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.

Claeys and Limegrover get sizeable raises under new three-year deals

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher coaches Updated: April 23, 2014 - 3:18 PM

Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys got an annual raise to $600,000, and offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover will make $550,000 under the terms of their new three-year contracts signed this month.

The Star Tribune obtained copies of the new deals Wednesday through a data practices act request. Claeys had been making $346,800, and Limegrover was at $341,800 under their previous contracts.

All nine of Coach Jerry Kill’s assistant coaches received raises, thanks to language in Kill’s new contract that ensures his assistant coaching salary pool will rank in the top six of the Big Ten.

Kill’s seven other assistant coaches each got new two-year deals. Here are the new salaries:

Quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski: $253,000

Defensive backs/special teams coach Jay Sawvel: $253,000

Defensive line coach Jeff Phelps: $230,000

Running backs coach Pat Poore: $230,000

Wide receivers coach Brian Anderson: $230,000

H-backs/tight ends coach Rob Reeves: $230,000

Linebackers coach Mike Sherels: $181,000

Assistant coaches salaries are on the rise throughout the sport. Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi will be paid $904,600 this year. And according to the Washington Post, Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley just got a raise to $625,000.

Gophers offer fans up-close access to practice, team meetings and training table -- for $2,000

Posted by: Joe Christensen under College football, Gopher coaches Updated: April 16, 2014 - 3:05 PM

Gophers coach Jerry Kill is offering 25 fans up-close access to the team during fall camp -- including practices, team meals and position meetings -- at a cost of $2,000.

The Gophers announced today that they'll be hosting their first "Boys of Fall Elite Camp" from Aug. 1-3 -- the first three days of fall camp.

The release says, "In addition to getting to know the team and staff on a personal level, attendees will also have unfiltered access to the day-to-day operations of a Big Ten football program.

"Campers will receive an in-depth look at Coach Kill’s offensive, defensive and special team’s philosophy and will be able to attend all team, position and special teams meetings with student-athletes and coaches. Attendees will also attend practice each day and will partake in the team’s training table. Each person who attends will also receive gifts, athletic gear and will eligible for raffle prizes."

The camp will be limited to 25 participants. It costs $2,000. The web site says, "Your financial support will assist in the enhancements of our football program." For more information, click here.

Boy's of Fall Elite Camp

Starts: 5 p.m., Aug. 1
Ends: 2 p.m., Aug. 3
Cost: $2,000 ($500 non-refundable deposit due at registration)
Total Participants: 25
Deadline To Register: July 1, 2014

Dates announced for second annual Gopher Road Trip: Chalk Talk

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Coaching Updated: April 16, 2014 - 1:33 PM

Gophers AD Norwood Teague and a host of coaches will tour the state again this spring for the second annual Gopher Road Trip: Chalk Talk. The dates were announced today:

May 20 – 11:30 a.m./Willmar (American Legion Post No. 167)

May 20 – 4:30 p.m./Park Rapids (Blueberry Pines Golf Course)

May 21 – 9:00 a.m./Coleraine (Eagle Ridge Golf Course)

May 21 – 11:30 a.m./Hibbing (Mesaba Country Club)

May 21 – 5:00 p.m./St. Cloud (Le St. Germain Suites Hotel)

June 3 – 11:30 a.m./Redwood Falls (Redwood Area Community Center)

June 3 – 5:00 p.m./New Ulm (Turner Hall)

June 4 – 11:30 a.m./Owatonna (Owatonna Country Club)

June 4 – 4:30 p.m./Red Wing (Treasure Island Resort and Casino)

Gophers cornerback depth shines through in spring game

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers spring football Updated: April 14, 2014 - 2:01 PM

I focused most of my Gophers spring game coverage on the offense, but one thing that stood out to me in watching the tape was the secondary.

Quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski had referenced it during a postgame interview. “Our secondary’s pretty darn good,” he said. “So it’s good for our young receivers to go against those DB’s. They’re not going to get a lot of separation all the time.”

The coaches kept most members of the first-team defense out of the scrimmage, but the healthy members of that unit lined up for the pass-shell drill during warm-ups.

- Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who tore an ACL last season in the second game, was lined up at starting cornerback, opposite Eric Murray. Boddy-Calhoun obviously has his speed and agility back, even if the coaches kept him from contact drills this spring. The junior showed it with an interception during that pass-shell drill (not sure who threw it), but that was as telling as anything that happened Saturday. Keep in mind: the coaches felt Boddy-Calhoun was playing the best of all their cornerbacks before he got injured.

- Jalen Myric got a ton of reps this spring, opposite Murray, with Boddy-Calhoun and Derrick Wells (shoulder surgery) both coming back from their respective injuries. Myric picked off Mitch Leidner during the scrimmage with a tremendous play. Drew Wolitarsky appeared to have a couple steps on Myric, but the sophomore DB closed quickly. He pushed off on Wolitarsky, subtly enough to get away with it, then changed his direction just enough to reach up and get the ball.

- Marcus Jones is more than just a kick returner. He had a terrific day at cornerback. Leidner slightly underthrew a pass to Wolitarsky in the end zone, and Jones broke it up. Jones finished with 5 1/2 tackles, too. He’s listed at 5-8, 166 pounds, but he is absolutely fearless out there.

Bottom line: The Gophers should be loaded at cornerback this fall, which will only help them in nickel and dime packages. They’ll face a lot of spread offenses, and that secondary depth is key. I expect Murray and Boddy-Calhoun to be the two starters, with Wells as the primary nickel back, if he is indeed healthy. Myric, Jones and Steven Montgomery will all fill in.

Offense sputters for Gophers in annual Spring Game

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers spring football Updated: April 12, 2014 - 5:07 PM

The first-team defense didn't play, yet the Gophers offense still managed just one touchdown and four field goals in 13 drives on Saturday during the annual Spring Game at TCF Bank Stadium.

Instead of dividing into two teams, the Gophers ran their offense against the defense in a scrimmage that lasted about 70 minutes before an announced crowd of 4,752. The "final score" went down as 19-0.

The highlight came when Berkley Edwards took a hand-off toward the sideline and raced 33 yards for a touchdown. That came against the third-team defense.

Mitch Leidner completed seven of 15 passes for 74 yards with one interception. Rodrick Williams led all rushers with nine carries for 52 yards. Edwards finished with 11 carries for 46 yards, and David Cobb had seven carries for 29 yards.

Note: Gophers defensive tackle Cameron Botticelli had a boot on his left foot and didn't play. Kill said Botticelli had a broken bone in his foot but should be healed up in five weeks.

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