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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Posts about Gophers roster moves

Gophers dismiss wide receiver Donovahn Jones for violation of team rules

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: December 28, 2014 - 1:20 PM

ORLANDO – The Gophers have dismissed sophomore wide receiver Donovahn Jones from the team for an unspecified violation of team rules, a team source confirmed Sunday.

Jones' high school coach said Jones had grown frustrated that he didn't have a bigger role on the team and called the parting mutual. But a team source indicated that Jones was in fact dismissed.

Jones was with the Gophers in Orlando on Thursday, getting ready for the Citrus Bowl, but was on a plane home to Georgia by Friday morning, according to the team source. Gophers coach Jerry Kill won’t be available to address the issue until Monday.

“Donovahn’s a good kid, and coach Kill and [wide receivers coach Brian] Anderson are good people,’” said Terry Herrod, Jones' former coach at Dutchtown (Ga.) High School. "This was a mutual deal. … It’s really just a young kid who’s frustrated about his role on the team and that’s really the bottom line.”

Jones could not be reached for comment. His absence will leave the Gophers thinner at receiver against Missouri. Drew Wolitarsky will be back from his high-ankle sprain, and they'll have Isaac Fruechte and KJ Maye, but no other wide receiver on the team has more than one reception.

Herrod said the Gophers will give Jones his release on Jan. 3, which will free him to play anywhere outside the Big Ten or for a team that will appear on Minnesota’s schedule the next three years. Jones will need to sit out a year if he transfers to an FBS school, but he’ll still have two years of eligibility remaining.

“Coach Kill and Coach Anderson have been very honest and very supportive of Donovahn,” Herrod said. “And Donovahn’s very appreciative of Minnesota and the opportunity they gave him to play. But he’s just looking forward to moving forward and getting back in school at somewhere where he’s going to probably be in an offensive system that’s more tailored to his skill-set.”

Jones started nine games for the Gophers this year, making 11 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

He did not play against Ohio State on Nov. 15 after getting sick, but Kill also said he had planned to sit Jones for two series that game because of a minor disciplinary issue. Jones missed a class but was otherwise in good academic standing.

“We have high standards,” Kill said that day. “I run my program that way, and I might get fired for doing it, but that’s the way I am. We held [Jones] out for two series, and then he came in this morning and he was sick.

“Then the trainer said they didn’t feel like he could go, so we didn’t play him the rest of the game. Two-fold deal there, but that’s the way we do things.”

Jones played in the final two regular season games, but did not have a catch against either Nebraska or Wisconsin.

Jones had offers from 28 FBS schools coming out of high school, but he wanted to play quarterback, and most of those schools wanted him to play receiver. He made a verbal commitment to Missouri – Minnesota’s opponent in the Citrus Bowl – but flipped to Minnesota on signing day.

Jones began fall camp as a quarterback with the Gophers last year, but by late in camp, he had enthusiastically shifted to wide receiver.

I’m here [at receiver], and I’m settled,” he said in October 2014. “That’s where I’d like to stay.”

As a true freshman, he had 10 receptions for 157 yards, and he wasn’t able to improve on those numbers much as a sophomore.

Redshirt freshman defensive end Owen Salzwedel transfers from Minnesota

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: June 24, 2014 - 3:49 PM

Owen Salzwedel, a redshirt freshman defensive end for the Gophers, has left the program and plans to transfer closer to his home in Beaver Dam, Wis.

The 6-6, 240-pound Salzwedel came to Minnesota as a consensus three-star recruit after making 24 sacks in his final two seasons at Beaver Dam High School. News of his transfer was first reported by Ryan Burns, of GopherIllustrated.com.

Gophers update: Walk-on fullback departs team; number changes; Stieber commits

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: June 23, 2014 - 2:10 PM

I'm back from a week of vacation. Here's a few quick updates:

* Searching for a fullback to replace departing senior Mike Henry, the Gophers convinced two players from Butler (Kan.) Community College to walk-on this spring. But one of those fullbacks has since left the program. Riley Oharah went through spring practice and gave it a shot but won't be coming back this fall. The 5-11, 236-pound Miles Thomas remains in the fold after a solid spring camp. As I wrote here, the fullback spot became a big hole last winter.

* An updated look at the roster shows a few number changes. LB De'Niro Laster will wear No. 1, CB Derrick Wells will wear No. 3, and DE Alex Keith will wear No. 9. Also, interesting to see some of the incoming freshmen numbers. DE Gary Moore is No. 19 -- I didn't expect to see that. (UPDATE: I just got a heads up that Moore picked that number because the day his father died was the 19th of that month.) The coaches have referred to Moore as "Baby Ra'Shede." Mr. Hageman wore No. 99, of course. That number will now belong to DE Andrew Stelter, another incoming freshman from Owatonna.

WR Melvin Holland Jr., plucked No. 21, which had been RB Jeff Jones' number at Minneapolis Washburn. Jones has No. 16 and is waiting to hear if he got the qualifying score he needed on the June 14 ACT exam. The scores are usually available 2-2 1/2 weeks after the exams are taken.

* Also, as Sid noted in last Friday's column, the Gophers received their fourth commitment for 2015 -- offensive tackle Ted Stieber, from Akron, Ohio. The 6-6, 295-pound Stieber is a consensus three-star recruit. He has family members who went to the University and still live here. "I've always liked Minnesota," Stieber told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "When I had the opportunity to play football there, it was a no-brainer for me.”

Concussion will keep Bak from returning to Gophers line

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: May 27, 2014 - 7:57 PM

Caleb Bak, who started 20 consecutive games at right guard for the Gophers before suffering a concussion last season, announced Tuesday that he won’t be returning for his senior season.

Bak tried making a comeback during spring practice. He went through the first three workouts before his concussion symptoms returned.

Foster Bush replaced Bak as the starting right guard last season. This spring, the Gophers gave Josh Campion reps at right guard, knowing Jonah Pirsig could be ready to take over for Campion at right tackle.

Bak walked onto the Gophers out of Concordia Academy and became a fixture on the line before suffering his injury. He is majoring in computer science.

Besides Bak and departing senior Ed Olson, who split time at left tackle late last season with Ben Lauer, the rest of the Gophers’ offensive line will return intact this fall.

Hinojosa transfers to North Dakota

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: May 8, 2014 - 3:02 PM

Jordan Hinojosa, a defensive tackle who redshirted for the Gophers last season, has transferred to North Dakota, UND announced Thursday.

The Gophers recruited Hinojosa out of Miami (Fla.) Central High School and Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, and the high-energy player had one tackle for a loss in the spring game last month.

Listed at 6-3, 272 pounds, Hinojosa still has three years of eligibility remaining, but he didn't appear headed for much playing time with the Gophers. The move frees up one of their 85 available scholarships. He'll be eligible to play this fall at North Dakota, which competes in the FCS sub-division and has a new head coach in Bubba Schweigert.

Hinojosa also will be reunited with North Dakota assistant coach Shawn Kostich, who worked as a Gophers graduate assistant last season.

“Jordan will bring a hard work ethic along with explosive play to our defensive line,” Schweigert said in the press release. “He played against some of the top high school teams in the country down in Miami, then signed with a Big Ten school, so that shows you his ability and potential. We’re excited to add him to our defensive front and see what he can do for us this season.”

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