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.
Former Gophers quarterback Max Shortell announced Thursday night on Twitter that he is transferring to Jacksonville State in Alabama.
The 6-6 junior from suburban Kansas City originally signed with Minnesota after being recruited by Michigan. In two years with the Gophers, Shortell played 13 games, completing 91 of 170 passes (53.5 percent) with eight touchdowns.
But the strong-armed Shortell is more of a pro-style quarterback who didn't fit Minnesota's offense, which has relied on its quarterbacks to run under Coach Jerry Kill. The Gophers liked what they saw this spring from young quarterbacks Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner.
Shortell's decision came five months after he decided to leave the Gophers program. Jacksonville State is an FCS school in the Ohio Valley Conference that went 7-4 last season.
Shortell's tweet (@goldenarmginger) says: "I will be playing ball next at Jacksonville State University. #GoGamecocks!"
The Gophers begin workouts for the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Friday, and will spread the 15 sessions out over three weeks until the Dec. 28 Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Max Shortell won't be taking part. Instead, he will spend the semester break, once final exams are finished, touring schools that invite him for unofficial visits, a list that the Shortells are optimistic about. The 20-year-old sophomore couldn't inquire about possible destinations until receiving his release from the Gophers, but he has studied schools that run offenses that better fit his 6-foot-6 frame and pocket-passer arm.
"There are some pro-style offenses there," said his father, Tom Shortell, "and there are people who know Max would be a good fit."
That's as opposed to the Gophers' zone-read offense, which frequently calls for the quarterback to tuck the ball away and scramble downfield. While his son is "sneaky fast," Shortell said, "they like to run a shorter, more mobile style of quarterback."
The quarterback's experience at such a young age -- 15 games played, five starts, 53.5 completion percentage, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions as a freshman and sophomore -- should earn him a scholarship somewhere.
Shortell preferred to remain vague about potential matches, saying his son expects to hear from recruiters now that the Gophers have announced his departure.
But he did say that the family has reason to believe that a handful of Midwestern teams, and perhaps a few in the SEC, might be interested.
So consider this paragraph to be mere reporter's speculation, nothing more. But the coach who originally talked Shortell into coming to Minnesota is at an SEC school. Former Gophers coach Tim Brewster, who spotted Shortell at Bishop Miege High in suburban Kansas City, now coaches wide receivers at Mississippi State, where Tyler Russell has quarterbacked the Bulldogs to an 8-4 record and berth in the Gator Bowl. Russell, a tall, accurate pocket passer like Shortell, will be a senior next season; Shortell must sit out the 2013 season under rules governing NCAA transfers. Hmm.
Wherever Shortell ends up, his father wanted one point to be made very clear. Max Shortell threw three of the passes that A.J. Barker carried into the end zone this season, but that connection didn't extend to their departures from Minnesota.
"I just want people to know, Max absolutely loved it there. The city, the university, the people there, his teammates, his coaches -- he had a great experience," Shortell said. "Our whole family loved it up there. We got to know some of the other parents, too. ... We're sad about the decision, but we're going to support whatever Max wants to do."
Barker also announced his intention to transfer recently, but ignited a controversy over Kill's coaching methods by writing a 4,000-word blog post that lambasted the coach for yelling at him in front of his teammates, among other things.
The Shortells' opinions are different, Tom Shortell said.
"Coach (Jerry) Kill is a great guy, and he was always very supportive of Max," Shortell said. '"He tried to talk Max out of transferring. I know Max really wishes it had worked out there."
Gophers sophomore QB Max Shortell will transfer, the school announced Tuesday. He will not be with the team during its upcoming Meineke Car Care Bowl game, a team spokesman said.
“Max is an outstanding young man, and I respect and understand his decision to transfer,” head coach Jerry Kill said in a statement. “I will help him in any way I can and wish him all the best as he continues his education and football career elsewhere.”
Shortell, from Shawnee Mission, Kan., made starts in both of his seasons with the Gophers, including a three-game run against Syracuse, Iowa and Northwestern this season during which Minnesota went 1-2. But the Gophers turned to true freshman Philip Nelson midway through the year, and he started the final six regular-season games.
For his career, Shortell is 91 of 170 for 1,162 yards. It is unknown where Shortell will play next season.
MADISON, Wis. -- The Gophers aren't bringing Paul Bunyan's Axe home with them, not with that gaping hole in their run defense. But after Saturday's game, they have to feel better about their chances of capturing it over the next three years.
That's because Philip Nelson mostly lived up to his billing as the Gophers' quarterback of the future, showing poise and skill in his first college action, despite Minnesota's 38-13 loss to Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium. The 19-year-old freshman threw a pair of touchdown passes, but also a pair of interceptions in a debut that was at once intriguing and frustrating.
The frustrating part was due to the defense, which for the third straight week, was bludgeoned by a Big Ten running attack. Badger tailback James White scored three touchdowns and Montee Ball two, and both eclipsed 150 yards as Wisconsin pulled away in the second half. It's the ninth straight year that the Badgers have won the Battle of the Axe, equaling the longest winning streak ever in the 122-game series. Minnesota won nine straight games in college football's most-played rivalry from 1933-41.
MarQueis Gray was healthy enough to play the entire game at wide receiver, and he caught two passes for 13 yards. But his ankle injury, and a lingering injury to backup Max Shortell, opened the opportunity for Nelson, the state's Mr. Football last fall at Mankato West High.
Despite playing behind an offensive line that was missing tackle Ed Olson and guard Tommy Olson, Nelson grew more comfortable as the game wore on, and had Minnesota within 14-6 at halftime and 24-13 in the fourth quarter.
White had touchdown runs of 14, 34 and 48 yards, while Ball had scoring romps of 14 and 44 yards.
BY PHIL MILLER
Turns out, Jimmy Gjere's concussion symptoms apparently haven't subsided. The sophomore offensive tackle has decided to end his football career, according to an announcement just released by the Gophers.
That's a real shame, because Gjere sounded upbeat and excited about returning to action when he talked to me last week, for a story that ran in this morning's Star Tribune. He had been symptom-free over the summer, after suffering through several months of being, in his words, "absolutely miserable" following a concussion suffered in Minnesota's loss at Michigan last October.
Gjere, a 6-foot-7, 325-pound graduate of Irondale High, started five games as a redshirt freshman last year, and his future looked bright. Just shows the scary staying power of concussions.
Wide receiver E.J. Sardinha, a freshman from Palm Beach Central (Fla.) High, will take Gjere's place on the roster.
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