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.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill said running back Jeff Jones was excited for his first day of class today at the university and that the team hopes Jones is eligible to begin practicing for spring semester.
Kill didn't give specifics, but this likely means that Jones has been granted partial approval of an initial eligibility waiver by the NCAA. Jones can't take part in team activities, including practices, this fall, but would be eligible for spring semester if he posts a 2.5 GPA this fall.
Jones was right on the bubble to qualify for Division I coming out of Minneapolis Washburn high school. After applying for the initial eligibility waiver, Jones was granted his athletic scholarship, and now he has a chance to prove himself in the classroom.
"I think he's happy and excited," Kill said. "First day of school. You know, I saw him this morning. Hopefully he'll be practicing in the spring. There's certain things that I won't mention, how the NCAA works and all that. But cautiously optimistic to see how that works out."
Jones could be a big part of the team next fall, with running backs David Cobb and Donnell Kirkwood graduating.
Ekpe likely out for season
Kill said it looks pretty certain that defensive tackle Scott Ekpe is out for the season with a knee injury. Ekpe is a junior and would be able to get a medical redshirt year, giving him two more years of eligibility.
"That's a major blow," Kill said.
Ekpe made his first career start in the season opener against Eastern Illinois, but injured the knee during the first quarter.
Ekpe played in all 13 games the past two seasons, recording 33 tackles, including five tackles for a loss. To fill his place, the Gophers likely will tab true freshman Steven Richardson to start next to senior defensive tackle Cameron Botticelli.
Kill also said the Gophers have moved Harold Legania back to defensive tackle. He had moved to the offensive line late in training camp.
Other injury notes
Kill said wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky will be ready to play Saturday against Middle Tennessee State. Wolitarsky missed last week's game with an injury near his shoulder.
Kill didn't give specifics on the injuries and said he'd need to see how the week goes along for defensive end Alex Keith and defensive tackle Yoshoub Timms.
"They're not lost for the season, and we'll see how this week progresses with them," Kill said.
Keith made his first career start against Eastern Illinois and delivered a sack, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries before injuring his left leg. Keith was filling in for starting defensive end Michael Amaefula, who missed the opener with a knee injury but is expected to return for Saturday’s game against Middle Tennessee.
Gophers running back recruit Jeff Jones has moved into a university dorm and is getting ready to start class when fall semester begins Tuesday. The NCAA still needs to weigh in on Jones’ eligibility status, but people close to the situation said Tuesday that Jones has been assured he’ll get his scholarship.
Though no one with the program is expecting Jones to play this season, this bodes well for the top recruit’s 2015 playing status. Last month, coach Jerry Kill said the most important thing was getting Jones into school so he’d be ready to compete next season, after David Cobb and Donnell Kirkwood graduate.
Jones, who was admitted to the university this month, came just short of qualifying academically for Division I when he graduated from Minneapolis Washburn. He took summer school courses, and he was prepared in July to appeal for an NCAA initial eligibility waiver. It’s unclear exactly where that process stands.
Unless the NCAA gives full approval to an eligibility waiver, Jones wouldn't be able to practice or play with the team this fall.
The NCAA could grant Jones partial approval of an initial eligibility waiver, in which case he would need at least a 2.50 GPA in the fall semester before he’ll be able to eligible for spring practice. In the meantime, he’d be able to work out with the team’s strength and conditioning staff.
The Gophers got another recruiting commitment Friday, this time from Fargo South running back James Johannesson, who rushed for 2,671 yards and 29 touchdowns last year as a junior.
The 6-1, 210-pound Johannesson is a consensus three-star recruit who also had reported offers from North Dakota State and North Dakota.
Some have compared Johannesson to former Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead, saying Johanneson would have had more schools after him if he weren’t relatively hidden in Fargo.
Johannesson's commitment came one day after the Gophers landed a commitment from Georgia wide receiver Almonzo Brown. They now have 12 players committed for their 2015 class.
Johannesson announced his decision on Twitter:
Quick update on Jeff Jones, the prized running back recruit from Minneapolis Washburn: I was told today that the Gophers hope to hear from the NCAA regarding his eligibility at the end of next week. Jones has been admitted to the U, but the NCAA is currently reviewing his case to determine if he's eligible for his scholarship.
They open their season next Thursday against Eastern Illinois, but Jones likely will redshirt for the Gophers either way. Everyone wants to know soon because the U starts fall semester on Sept. 2.
Jones was right on the bubble to qualify academically for a Division I scholarship coming out of Washburn. If the NCAA would at least grant him an initial eligibility waiver, he would get his scholarship and could compete for the Gophers in 2015. He could still head to Iowa Western Community College, but all signs still point to him landing with the Gophers.
The Gophers landed a coveted wide receiver recruit Thursday night, when Almonzo Brown, from Suwanee, Ga., committed to them, despite receiving offers from Florida, Iowa, Georgia Tech and Kansas State.
The 6-2, 214-pound Brown is a consensus three-star recruit, and the 11th commitment the Gophers have received for their 2015 class.
Brown announced the news on Twitter:
I am proud to announce I will be committing to... pic.twitter.com/VFMfYMPCN7— Almonzo Brown (@the_OCHO_brown) August 22, 2014
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