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.
CHICAGO – While the Gophers wait to see if the NCAA clearinghouse grants running back Jeff Jones his eligibility, he is prepared to appeal for an initial eligibilty waiver if necessary, Coach Jerry Kill said.
Kill sounded confident Tuesday at Big Ten Media Days that Jones would be a part of the program, even if he's not able to play in games this fall.
Jones is right on the bubble to qualify academically for Division I. The NCAA uses a sliding scale using test scores and grades. Jones had a solid ACT score, but his grades were not high enough coming out of Minneapolis Washburn.
Jones is still finishing summer school, Kill said. Once that's done, the Gophers will submit his grades and scores to the NCAA clearinghouse.
“Even with that decision, you can appeal that decision with a letter,” Kill said. “That letter talks about all the things that Jeff has gone through in his life. And then they’ll make an ultimate decision there, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Kill added, “I don’t want to say too much what he’s gone through with his family, but the point is, you can mention that he also has a letter.”
Kill also said, “I know the NCAA inside-out because I’ve been through it before. … When you read his letter … usually they grant [eligibility]. Either he’ll be a partial or a full qualifier.”
Others familiar with Jones’ situation have said he would likely redshirt this fall even if the NCAA clears him to play. Kill didn’t go that far, but agreed the Gophers have strong running back depth with David Cobb and Donnell Kirkwood entering their season year, Rodrick Williams coming back as a junior, and redshirt-freshman Berkley Edwards.
“[Jones] understands where he’s at,” Kill said. “We need him next year more than anything. Concentrate on school and get him here this year.”
Jeff Jones is not expected to see game action for the Gophers this fall, even if he qualifies academically, according to people close to the situation.
If Jones, the prized recruit from Minneapolis Washburn, clears the NCAA academic clearinghouse in coming days, he would likely redshirt. With practice set to open next Friday, the Gophers already have strong depth at running back depth, and Jones could use the year to get settled academically.
Three sources said Thursday that they’re still optimistic Jones will end up at the university this fall, but Iowa Western Community College remains an option. His standing is still in flux, as his summer school classes stretched into late July.
The Gophers hope to have an answer on whether Jones clears the NCAA clearinghouse and gains his scholarship before practice opens Aug. 1, but it could take until the following week. The team is awaiting word on Jones’ NCAA eligibility, and there’s also the question of whether he’ll make it through the university’s admissions office.
Jones is right on the bubble of qualifying for his scholarship. The NCAA uses a sliding scale – with grades and test scores -- to determine eligibility. Jones had a solid ACT score but his grades weren’t high enough to quality upon graduation from Minneapolis Washburn.
It’s still possible the NCAA will clear Jones to play in 2014, but even in that scenario, all signs point to a redshirt season. The Gophers running back depth chart has seniors David Cobb and Donnell Kirkwood, junior Rodrick Williams and redshirt freshman Berkley Edwards. Jones would be getting a late start, as most of the team’s freshmen are already on campus, going through strength and conditioning workouts and captain’s practices.
It’s also possible that Jones will make it to the university as a partial qualifier. In that scenario, the NCAA would allow the Gophers to give Jones his scholarship, but he wouldn't’t be eligible to practice or compete for one year.
For Jones, the third option remains playing two years at Iowa Western Community College. Non-qualifiers must spend at least two seasons at junior college – long enough to complete their associates’ degree -- to obtain Division I eligibility.
The Gophers added another football commitment Monday after a key recruiting weekend, as Jaylen Waters, a linebacker from Texas, announced his plans to play for Minnesota.
Waters is a consensus two-star linebacker from Copperas Cove High School, the alma mater of former Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
The 6-2, 233-pound Waters is Minnesota's ninth commitment for the 2015 class, and the second linebacker, joining Julian Huff, from Bolingbrook, Ill.
Waters attended camp at TCF Bank Stadium this weekend, along with the Gophers' annual recruiting barbecue. On Saturday, the Gophers got commitments from Canadian running back Jonathan Femi-Cole and Michigan safety Ray Buford.
Waters, who also had offers from Nevada and Texas State, announced his decision on Twitter:
Excited to say that the University of Minnesota will be my new home in 2015 & where I will further my education. Golden Gopher Commit ����✏️��— Jaylen Waters (@Texas_boy49) July 21, 2014
The Gophers knew this would be a key recruiting weekend, with a camp at TCF Bank Stadium followed by their annual barbecue, and Saturday they landed two three-star commitments.
Rivals.com ranks the 5-11, 218-pound Femi-Cole as the 47th best running back in the 2015 class. The Gophers recruited him while they were in Canada pursuing defensive lineman Julien Kafo, who signed in February and will be a freshman this fall.
Rivals.com ranks the 6-0, 190-pound Buford as the No. 43 athlete [position not determined] in the 2015 class. He had reported offers from Boston College and Western Michigan among others.
Gophers recruiting coordinator Billy Glasscock didn't mention names, but signaled the program's excitement Saturday night on Twitter:
The Gophers now have eight commitments for their 2015 class.
While the Gophers continue waiting and hoping running back recruit Jeff Jones can become academically eligible this summer, they know for certain another member of their 2014 recruiting class didn't make it.
Ra'Shaun Croney, a defensive back from Pahokee, Fla., hit a snag, trying to meet his academic requirements. The consensus three-star recruit also had offers from South Carolina and Arkansas and committed to Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College at one point.
The Gophers made him a late addition to their 2014 class on March 31, knowing they were taking a chance. They are loaded with defensive backs for this fall and plan to use Croney's scholarship on an additional defensive back for the 2015 class.
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