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.
There's an interesting story in the Fargo Forum about the tough decision James Johannesson had, choosing the Gophers over North Dakota State:
>For Johannesson, the 6-foot-1, 221-pound running back who amassed an amazing 6,198 yards rushing during his high school career at Fargo South, the lure of playing for a Big Ten program in front of 50,000 fans was too hard to pass up.
>But he said picking between Minnesota and NDSU was still a tough decision. Last August when he verbally committed to the Gophers, he had a hard time breaking the news to Bison running backs coach Tyler Roehl and head coach Chris Klieman.
>“I didn’t even want to tell them … I almost couldn’t do it,” Johannesson said Wednesday morning, moments after he signed his national letter of intent during a ceremony in the South gymnasium. “I felt like I was breaking up with my girlfriend or something.”
>Johannesson said he has no regrets becoming a Gopher – even after watching the Bison win a fourth straight national title last month.<<
How good of a player are the Gophers getting? Coach Jerry Kill sounded pretty impressed Wednesday.
"North Dakota, it seems like every time the Gophers have gotten a player from that area, they’ve been an All-American," Kill said. "James Johannesson being 6-1, 220 pounds, and he ran a 4.55 [seconds in 40-yard dash] at our camp -- a lot of people don’t know all that stuff."
Kill mentioned Bismarck native Greg Eslinger, the Outland Trophy winner. Another Fargo South grad, Justin Conzemius, was a standout defensive player for the Gophers and an Academic All-American in the mid-90s. (I'm sure there have been other standout North Dakotans, too. Gophers historians, please let me know in the comments.)
Update: Eric Peterson, with the Fargo Forum, reached out with a couple more names: Sean Hoffman, a linebacker from Fargo North who played for the Gophers from 1997-2000, and Neil Fredenburg, an O-lineman from Fargo South who played for Minnesota from 1991-93. ... Dan Kwapinski from Lisbon was a D-lineman from 1999-2003 (Hat tip @tikemanner).
"Maybe need to take one or two [players from North Dakota] each year," Kill said.
Happy National Signing Day!
One piece of news to report: The Gophers were a finalist for Jamal Milan, a defensive tackle from Chicago Raby, but he announced Wednesday that he is signing with Illinois.
The Gophers have received official letters of intent from all 24 of the reported commitments they had heading into signing day. Here's an updated list, with some of the tidbits we've gathered on these players:
Colton Beebe -- FB/LB, Kansas City (Kan.) Piper, 6-3, 252: Had a Kansas offer but committed to Jerry Kill, who coached Beebe’s father in Pittsburg State.
Shannon Brooks -- RB, Pickens County (Ga.), 6-0, 205: A quick, hard-to-tackle running back who also had a Georgia Tech offer. He’s a good receiver out of the backfield, too.
Ray Buford -- DB, Southfield (Mich.), 6-2, 190: Speedster who could play safety or cornerback, a la Brock Vereen. Had a Boston College offer. Zach Johnson, from GopherIllustrated.com, said, "Buford was a kid that didn’t play much, if at all, his junior year because of an injury. That’s when a lot of kids make a name for themselves. So he didn’t have as much attention, but he had a huge senior season.”
Nick Connelly -- OL, Red Wing, 6-7, 277: Tall offensive tackle was a prime target for Gophers offensive coordinator and O-line coach Matt Limegrover.
Alonzo Craighton -- DB, Geismar (La.) Dutchtown, 6-1, 189: He’ll need to bulk up to play safety but has enough speed to play cornerback, too.
Demry Croft -- QB, Boylan Catholic (Rockford, Ill.), 6-5, 198: Lanky dual-threat quarterback with a calm pocket presence. Still growing. Could be 6-6 by summer. Here's my story on Croft, in which Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network, calls him "a four-star quarterback with five-star potential."
Winston DeLattiboudere -- DE, Ellicott City (Md.) Howard, 6-3, 215: Made 42 tackles for a loss as a senior, earning Baltimore Sun’s Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Bronson Dovich -- OL, Chaska, 6-5, 295: Ranked as the third-best recruit from Minnesota behind Jashon Cornell (Ohio State) and Drayton Carlberg (Oregon).
