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.

Jeff Jones not likely to see Gophers game action this fall, even if he qualifies academically

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher recruiting, Gophers preseason practice Updated: July 24, 2014 - 3:40 PM

Jeff Jones is not expected to see game action for the Gophers this fall, even if he qualifies academically, according to people close to the situation.

If Jones, the prized recruit from Minneapolis Washburn, clears the NCAA academic clearinghouse in coming days, he would likely redshirt. With practice set to open next Friday, the Gophers already have strong depth at running back depth, and Jones could use the year to get settled academically.

Three sources said Thursday that they’re still optimistic Jones will end up at the university this fall, but Iowa Western Community College remains an option. His standing is still in flux, as his summer school classes stretched into late July.

The Gophers hope to have an answer on whether Jones clears the NCAA clearinghouse and gains his scholarship before practice opens Aug. 1, but it could take until the following week. The team is awaiting word on Jones’ NCAA eligibility, and there’s also the question of whether he’ll make it through the university’s admissions office.

Jones is right on the bubble of qualifying for his scholarship. The NCAA uses a sliding scale – with grades and test scores -- to determine eligibility. Jones had a solid ACT score but his grades weren’t high enough to quality upon graduation from Minneapolis Washburn.

It’s still possible the NCAA will clear Jones to play in 2014, but even in that scenario, all signs point to a redshirt season. The Gophers running back depth chart has seniors David Cobb and Donnell Kirkwood, junior Rodrick Williams and redshirt freshman Berkley Edwards. Jones would be getting a late start, as most of the team’s freshmen are already on campus, going through strength and conditioning workouts and captain’s practices.

It’s also possible that Jones will make it to the university as a partial qualifier. In that scenario, the NCAA would allow the Gophers to give Jones his scholarship, but he wouldn't’t be eligible to practice or compete for one year.

For Jones, the third option remains playing two years at Iowa Western Community College. Non-qualifiers must spend at least two seasons at junior college – long enough to complete their associates’ degree -- to obtain Division I eligibility.

Gophers announced practice schedule: Four sessions open to public, including Aug. 9 scrimmage

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers preseason practice Updated: July 22, 2014 - 10:35 AM

Gophers coach Jerry Kill announced the team's preseason practice schedule today, with four sessions open to the public, including a scrimmage at TCF Bank Stadium on Aug. 9. The Gophers begin practice Aug. 1 and open their season against Eastern Illinois on Aug. 28.

This is always subject to change, but here's a look at how it will unfold for the Gophers:

Aug. 1, 5:15 PM – Practice #1, Gibson-Nagurski Complex, Open to Media
Aug. 2, 10:25 AM – Practice #2, Gibson-Nagurski Complex, Open to Media
Aug. 3, 10:25 AM – Practice #3, Gibson-Nagurski Complex, Open to Public/Media
Aug. 4, 5:15 PM – Practice #4, Gibson-Nagurski Complex, Open to Public/Media  
Aug. 5, 5:15 PM – Practice #5, Gibson-Nagurski Complex, Open to Public/Media  
Aug. 6, 5:15 PM – Practice #6  
Aug. 7. 5:15 PM – Practice #7
Aug. 8, 5:15 PM – Practice #8
Aug. 9, 9:10 AM/4:40 PM – Practice #9/#10, Gibson-Nagurski /TCF Bank Stadium, #10 Open to Public/Media
Aug. 10 – No practice
Aug. 11, 9:10 AM/4:40 PM – Practice #11/#12
Aug. 12, 10:25 AM – Practice #13  
Aug. 13, 9:10 AM/4:40 PM – Practice #14/#15
Aug. 14, 10:25 AM – Practice #16
Aug. 15, 9:10 AM/4:40 PM – Practice #17/#18
Aug. 16, 6:07 PM – Practice #19
Aug. 17 – No practice
Aug. 18 – No practice
Aug. 19, 9:10 AM/4:40 PM – Practice #20/#21
Aug. 20, 10:25 AM – Practice #22  
Aug. 21, 10:25 AM – Practice #23  
Aug. 22 – No practice
Aug. 23, 3:40 PM – Practice #24  
Aug. 24, 3:40 PM – Practice #25  
Aug. 25, 3:40 PM – Practice #26  
Aug. 26, 3:40 PM – Practice #27  
Aug. 27 – No practice
Aug. 28 – Game vs. Eastern Illinois at 6 PM

Gophers land commitment from Texas linebacker Jaylen Waters

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher recruiting Updated: July 21, 2014 - 4:42 PM

The Gophers added another football commitment Monday after a key recruiting weekend, as Jaylen Waters, a linebacker from Texas, announced his plans to play for Minnesota.

