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.
ORLANDO, FLA. -- The Gophers held their first Florida practice today in preparation for the Citrus Bowl, and Star Tribune photographer Liz Flores and I made it just in time to see it. The team allowed photo and video access for the first 20 minutes, so we'll wrap some of that into tonight's coverage.
Some quick jottings off practice:
* Gophers coach Jerry Kill confirmed that running back Jeff Jones finished the fall semester with a high enough GPA (Jones needed a 2.5 or above) to gain eligibility for spring practice. Sid Hartman had this news in his Sunday column. The Gophers were just waiting for the grades to become official, and now that's a done deal.
* Drew Wolitarsky, who missed the last four games with a sprained ankle, looked very good running drills. Kill said Wolitarsky is good to go for the bowl game.
* Kill said offensive tackle Ben Lauer, who has been out with mono, would have a limited role, at the most, in the bowl game. That limits the Gophers depth. They have Josh Campion and Jonah Pirsig starting at tackle, and those two will have their hands full against Missouri's defensive ends.
* It was overcast at Freedom High School but a very comfortable 72 degrees. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 80's the next three days.
The Gophers on Thursday held their first practice since their Nov. 29 loss at Wisconsin, and defensive coordinator/associate head coach Tracy Claeys said it was clear the players were well-rested with fresher legs.
Teams can hold up to 15 practices before a bowl game, and the Gophers are getting ready for the Citrus Bowl against Missouri on Jan. 1. Claeys said Friday will be another light practice, and that the team will step up the intensity on Sunday.
Claeys said the Gophers had their full defense back on the field Thursday, including safeties Antonio Johnson and Damarius Travis, who had been banged up.
Claeys said wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky did not practice but the Gophers expect to have him back for the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 against Missouri. Wolitarsky has missed the past four games with a high-ankle sprain.
"You’d like to have everybody healthy just like your first ballgame of the year, especially going against a team from the Southeast Conference," Claeys said.
Claeys was in charge Thursday with head coach Jerry Kill in Orlando with Missouri coach Gary Pinkel for a Citrus Bowl press conference.
The Gophers listed David Cobb as questionable on their official injury report Thursday and kept him off of their depth chart at tailback heading into Saturday's game at Wisconsin.
Cobb strained his left hamstring in last week's win over Nebraska. On Wednesday, in coach Jerry Kill's last public comments of the week, he said he didn't expect Cobb to practice Thursday. Kill said Cobb was "big-time questionable" and made it clear Cobb would have to practice before the Gophers would test his hamstring in a game.
For the Wisconsin game, the Gophers list their starting tailback as "Donnell Kirkwood or Rodrick Williams or Berkley Edwards."
The Gophers also list WR Drew Wolitarsky (ankle) as out, S Antonio Johnson (knee) as questionable, S Daletavious McGhee (unspecified injury) as questionable and TE Brandon Lingen (unspecified injury) as questionable.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill said Tuesday that running back David Cobb remains "very questionable" for Saturday's game at Wisconsin.
Kill added that Cobb would try to do some light jogging to test his strained left hamstring at Tuesday's practice.
Cobb strained the hamstring on a 17-yard touchdown run in last week’s win at Nebraska. The senior running back tweeted that night that he’d be ready for the Wisconsin game, which will determine the Big Ten title.
"That’s a great attitude because sometimes the mind -- if you’re down and negative and all that, sometimes you don’t heal up as quick," Kill said. "So I’m glad he’s positive. And hey, if he’s ready to go, we’re going to play him. There’s no doubt about that."
Cobb ranks ninth in the nation with 1,430 yards and needs just 35 more to break Laurence Maroney’s single-season school record, set in 2005.
Kill said he asked Cobb on the flight home from Nebraska if he was doing OK, and Cobb's response was, "Coach, I ain't missing this one."
Gophers coach Jerry Kill said Sunday on 830-AM that David Cobb (strained left hamstring) is questionable for next Saturday's game at Wisconsin. Kill also said Berkley Edwards suffered a concussion at Nebraska.
The winner of the game between the Gophers and Badgers will win the Big Ten West title and advance to the Big Ten title game against Ohio State.
"I think [Cobb's availability for the Wisconsin game] is a big question mark, and I think anytime you get a hamstring situation like that, it’s not an easy deal. So we’ll just have to see what happens. I told [Cobb] and Ed [head athletic trainer Ed Lochrie], 'Hey, you’ve got to get him ready to go.' But we’ll just have to see.
"But if he doesn’t go, Donnell [Kirkwood] and Rodrick [Williams] -- they’ll have to step it up. Hopefully we’ll get Berkley back because Berkley did some good things in the game, and then he got hit and got a concussion. So at the end of the game, we had two backs.
"So hopefully Berkley’s going to be OK, and David’s going to be OK. But if not, I know the other two young men will give us everything they’ve got, and that’s all you can ask."
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