Jonathan Femi-Cole -- RB, St. Andrews (Vaughn, Ont.) College, 6-0, 218: Rushed for 137 yards and was named MVP of NUC All-American Game in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Feature story on Femi-Cole: "U running back could be a Canadian diamond in the rough."
Mose Hall -- DT, Mobile (Ala.) Murphy, 6-4, 255: From same high school as Gophers receiver KJ Maye and defensive tackle Gary Moore. Had offers from Maryland and Illinois.
KiAnte Hardin -- CB, Webb City (Mo.), 5-10, 160: Speedy defensive back played at the high school where Jerry Kill made his head coaching debut, in 1988.
James Johannesson -- RB, Fargo (N.D.) South, 6-1, 221: Rushed for 6,198 yards in three years. Drew comparisons to Rex Burkhead. Had North Dakota State offer. Lemming said, "James is sort of an H-back type guy. I think he’s got good hands. He can run and block perfectly for their offense. He’s a real good character. They’re bringing in guys who are under the radar but are definitely big-time guys."
Dior Johnson -- DB, Southfield (Mich.), 6-2, 195: Has a four-star rating from Rivals.com. De-committed from Wake Forest. Also had offers from Indiana and Illinois.
Quinn Oseland -- OL, Springfield (Ill.) Sacred Heart, 6-6, 301: He had 16 other Power 5 conference offers. Chose Minnesota over Illinois and Oklahoma State. Lemming said Oseland "has potential to be an All-American at Minnesota."
Hunter Register -- WR, Lafayette (La.) Comeaux, 6-5, 200: Also a top basketball player, he has the length and speed the Gophers want at wide receiver. Had Indiana offer. "I like his ability to go up and grab a ball," said Kyle Goblirsch with Gopher247. "The wide receiver corps is going to be something I’m really intrigued to watch."
Antonio Shenault -- CB, Roselle (Ill.) Lake Park, 5-11, 185: Had reported offers from Iowa State and Illinois. Committed after Gophers won at Michigan. Lemming said, "He's another big-time, four-star kid out of Chicago. Legit cover corner. He’s got terrific all-around ability."
Ted Stieber -- OL, Akron (Ohio) Archbishop Hoban, 6-6, 290: Has the versatility to play any of the offensive line spots. Had offers from Illinois, Maryland and Syracuse.
Rashad Still -- WR, El Paso (Texas) Andress, 6-5, 200: Didn’t start playing football until his junior year. Under-the-radar talent. Good basketball player. Goblirsch thinks Still could be the sleeper of this year's class.
Jaylen Waters -- LB, Copperas Cove (Texas), 6-3, 228: From the same high school that produced Robert Griffin III. Potential middle linebacker.
Bryce Witham -- TE, Grand Rapids (Mich.) West Catholic, 6-4, 240: Has the skill set to fill Maxx Williams’ old role as a pass-catching tight end.
Four members of this class enrolled in January and are gearing up for spring practice:
Jacob Huff -- DB, Bolingbrook, Ill., 5-10, 205: Ranked the No. 30 player from Illinois by Rivals.com.
Julian Huff -- LB, Bolingbrook, Ill., 5-11, 223: First-team All-State selection after making 75 tackles as a senior. Jacob Huff’s twin brother. Here's Lemming on the Huff brothers: "Jacob is a safety who can tear your head off. Julian's an insider backer. He's 5-11.5. A lot of people think he’s too short, but they’re both terrific talents."
Tyler Moore -- OL, Houston North Shore, 6-4, 300: Highest-ranked of the team’s five incoming offensive line recruits. Goblirsch said Moore "had a grayshirt offer that he was considering from Texas. He would have had to sit out next fall, but it was still an offer. If he wasn't an early enrollee [at Minnesota], he would have considered that offer a little more."
Charlie Rogers -- S, Iowa Western CC, 6-1, 210: Originally went to Iowa State. Has two years of eligibility remaining. Could start this fall.
