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.

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Posts about Gopher recruiting

Gophers land a big quarterback target in Croft

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: June 30, 2014 - 10:58 PM

The Gophers landed a quarterback they've been coveting Monday night, when Demry Croft, from Rockford (Ill.) Boylan Catholic, gave them a verbal commitment.

Croft is a 6-5, 190-pound dual-threat quarterback who impressed Gophers coaches at a camp this past month. A consensus three-star recruit, Croft has a big frame, a good arm and plenty of athleticism. Northern Illinois is among the other schools that have offered him a scholarship.

Croft tweeted the news (@Princeofthe66): "I have decided to further my education at the University of Minnesota [class of] 2015."

Without mentioning a name, Gophers recruiting director Billy Glasscock tweeted his own excitement (@BillyGlasscock4): "Big time news tonight for Gopher Football! Golden Ticket!!"

Croft is the sixth player to commit to the Gophers for the 2015 class.

Here's a look at Croft's junior tape on Hudl.com:

Jones still short of qualifying academically; several options for eligibility at U

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: June 30, 2014 - 4:49 PM

Jeff Jones was unable to raise his overall ACT score on his latest attempt, leaving it uncertain whether the highly rated recruit from Minneapolis Washburn will qualify for his scholarship.

The former Minneapolis Washburn running back retook the ACT exam June 14, needing just a slight improvement to qualify. According to Washburn coach Giovan Jenkins, Jones improved in some sections but not with his overall score.

The NCAA uses a sliding scale that combines grade-point average and test scores to determine eligibility. Jones had a high enough ACT score to qualify, but needed an even higher score because of a lower GPA.

Jones also is re-taking two summer school classes, which could allow him to replace two low grades from earlier in his high school tenure with higher grades. That would raise his GPA, but it’s uncertain if it would be enough to qualify. Summer school ends July 10.

The Gophers will be awaiting word from the NCAA clearinghouse.

Plan A is for Jones to qualify for his scholarship.

Plan B is for Jones to go to Iowa Western Community College for two years.

But there’s a new wrinkle ahead of Plan B. Call it Plan 1A.

People familiar with Jones situation have said he could still end up at the University this fall. If he’s admitted, he wouldn’t be on scholarship, so he would have to take out a school loan.

He wouldn’t be eligible to work out with the football team. But he could get his feet settled in college and work out in the weight room with an eye toward competing for the Gophers in 2015. He would need to finish at least 24 University credits by the end of the 2015 summer session, with at least a 2.0 GPA to be eligible to compete for the Gophers that fall.

Rivals.com ranked Jones as the nation’s seventh-best running back on national signing day in February. As a senior, he had 1,525 yards rushing, 493 yards receiving and scored 42 touchdowns.

In January, he was named co-MVP of the Under Armour All-American Game, which featured several of the nation’s top recruits.

The Gophers already had strong running back depth going into this season, with seniors David Cobb (1,202 yards last year) and Donnell Kirkwood (926 yards in 2013), junior Rodrick Williams and redshirt freshman Berkley Edwards. Jones might have redshirted this fall anyway.

Cornell to name his college Wednesday morning on ESPN

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: June 29, 2014 - 2:43 PM

Cretin-Derham Hall defensive end Jashon Cornell will announce his college decision Wednesday morning on ESPN, and according to 247Sports.com, the five finalists are Iowa, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State.

Cretin-Derham Hall coach Mike Scanlan said in an e-mail that Cornell will announce his decision at the high school at 9 a.m. Cornell and Cincinnati St. Xavier linebacker Justin Hilliard will be making their announcements at the same time, and much of the speculation has them choosing Ohio State.

ESPN had Cornell ranked as the nation's No. 1 player in the 2015 class last year and has since lowered him to No. 16. The 6-3, 265-pound Cornell is a consensus four-star recruit. The Gophers were one of the first teams to offer Cornell a scholarship, but their hopes of landing him haven't been high for months.

Gophers get commitment from Red Wing lineman Nick Connelly

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: June 24, 2014 - 12:14 PM

The Gophers landed their fifth recruit for the 2015 class Tuesday, when Red Wing lineman Nick Connelly gave a verbal commitment during an unofficial recruiting visit to campus, the Star Tribune has confirmed.

The 6-6, 270-pound Connelly plays both offensive tackle and defensive end and is a consensus three-star recruit. He had reported offers from Wyoming, Illinois State and Montana State.

The Gophers have commitments from two other offensive linemen for 2015 in Bronson Dovich (Chaska) and Ted Stieber (Akron, Ohio).

Gophers update: Walk-on fullback departs team; number changes; Stieber commits

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: June 23, 2014 - 2:10 PM

I'm back from a week of vacation. Here's a few quick updates:

* Searching for a fullback to replace departing senior Mike Henry, the Gophers convinced two players from Butler (Kan.) Community College to walk-on this spring. But one of those fullbacks has since left the program. Riley Oharah went through spring practice and gave it a shot but won't be coming back this fall. The 5-11, 236-pound Miles Thomas remains in the fold after a solid spring camp. As I wrote here, the fullback spot became a big hole last winter.

* An updated look at the roster shows a few number changes. LB De'Niro Laster will wear No. 1, CB Derrick Wells will wear No. 3, and DE Alex Keith will wear No. 9. Also, interesting to see some of the incoming freshmen numbers. DE Gary Moore is No. 19 -- I didn't expect to see that. (UPDATE: I just got a heads up that Moore picked that number because the day his father died was the 19th of that month.) The coaches have referred to Moore as "Baby Ra'Shede." Mr. Hageman wore No. 99, of course. That number will now belong to DE Andrew Stelter, another incoming freshman from Owatonna.

WR Melvin Holland Jr., plucked No. 21, which had been RB Jeff Jones' number at Minneapolis Washburn. Jones has No. 16 and is waiting to hear if he got the qualifying score he needed on the June 14 ACT exam. The scores are usually available 2-2 1/2 weeks after the exams are taken.

* Also, as Sid noted in last Friday's column, the Gophers received their fourth commitment for 2015 -- offensive tackle Ted Stieber, from Akron, Ohio. The 6-6, 295-pound Stieber is a consensus three-star recruit. He has family members who went to the University and still live here. "I've always liked Minnesota," Stieber told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "When I had the opportunity to play football there, it was a no-brainer for me.”

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