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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Claeys bullish about Gophers defense; injury and weight room updates

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher coaches, Gophers injuries Updated: June 25, 2014 - 3:00 PM

I caught up today with Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys. Here are a few tidbits:

* CB Derrick Wells, who missed spring practice while recovering from shoulder surgery, is getting back to full strength. CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun was back to full speed from his knee surgery by the end of spring practice.

“You’re taking a secondary that played well a year ago, and we’ve got the core back,” Claeys said, referring to a unit that lost Brock Vereen but returns Eric Murray, Cedric Thompson, Antonio Johnson and Damarius Travis, among others. “And then you’re adding Derrick Wells and Briean Boddy to it. It’s by far as deep and as good as we’ve been, with kids who’ve proven they can play at the Big Ten level.”

* DE Hank Ekpe missed most of spring practice because of a virus, but he’s fully recovered and has his weight back to 250 pounds.

* LB De’Vondre Campbell weighed in at 238 pounds this morning. The weights were just updated on the roster, but those were from the end of spring practice. Campbell was listed at 226 then, but the 6-5 specimen has really bulked up in recent weeks.

“The funny thing is he doesn’t look as long, like a spider anymore because he’s put on some weight,” Claeys said. “He really looks good.”

* Middle linebacker Damien Wilson was asked to shed weight, and he’s down from 254 to 245.

* And Jack Lynn, the other projected starting linebacker, who came to campus at 220 pounds, is pushing 240.

The Gophers ranked 25th in the country in points allowed last year (22.2) after ranking 45th (24.7) the previous year. Now they have to replace five defensive starters, including Vereen and fellow NFL pick Ra’Shede Hageman.

“I’ll be disappointed if we don’t play better this year again,” Claeys said. “We’re going to have more kids this year than ever who are going to play who’ve already got two years or more of experience. So the depth is going to be there, and we’re getting better athletically.”

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