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.

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Gophers Spring Practice #2: A look at two key defensive battles

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers spring football Updated: March 29, 2013 - 12:31 PM

Derrick Wells played cornerback in high school in Lehigh, Fla., so even after thriving at safety last year for the Gophers, he’s having little trouble with the transition back to cornerback this spring.

“He can start at safety or corner,” Coach Jerry Kill said Thursday after the team’s second spring practice. “He could probably come over and play wide receiver and start. So he’s a good player.”

The Gophers need to replace two starting cornerbacks from last season, in Michael Carter and Troy Stoudermire. They’ve turned to Wells, knowing they still have Brock Vereen, Cedric Thompson and Antonio Johnson at safety.

Wells, a junior who missed some time last season because of complications with a lacerated knee, had no problem making the switch.

“I think I want to do what’s best for the team,” Wells said. “But moving to corner, it’ll take some pressure off my knee without all the contact in the middle, so I think that’ll help me out a lot too.”

MIDDLE LINEBACKER UPDATE

The Gophers also need to replace outgoing senior Mike Rallis at middle-linebacker, but for now, they are content keeping Aaron Hill at outside linebacker. The candidates for the MLB spot are junior college transfer Damien Wilson, redshirt freshman Jack Lynn and redshirt sophomore Jephte Matilus.

“I think [Hill’s] more suited to be outside, and I think we’ve got a lot of comfort recruiting Damien,” Kill said. “He’s picked things up very quickly. We’ve got Jephte, who was in there, and Jack, so we feel pretty good about that, and then we’ve got four other young men coming [as incoming recruits this summer].

“I mean, it’s kind of like the secondary was a year ago. I think we’ve really built a good secondary, even losing two outstanding players. And I feel like this recruiting class at linebacker is critical, and Damien certainly has fulfilled a need. He’s done very good the first two days, and Jack and Jephte are learning.”

Note: DT Ra'Shede Hageman looks like he's on a mission this spring, with the NFL looming as a real possibility for him next year. Here's my story on Hageman from today's paper. ... Spring Practice #3 will be Saturday at 10 a.m., at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex. Again, all these sessions are open to the public.

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