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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Fargo RB James Johannesson picks Gophers

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher recruiting Updated: August 22, 2014 - 2:17 PM

The Gophers got another recruiting commitment Friday, this time from Fargo South running back James Johannesson, who rushed for 2,671 yards and 29 touchdowns last year as a junior.

The 6-1, 210-pound Johannesson is a consensus three-star recruit who also had reported offers from North Dakota State and North Dakota.

Some have compared Johannesson to former Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead, saying Johanneson would have had more schools after him if he weren’t relatively hidden in Fargo.

Johannesson's commitment came one day after the Gophers landed a commitment from Georgia wide receiver Almonzo Brown. They now have 12 players committed for their 2015 class.

Johannesson announced his decision on Twitter:

Gophers hope to hear from NCAA about Jeff Jones' eligibility next week

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher recruiting Updated: August 22, 2014 - 11:46 AM

Quick update on Jeff Jones, the prized running back recruit from Minneapolis Washburn: I was told today that the Gophers hope to hear from the NCAA regarding his eligibility at the end of next week. Jones has been admitted to the U, but the NCAA is currently reviewing his case to determine if he's eligible for his scholarship.

They open their season next Thursday against Eastern Illinois, but Jones likely will redshirt for the Gophers either way. Everyone wants to know soon because the U starts fall semester on Sept. 2.

Jones was right on the bubble to qualify academically for a Division I scholarship coming out of Washburn. If the NCAA would at least grant him an initial eligibility waiver, he would get his scholarship and could compete for the Gophers in 2015. He could still head to Iowa Western Community College, but all signs still point to him landing with the Gophers.

Gophers get committment from Georgia WR

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher recruiting Updated: August 21, 2014 - 9:07 PM

The Gophers landed a coveted wide receiver recruit Thursday night, when Almonzo Brown, from Suwanee, Ga., committed to them, despite receiving offers from Florida, Iowa, Georgia Tech and Kansas State.

The 6-2, 214-pound Brown is a consensus three-star recruit, and the 11th commitment the Gophers have received for their 2015 class.

Brown announced the news on Twitter:

Gophers won't rush Lauer; Pirsig likely headed for first career start; Wolitarsky still out

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers injuries Updated: August 21, 2014 - 3:01 PM

Gophers offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover acknowledged Thursday that the team will be careful with left tackle Ben Lauer recovering from a high ankle sprain.

"He’s made some progress, done some things, but at the same time, you rush that back, you might be right back at square one," Limegrover said.

It sounds like Jonah Pirsig will get his first career start at right tackle, with Josh Campion moving over to left tackle, filling Lauer's spot. This will be a chance for Pirsig to show his stuff. When Lauer gets healthy, Campion could move to right guard, allowing the Gophers to keep Pirsig with the first unit.

"I’m going to do my best to keep that spot once Ben gets back," Pirsig said. "And it’s all about competition from there on out."

Wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky was held from practice again Thursday. The team hasn't given details about the injury, but the media hasn't really had a chance to ask, either. Long story, but Coach Jerry Kill is usually the one to give specifics. His days to talk to the media this week were Tuesday and Saturday. I didn't hear Wolitarsky was injured until late Tuesday night.

Again, the injury doesn't sound serious. Limegrover explained that the team's multiple tight end sets have made it where wide receiver injuries aren't as costly. The team can get through a game relying on three of four wide receivers, if they have to.

"But obviously we want to get Drew back as quickly as possible," Limegrover said. "He’s worked well with Mitch all the way through. So we want to get him back, but at the same time ... you build depth so one injury doesn't tip you over the edge."

Gophers feel good on injury front; team downplays recent hobbles for Wolitarsky and Amaefula

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers injuries Updated: August 20, 2014 - 1:50 PM

The Gophers will release their first official injury report Tuesday, but for now, team officials insist they feel good about the health going into their Aug. 28 opener against Eastern Illinois. A few items of note:

* Wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky and defensive end Michael Amaefula have both been hobbled of late, but coaches say they still think both could be ready for the opener.

* Tight end Duke Anyanwu tore his ACL the first weekend of practice, and that was a tough blow because Anyanwu would have been one of the first replacements for Maxx Williams.

* Offensive lineman Jared Weyler also tore an ACL during camp, but he's a true freshman who likely would have redshirted anyway.

* The Gophers continue to take it slow with offensive lineman Jon Christenson, who is making his way back from last November's broken leg. They hope left tackle Ben Lauer (high ankle sprain) is ready to practice at full-speed Sunday.

From what I've gathered, that's about all there is to report on the injury front.

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