Blake Cashman -- S, Eden Prairie, 6-2, 200: Committed to the Gophers after reportedly making an official visit to North Dakota State last weekend.
Trey Hansen -- LS, Cedar Falls (Iowa), 6-2, 205: Rated one of top long-snappers in the country. Also played QB in high school.
Jacob Herbers -- P, Battle Creek (Mich.) Lakeview, 6-2, 195: Averaged 40.9 yards per punt as a senior and connected on nine of 11 field goals.
Noah Kuehn -- OL, Eagan, 6-6, 295: Played left tackle and earned all-conference honors. Also played basketball and threw the discus in track.
Adam Mayer -- ATH, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, 6-1, 205: Had 27 receptions for 486 yards and two touchdowns for 14-0 state champion. Was injured as a junior. Father played RB for the Gophers from 1968-70.
Matt Morse -- ATH, Apple Valley, 6-1, 185: Played WR as a junior, QB as a senior. Passed for 700 yards and rushed for 550 last fall.
Joseph Mydra -- LB, Hopkins, 6-3, 205: Named All-Lake Conference as a senior. Team captain.
Gophers defensive line coach Jeff Phelps sent a generic tweet after the team received its latest recruiting commitment Sunday. It said, "Life as the DL Coach at The University of Minnesota just keeps getting better, one last piece of the plan remains! #blessed."
Coaches aren't allowed to comment on specific players, but the Gophers had just received a commitment from Winston DeLattiboudere, a defensive end from Ellicott City (Md.) Howard.
That gave the Gophers 24 commitments heading into national signing day on Wednesday. Here's a look at the full list. Phelps comment about "one last piece of the plan" is likely a reference to Jamal Milan, a defensive tackle from Chicago Raby, who plans to announce his decision on Wednesday. Milan's finalists are said to be Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana. He is a consensus three-star recruit.
DeLattiboudere was more under the radar, even though the Baltimore Sun named him its All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year last fall. He did not have a star rating with Rivals.com or 247Sports.com as of Sunday, but he has since been given two stars by Rivals and three stars by 247Sports.
What's interesting is DeLattiboudere didn't turn 17 until last week. He is 6-3, 215 pounds, so there appears to be some real upside there.
Today, on a conference call, ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill continued to sing Gophers coach Jerry Kill's praises.
"I called Jerry Kill the Bill Snyder of Minnesota because he’s doing it through development," Luginbill said. "He’s doing it through evaluation of not just the immediate guy but what a guy might be two to three years down the road, which is the hardest thing to do."
The Gophers landed a commitment Sunday from Winston DeLattiboudere, a defensive end from Howard High School in Ellicott City, Maryland.
DeLattiboudere was named the Baltimore Sun's All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year last fall after making 101 tackles, including 42 for a loss. He has been an under-the-radar recruit, though, with no star ranking from either Rivals.com or 247Sports.com.
The Gophers now have 24 commitments heading into national signing day on Wednesday.
Heading into the final weekend before National Signing Day (next Wednesday), here are some quick thoughts on the Gophers class:
* All 23 of their commitments currently have three-star rankings in the 247Sports.com composite index, which combines all the major recruiting rankings into one.
* The five offensive linemen in this Gophers class have an average height of 6-foot-6 and an average weight of 294. That's the average. Here's a closer look:
Nick Connelly (Red Wing) 6-7, 275
Bronson Dovich (Chaska) 6-6, 290
Tyler Moore (Houston North Shore) 6-4, 300
Quinn Oseland (Springfield, Ill., Sacred Heart) 6-6, 310
Ted Stieber (Akron Archbishop Hoban) 6-6, 295
"I think the headline of the class has to be the offensive line," said Zach Johnson, who runs GopherIllustrated.com, a Rivals affiliate. "Look at the guys they're bringing in. Offensive linemen don’t come to campus anymore at 6-4, 230 pounds, and you’ve just got to wait three years to get them up to playing weight."
Here's my overview of the full class. We'll have much, much more on this next week.
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