Waters is a consensus two-star linebacker from Copperas Cove High School, the alma mater of former Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.

The 6-2, 233-pound Waters is Minnesota's ninth commitment for the 2015 class, and the second linebacker, joining Julian Huff, from Bolingbrook, Ill.

Waters attended camp at TCF Bank Stadium this weekend, along with the Gophers' annual recruiting barbecue. On Saturday, the Gophers got commitments from Canadian running back Jonathan Femi-Cole and Michigan safety Ray Buford.

Waters, who also had offers from Nevada and Texas State, announced his decision on Twitter:

Gophers get commitments from Canadian running back and Michigan safety

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher recruiting Updated: July 19, 2014 - 10:23 PM

The Gophers knew this would be a key recruiting weekend, with a camp at TCF Bank Stadium followed by their annual barbecue, and Saturday they landed two three-star commitments.

Jonathan Femi-Cole, a running back from Vaughan, Ontario, and Ray Buford, a safety/wide receiver from South Field, Mich., committed while on campus.

Rivals.com ranks the 5-11, 218-pound Femi-Cole as the 47th best running back in the 2015 class. The Gophers recruited him while they were in Canada pursuing defensive lineman Julien Kafo, who signed in February and will be a freshman this fall.

Rivals.com ranks the 6-0, 190-pound Buford as the No. 43 athlete [position not determined] in the 2015 class. He had reported offers from Boston College and Western Michigan among others.

Gophers recruiting coordinator Billy Glasscock didn't mention names, but signaled the program's excitement Saturday night on Twitter:

The Gophers now have eight commitments for their 2015 class.

Gophers update: Pirsig could start, Campion could move to guard, but Limegrover not ruling out Foster Bush

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers preseason practice Updated: July 19, 2014 - 7:53 AM

The Gophers will begin practice two weeks from today feeling very good about their offensive line. Ed Olson has graduated, after splitting left-tackle duties with freshman All-American Ben Lauer, and right guard Caleb Bak had to retire because of concussion issues. But a ton of experience returns, along with some talented underclassmen.

Right now, here's my projection for the starting offensive line:

LT Ben Lauer 6-7, 315, 4 career starts

LG Zac Epping 6-2, 318, 34 career starts

C Tommy Olson 6-4, 306, 13 career starts

RG Josh Campion 6-5, 315, 26 career starts

RT Jonah Pirsig 6-9, 320, 0 career starts

Jonah Pirsig

Jonah Pirsig

Knee and wrist injuries have slowed Pirsig's development a bit, but even with a cast on his wrist during spring practice, the Blue Earth, Minn., native had clearly become a force. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover, who also coaches the offensive line, said in April that if Pirsig kept progressing, he could start at right tackle, with Campion moving to right guard.

Campion has started 26 consecutive games at right tackle, but there is an opening at right guard with Bak's retirement. Foster Bush [6-5, 304, 4 career starts] filled in admirably for Bak late last season, but there has been an assumption -- from outside the team anyway -- that Bush would be replaced this fall.

But in an interview this week, Limegrover kept several options open. Asked if Campion would be playing tackle or guard when practice begins Aug. 1, Limegrover said, "Yes."

"He’s been working at guard and working at tackle," Limegrover said. "Foster Bush has had a great offseason. This is the first extended period of time where he’s been healthy, been able to get in the weight room, and he’s more explosive than he’s ever been.

"And I think he’s no dummy. He’s looking around going, 'OK, this is my opportunity. I can either just be a guy or I can lay my claim.'

"[Campion] is at a point where, I don’t want to say he’s getting bored palying tackle because he can always get better. But he’s the kind of kid who loves the game. So if there’s additional time he can put in, he’s going to do it and get better at guard.

"You’ve got the young pup from Blue Earth [Pirsig], who’s hungry, who wants to do it. Jon Christenson [6-4, 298, 15 career starts] coming back [from his broken leg], doing a great job. I don’t know when he’ll be ready. I talked to him and said, 'You don’t have to be ready to win us a football game on Aug. 1. We’ll get you back there when you’re ready.' But he’s a smart kid, an experienced kid, a kid who’s worked his tail off. He’ll find a way to be a factor there.

"So a lot of those guys are doing a great job."

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