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.
Chaska offensive tackle Bronson Dovich accepted a Gophers scholarship offer Friday morning, becoming their first commitment for the 2015 class.
The 6-6, 285-pound Dovich is a consensus three-star recruit and also had a reported offer from Rutgers.
Iowa has landed eight commitments for the 2015 class, Wisconsin has six, and now the Gophers are on the board. National Signing Day is Feb. 5.
WILLMAR -- Jerry Kill followed wrestling coach J Robinson to the podium Tuesday at the Willmar American Legion on the first stop of the second annual Gopher Road Trip.
Robinson had just delivered an impassioned speech, citing a time when he brought in some highly ranked recruits who turned out to be duds. He could tell from the moment they stepped on campus their hearts weren’t in it. From then on, Robinson said, he has sought out recruits who have a passion for becoming Minnesota wrestlers.
The results speak for themselves, as Robinson’s Gophers have won three NCAA titles, with another runner-up finish last season. Kill loves Robinson and referred to him again Tuesday as the toughest person he knows.
Later in his speech, Kill said, “We’re not going to beg people to come to the University of Minnesota. We didn’t do it at Northern [Illinois]. We didn’t do it at Southern [Illinois]. I want kids to want to come here.
“You start begging and doing all that stuff everybody else does to get them, it’s going to get you in trouble, number one. And second of all, if they don’t have their heart in it, you’re not going to win.
“And right now, we’ve developed a bunch of kids, and they want to win. They’re working hard.”
I’m not sure which recruits those comments could have been directed at. But I do know Kill’s staff is determined not to go through another Frank Ragnow situation, where they offer a local kid a scholarship and spend close to two years waiting on a decision, only to see him head elsewhere at the last moment.
Ragnow picked Arkansas after narrowing his other finalists to Minnesota and Florida State.
The top Minnesota recruit in the 2015 class is Cretin-Derham Hall defensive end Jashon Cornell. The Gophers have spent ample time and energy recruiting him, but he said earlier this month that he was leaning toward Michigan State. And now Alabama has offered.
The Gophers aren’t holding their breath.
They would like to sign Drayton Carlberg, an offensive tackle from Minneapolis De La Salle who has offers from Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Oregon, etc. But before long, the Gophers are going to want to know if they’re in or out. And if they’re out, they’ll move on.
The same goes for Sioux Falls, S.D., offensive tackle Grant Schmidt, who also has an Ohio State offer. From all accounts, the Gophers still appear to be in very good position to land Schmidt, but Kill isn’t going to beg.
He wants players who are hungry and determined to keep turning around a program that has improved from 3-9 to 6-7 to 8-5 in his three seasons.
“We had a good season [last fall],” Kill said. “I told [the players], ‘That’s great. We’ve done some things we haven’t done in a long time.’ But that’s not our mission. That’s not where we want to be, and that’s not where you [fans] want to be.
“We talk about doing one more. We’ve got to work harder than anyone else. That’s who I’ve been my whole life.”
WILLMAR -- Jerry Kill said Tuesday that he plans to coach from the sideline this fall after coaching mostly from the press box toward the end of last season.
Kill was among the coaches who spoke at the first stop of the annual Gopher Road Trip, at the Willmar American Legion.
After missing the Oct. 5 game at Michigan because of a seizure, Kill took a two-week leave to treat his epilepsy. He coached the final seven games from the press box but returned to the sideline for the second half of the Texas Bowl loss to Syracuse.
“I’ll be on the sideline [this fall],” Kill said in response to a question from the audience. “That’s who I am, and I think that’s best for our team. However, if we need to adjust something, [the coaches have] all been together a long time.”
Kill continues to drive to work each day, in a sign that he’s been seizure free since last fall.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “I’ve lost a few pounds. I’ve been walking. [Associate Athletics Director Dan] O’Brien and a lot of people are trying to keep me in line. But the No. 1 person is me.”
In other news:
- Kill said he would have loved to see Tony Nelson, the four-time All-American heavyweight wrestler for the Gophers, try out for the football team. But Nelson used a redshirt year in wrestling and competed for four years, using up all his NCAA eligibility.
- Add Alabama to the list of schools that have offered a scholarship to Cretin Derham-Hall defensive tackle Jashon Cornell. The Gophers remain interested but they aren’t too optimistic. He recently told the Detroit News that he was leaning toward Michigan State.
Thursday night had to be bittersweet for Gophers coach Jerry Kill.
He and his wife, Rebecca, were at Radio City Music Hall, as special guests of Ra’Shede Hageman, who was one of 30 players invited to the green room for the first round of the NFL Draft.
Thirty-two names were called, and Hageman wasn’t one of them. The Gophers haven’t had a first-round pick since Laurence Maroney went 21st overall to New England in 2006, so this extended that drought.
But Hageman is a likely second-round pick. And former Gophers safety Brock Vereen could go by the end of the third round Friday night, especially after nine defensive backs went in the first round.
Kill will enjoy those Hageman and Vereen picks whenever they happen, and Thursday brought a special treat for his old school, Northern Illinois. With the 30th pick, the 49ers took Jimmie Ward, a safety Kill’s staff brought to Northern Illinois in 2010 out of Mobile, Ala.
Here’s a tweet from Gophers recruiting coordinator Billy Glasscock:
And here’s a tweet from Ward on Jay Sawvel, the defensive backs coach who recruited him to Northern Illinois:
Big shout out to coach Jay Sawvel..The only D1 coach who took a chance on me. A genius when it comes to football pic.twitter.com/tfPd0VJ1nZ— Jimmie ward (@ward_jimmie) May 8, 2014
Sawvel has continued unearthing hidden gems for the Gophers, including Cedric Thompson and Eric Murray. The secondary figures to be a big strength this fall, despite the loss of Vereen. And as I wrote last month, Sawvel has continued cultivating Alabama for the Gophers, landing recruits such as Jerry Gibson and Gary Moore.
So Thursday wasn't all bad for Kill. And there was another reminder that there could be brighter days ahead for the Gophers.
The top Minnesota high school football recruit in the 2015 class is apparently leaning toward Michigan State.
Cretin Derham-Hall defensive end Jashon Cornell is quoted in today's Detroit News as saying, "I will come out with a top eight [soon], but Michigan State is number one on my list right now."
Michigan State defeated Stanford in the Rose Bowl last season and has ranked with the nation's top 10 scoring defenses each of the past three years.
ESPN had Cornell rated as the No. 1 prospect in the nation for the 2015 class before recently lowering him to No. 16. The 6-3, 245-pound Cornell ranks as the No. 38 prospect in the nation in the 247Sports.com composite rankings.
The Gophers have worked hard to land Cornell, but I don't think they're too optimistic about signing him. Cornell seems destined to join James Onwualu (Notre Dame), Michael Floyd (Notre Dame) and Seantrel Henderson (Miami) on the list of highly rated Cretin-Derham Hall recruits who've fled Minnesota.
Cornell reportedly plans to pick his school on Aug. 28.
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