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 receiver Devin Crawford-Tufts has established himself as one of the top track sprinters in the Big Ten this season and has no plans of giving up his second sport anytime soon.
“I’m going to do the best I can to make both sports work because I love both sports, and I think I can be beneficial on both sides,” Crawford-Tufts said after Tuesday’s spring football practice.
Crawford-Tufts was a state champion in the 100- and 200-meter dash at Edina before coming to the University. Now a sophomore, he has used up two years of football eligibility, but this is his first season with the Gophers track team.
He finished third in the 60-meter dash at the Big Ten indoor championships in February with a time of 6.80 seconds. He also finished eighth in the 200-meter dash. After spring football ends, he’ll return to the track and concentrate on the 100-meter dash, along with the 200.
The football team is counting on Crawford-Tufts, too. He caught 16 passes for 189 yards last fall and returns as the team’s third-leading receiver behind Derrick Engel and Isaac Fruechte.
Crawford-Tufts met with Gophers football coach Jerry Kill and got his blessing before going out for track. The 6-2 receiver is listed at 193 pounds. Asked if he feels his sprinting training has taken anything away from his football preparation, Crawford-Tufts said, “No, I believe it added to football. I feel faster. My legs feel a lot better when I’m running.”
I'll have a feature story on Gophers middle linebacker Jack Lynn in tonight's first editions. Meantime, here are some quick notes from today's practice:
I'm writing a story on Gophers defensive back Derrick Wells for our Sunday editions. In the meantime, here's some quick notes from Spring Practice #6:
It was only the fifth spring practice, too soon to read much into things, but Gophers sophomore cornerback Eric Murray continues to establish himself as a player to watch.
Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said he waits until after the sixth practice of the spring to establish a firm depth chart, so the team is still at the stage where the staff is mixing personnel.
Still, it was notable that sophomore Eric Murray was with the first-team defense at cornerback, instead of senior Martez Shabazz. Derrick Wells was at the other corner, as he has been all spring.
The Gophers need to replace two outgoing seniors at cornerback this year, in Michael Carter and Troy Stoudermire. Murray is definitely in the mix.
"After the first four days of practice, he’s really emerged," Coach Jerry Kill said. "He’s got such great focus and great maturity for a young person and tremendous talent.”
Murray -- a 6-0, 194-pound speedster out of Riverside University High School in Milwaukee -- played in all 13 games last season as a true freshman, mostly on special teams.
"Being a freshman coming out of high school, you’re really not accustomed to the speed of the game," Murray said. "So I think that really helped and gave me some more football knowledge on top of the football knowledge I already had."
Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner have clearly separated themselves as the top two quarterbacks in camp this spring for the Gophers, with Dexter Foreman getting few reps and freshman Chris Streveler working through some expected struggles.
Streveler is in the same position Nelson and Leidner were in last year, after graduating from high school a semester early so he could enroll at the University in time for spring practice. At this point, Streveler has so much to learn that it’s tough to get a good read on his quarterback skills.
Streveler, who had 48 touchdowns -- 26 passing, 22 rushing -- last fall for Marian Central Catholic in Illinois, has some definite speed. He's looked good passing on the run, but his passes from the pocket lack zip compared to Nelson and Leidner’s.
After the Gophers go through two-a-days this summer, they might consider moving Streveler or incoming freshman quarterback Donovahn Jones to receiver.
Streveler was among the players practicing returning punts Tuesday. But don’t look for him to get any reps at receiver this spring.
“Chris needs to work on being a quarterback,” offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. “We don’t have any plans [to move him to receiver] right now. That’s one of those things when you get into the season, if we could use a guy because we have a void.
"At the end of the day, [quarterback] is the much harder position. So it’s easier to go from quarterback to receiver than receiver to quarterback. So let’s get him the reps there. Then as the season progresses, if we need to, we’ll make those adjustments.”
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