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.
The Gophers were determined to add defensive linemen to this year's recruiting class, and they got one Tuesday from the same high school that produced Gophers receiver KJ Maye and defensive tackle Gary Moore.
Mose Hall, a defensive tackle from Mobile (Ala.) Murphy High School, gave the Gophers a verbal commitment. Rivals.com rates Hall as a three-star recruit who also had offers from Maryland, Illinois and Wake Forest. He is the Gophers' 22nd commitment for the 2015 class. He announced his decision on Twitter:
The Gophers continued rounding out this year's recruiting class Monday, when they got a commitment from Bryce Witham, a tight end from Grand Rapids (Mich.) West Catholic.
The 6-4, 240-pound Witham is a consensus three-star recruit who also had reported offers from Central Michigan, Southern Miss and Toledo. He is the Gophers' 21st commitment in this year's class. Witham announced his decision on Twitter:
Proud to say that I have committed to the University of Minnesota and will be a Golden Gopher!!!!! #Blessed#Glory2God pic.twitter.com/hiPpY0OMaB— Bryce Witham (@Bryce_Witham) January 27, 2015
Veteran recruiting analyst Tom Lemming honored Jerry Kill with National Coach of the Year honors last week on CBS Sports Network. Lemming also recognized Gophers recruiting director Billy Glasscock as one of five national directors of operations of the year.
Lemming told me today that Urban Meyer and Nick Saban have been repeated winners of his National Coach of the Year award, and he wanted to recognize Kill. Jimbo Fisher was another finalist.
"I take everything into account, how you built it up from scratch," Lemming said. "[Minnesota] was down in the dumps for a long time, and [Kill's] doing it the right way, evaluating and developing the top prospects.
"It’s a lot easier to build up Ohio State or Alabama or Florida State -- the other three finalists in our coach of the year thing. I just thought he made more of an impact than they did at their schools and actually made a bigger jump than they did."
Lemming had good things to say about several of the recruits in Minnesota's 2015 class. A sampling:
QB Demry Croft: "Nobody knows about him. I’m only an hour away from [Rockford, Ill.], so I go up there and I’ve seen him. I love the kid. He’s got great potential. He’s that good. He could be a big, big time guy. He could be the guy that could lead them to a Big Ten championship someday."
DB Antonio Shenault: "He's another big-time, four-star kid out of Chicago. Legit cover corner. He’s got terrific all-around ability."
OL Quinn Oseland: "He has an excellent offensive line coach at Sacred Heart-Griffin [in Springfield, Ill.] State champs again this year. Quinn Oseland has potential to be an All-American at Minnesota."
With two weeks to national signing day, the Gophers landed a commitment Wednesday from Hunter Register, a wide receiver from Comeaux High School in Lafayette, La.
The 6-5, 195-pound Register is a consensus three-star recruit who also had reported offers from Indiana, Louisiana Lafayette, Memphis and Tulane.
The Gophers now have 19 players committed in this class. Register is the lone receiver commitment at this point, but the coaches are zeroing in on others, as well.
I caught up with Gophers coach Jerry Kill today and got his thoughts on a few subjects:
On Maxx Williams turning pro:
"You give all the information to their family, and they’ve got to make a decision," Kill said. "As I told Maxx, ‘Boy it would be great to have you back. At the same time, you go out, all these are going to help our program.
"People are going to say, 'Those guys are doing things right. They’re recruiting good people, they’re getting developed and shoot they’re leaving early.'
"Plus Maxx is smart. He’s going to get his education and so forth. So to be honest, certainly we’d like to have him back. But at the same time, you do what’s best for his family, and he’s also helped our program by doing that in a lot of ways."
I asked Kill for his thoughts on recruiting heading into signing day, Feb 4, mentioning that a couple Minnesota commits have torn it up in recent All-Star Games. Running back Jonathan Femi-Cole was named the MVP of the NUC All-American Game in in South Carolina, with 23 carries for 137 yards. And quarterback Demry Croft completed 12 of 15 passes for more than 200 yards, with two touchdowns, in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl. Kill can't talk about specific recruits, but he gave a general answer:
"I think things are going pretty good. You know, some of those guys playing, I don’t want them playing that good. That means they’ll get a lot more attention and with [new Michigan coach Jim] Harbaugh running around here late, that’s the whole thing. When these coaching jobs change, you never know what’s going to happen, so you’ve got to stay on the kids you’ve got committed, and then you’ve just got to continue to recruit.
"But so far, our class is exactly what we need, and certainly with the athletes we’ve got redshirted. We feel right now, we’d like another defensive back, another linebacker, three defensive linemen, which I think we’re fairly close on one. Offensively, we want another wide receiver, and really trying to figure out whether we wanted another tight end or not."
Finally, I asked about Jon Christenson playing right guard in the Citrus Bowl. It was Christenson's first start since he broke the tibia and fibula in his left leg at Indiana in November 2013. With center Tommy Olson and guard Zac Epping both graduating, Christenson's return to health has been a big development, as he has experience at both center and guard:
"That’s huge," Kill said. "And I wished we could have redshirted him because of injuries, but Connor Mayes -- that allows him to be the guard, or we could flip that with Joe Bjorklund. We know we have Joe, Connor, and Jon between the center, two guard spots. Jon being able to be healthy and come back -- he’ll be a leader and a captain on our team. I can tell you that because of the way he is.
"The reason [Christenson] played in that game was because of his size, and Joe did a good job, too, but the physical size of Jon helps you against their D-line. And then with Joe’s situation he played on a bad knee all year, and he’s going to be better a year from now.
"We’ve got a chance to be a really, really good football team next year. I don’t think we’ll be under the stone so to speak, being picked fifth or sixth or something like that. I think people know that we’re getting better."
Note: I'll have much more on the Gophers' 2015 outlook in our Sunday edition. Have a good weekend everyone.
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