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.
Some quick updates from Wednesday's practice:
Coach Jerry Kill said he was surprised with how much Derrick Engel was able to do in practice tonight after spraining his ankle last Saturday at Indiana.
Quarterback Philip Nelson is still dealing with some hip pain, but he practiced again.
Wide receiver Jamel Harbison, who did not make the trip to Indiana, will not play against Penn State on Saturday, Kill said, declining to elaborate.
Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson knew he’d be sore after getting a hip pointer injury in Saturday’s win at Indiana. But Nelson is managing the pain, and he said he’d be able to practice Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s just a little painful, but the good thing with hips is they can’t get much worse,” Nelson said. “And the only way you can make them better is by continuing to keep moving them, so that’s where I’m at right now.”
In other injury news, Gophers coach Jerry Kill said wide receiver Derrick Engel is questionable for Saturday’s game against Penn State because of a sprained ankle.
“He’s going to be limited [in practice] today, and we’ll see how his progression goes through the week,” Kill said. “He’s got an ankle sprain, and didn’t do much on Sunday, ran a little this morning. … He’s not running full speed. We’ll know more Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and he’s going to do everything he can to be ready.”
Kill said he plans to coach from the press box again Saturday, with Tracy Claeys remaining on the sideline as acting head coach.
“I guess I’m CEO right now, and me in the box right now is the best for the football team and the best for the coach,” Kill said. “And you have to have somebody operating down on the field, an Tracy’s the guy that needs to do that.
“If there’s a situation where if it’s a difficult situation, and I need to come down [to the sideline], then I’m going to do what’s best for the football team, and I’m going to suck it up. Coach [Claeys] is doing a good job.
“I called plays for a lot of years on the boundary. It’s not easy but you can do it, and he’s a pretty gifted, smart, guy.
“Right now, it all goes back to – we’ve won three straight games, and I know from being up in the box, actually I can see better. So I can be a part of a lot of things, and I’ve got people I trust. So why fix something that’s working? My ego’s not that big.”
After Tuesday’s press conference, Kill sat down for an interview with ESPN’s Samantha Ponder for a segment that will run as part of “College GameDay” on Saturday morning.
Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson and punter Peter Mortell were named Big Ten Players of the Week on Monday for their performances in Saturday's 42-39 victory at Indiana.
Nelson was named Co-Offensive Player of the Week, along with Penn State running back Bill Belton. Nelson had career highs for passing yards (298), completions (16) and touchdowns (four). He returned from a hip pointer injury to hit Maxx Williams for the go-ahead, 50-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.
Nelson is the first Gopher to earn Big Ten offensive player of the week honors since Adam Weber on Nov. 1, 2009.
Mortell averaged 43 yards on his five punts, placing two inside the 20-yard line.
Some quick notes from tonight's practice:
* Rodrick Williams (turf toe) and Derrick Wells (injured shoulder) both participated in Wednesday's practice. Acting head coach Tracy Claeys said their availability for Saturday's game will be determined later in the week.
* Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said the team won't pick a starting quarterback between Mitch Leidner and Philip Nelson until after Thursday's practice.
"The big thing is Mitch started the last two weeks, but Philip knew he was going to play, and Philip came in and took great advantage of the reps he got," Limegrover said. "So we may flip it, we may keep it exactly the same.
"I think everybody in the entire greater Twin Cities metropolitan area cares more about our starting quarterback than me and Coach [Jerry] Kill and [quarterbacks coach Jim Zerbrowski. We’ve got two good ones, and I think it’s unfair to say we’re going to go with one guy the whole way. We like them both."
* Kill was at practice and took questions from reporters again. He looked and sounded great. He plans to coach from the coaching booth again Saturday at Indiana.
"The bottom line is we’ve won back-to-back games, and I’m smart enough to know, let’s not upset the apple cart," he said. "Let’s keep doing what we’re doing and we’ll be fine.
"It’s great for me because I get to be around kids more, and I’m doing a heck of a lot of recruiting. When I get done here, I’ve got about five or six calls tonight. Because that’s the biggest thing; we’ve got to let the recruits know I’m alright.
"But that’s been great. Through all the adversity, we’re moving forward. And sometimes adversity determines what kind of person you are, and what kind of people you have. And we’ve got a long way to go, there’s no question about that, but we’re on the right track."
The Gophers released this week’s depth chart and injury report Thursday night without naming a starting quarterback for the Nebraska game, listing the choice as Mitch Leidner or Philip Nelson.
Acting head coach Tracy Claeys had hoped to name a starter by Tuesday, but changed his mind when he found out Leidner was sick. Leidner took some antibiotics and was able to practice this week, but the Gophers still chose not to name a starter.
Claeys has said no matter who starts, both quarterbacks will play with the backup getting some snaps in the first half. Claeys said he likes to do this so the backup doesn’t have to come in cold if he’s needed later in the game.
That was the plan going into the Northwestern game, when Leidner started and Nelson came on in relief. Nelson wound up having more success moving the offense.
The Gophers listed running back Rodrick Williams as questionable with a foot injury.
The new depth chart also reflects the changes in the secondary from last week’s game at Northwestern. Brock Vereen and Eric Murray are listed as the starting cornerbacks, and Antonio Johnson and Damarius Travis are listed as the starting safeties.
Cornerback Derrick Wells and safety Cedric Thompson have been dealing with injuries and won’t start against Nebraska.
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