situation he played on a bad knee all year, and he’s going to be better a year from now.
"We’ve got a chance to be a really, really good football team next year. I don’t think we’ll be under the stone so to speak, being picked fifth or sixth or something like that. I think people know that we’re getting better."
Note: I'll have much more on the Gophers' 2015 outlook in our Sunday edition. Have a good weekend everyone.
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