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.
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.
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.”
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.
big thanks to everyone that has supported me over the last 4 years. Sad to say I won't be returning for my final year of football #GoGophers— Caleb Bak (@0xluc1d) May 27, 2014
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.
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.”
Former Gophers wide receiver Andre McDonald has decided to continue his football career at Wisconsin-River Falls, according to the Minnesota Daily.
McDonald was considered one of the top recruits in the Gophers' 2012 recruiting class and played in eight games that fall before getting suspended for the bowl game. McDonald returned to the team last August but got suspended again, this time for the season.
“I was smoking marijuana,” McDonald told the Daily. "It was always drug-related.”
McDonald told the Daily's Jack Satzinger that he went through rehab stints and spent time in Miami for a change of scenery. He has friends on River Falls team and decided the Division-III school would be the right fit.
McDonald told the Daily he hopes to become an elementary school teacher and "use what happened to me as an example.”
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