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.
Veteran recruiting analyst Tom Lemming honored Jerry Kill with National Coach of the Year honors last week on CBS Sports Network. Lemming also recognized Gophers recruiting director Billy Glasscock as one of five national directors of operations of the year.
Lemming told me today that Urban Meyer and Nick Saban have been repeated winners of his National Coach of the Year award, and he wanted to recognize Kill. Jimbo Fisher was another finalist.
"I take everything into account, how you built it up from scratch," Lemming said. "[Minnesota] was down in the dumps for a long time, and [Kill's] doing it the right way, evaluating and developing the top prospects.
"It’s a lot easier to build up Ohio State or Alabama or Florida State -- the other three finalists in our coach of the year thing. I just thought he made more of an impact than they did at their schools and actually made a bigger jump than they did."
Lemming had good things to say about several of the recruits in Minnesota's 2015 class. A sampling:
QB Demry Croft: "Nobody knows about him. I’m only an hour away from [Rockford, Ill.], so I go up there and I’ve seen him. I love the kid. He’s got great potential. He’s that good. He could be a big, big time guy. He could be the guy that could lead them to a Big Ten championship someday."
DB Antonio Shenault: "He's another big-time, four-star kid out of Chicago. Legit cover corner. He’s got terrific all-around ability."
OL Quinn Oseland: "He has an excellent offensive line coach at Sacred Heart-Griffin [in Springfield, Ill.] State champs again this year. Quinn Oseland has potential to be an All-American at Minnesota."
Melvin Rice played for Jerry Kill at Northern Illinois and joined the coaching staff there in 2010 as a graduate assistant. He came to Minnesota with the staff in 2011, working tirelessly behind the scenes for the past four years as the team's defensive quality control assistant.
Now, Rice is moving on to become the cornerbacks coach at Southeast Missouri State. Gophers defensive coach Jay Sawvel made the announcement on Twitter:
Good luck to one of my favorites @coachMRice the new Corners coach at Southeast Missouri - very proud to have coached and worked with him— Jay Sawvel (@JaySawvel) January 15, 2015
ORLANDO -- Gophers coach Jerry Kill met the media Wednesday and sounded confident about his team's preparation for Thursday's Citrus Bowl against Missouri.
"I really feel good about our players," Kill said. "I mean they have practiced very hard. We’ve had excellent practices. Yesterday, we were very sharp. So we feel good going in. Now that doesn’t guarantee you anything, but it’s a lot different than it was a year ago [at the Texas Bowl], I can tell you that.
"The kids bounced around a little bit. I think they’ve had a good time, but when we work, it’s different. So I’m excited about watching them play. As a coaching staff, we feel very comfortable. We’ve got a good plan, we’ve just got to go execute it. So we’ll see."
One injury note: Kill said offensive tackle Ben Lauer won't play. Lauer had mono this month and returned to practice this week but isn't ready to play a game. Jonah Pirsig will make his fifth consecutive start at right tackle, and not having Lauer will test the Gophers' depth.
Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys doesn't mind confidence. He knows good teams thrive on it. But he didn't seem happy that linebacker De'Vondre Campbell predicted the Gophers would face Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.
After Saturday's 31-24 loss to Ohio State, Campbell said, “I think we have a great chance to beat Nebraska and Wisconsin. We’ve just got to get back to the lab, correct our mistakes from today, and I think we’ll be fine. We’re not too worried about it. We’ll see [Ohio State] again in three weeks.”
On Tuesday, Claeys said, "Maybe at one time that was acceptable around here, but it's not. So they better be ready to play [Saturday at Nebraska], or we'll lose again. It's hard to win on the road. I like the confidence of the kids, but you've got to play them one at a time. Already been in trouble once trying to look ahead so hopefully they learned from that."
That last sentence was a reference to the 28-24 loss at Illinois on Oct. 25.
David Cobb still ranks third in the nation with 25.2 rushes per game, but the Gophers lightened his load in last week’s win over Iowa, giving him 16 carries for 74 yards. And the week before that, Minnesota had a bye.
“I was just telling my running backs coach I feel as good as I did at the start of the season,” said Cobb, who ranks ninth in the nation with 133.9 yards per game.
Cobb made an impact even when he wasn’t carrying the ball against Iowa. Coach Jerry Kill was thrilled with Cobb’s blocking, which helped give Mitch Leidner more time to pass and helped open holes for KJ Maye on the jet sweep. Blocking well will only help raise Cobb’s NFL Draft stock.
“They all know he can run, and if he blocks well, he’ll make a lot of money,” Kill said. “So I think a good back does that, and it is unselfish. But if you want to have all the goals that he has in life, he knows he’s got to be able to block.”
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