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.
A Gophers team with big questions at wide receiver lost one potential answer Monday, when Devin Crawford-Tufts quit the football team to focus on track.
Crawford-Tufts started eight games last season as a sophomore, catching 16 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown. He had the ability to stretch the field but battled injuries and struggled to find consistency.
He was a state champion sprinter at Edina High School, and after joining the Gophers track team last winter, he finished fourth at the Big Ten Championships in the 400 meter.
“Devin and I have met multiple times over the past couple of months,” Gophers coach Jerry Kill said in the press release. “… Devin is a fine young man. We wish him well and will be rooting for him.”
With preseason camp set to start Friday, the Gophers top returning receivers are Isaac Fruechte (19 catches, 256 yards last season), Derrick Engel (18, 375), KJ Maye (11, 49) and Andre McDonald (10, 121).
Jamal Harbison is back from knee surgery, and incoming freshmen Eric Carter, Drew Wolitarsky, Donovahn Jones and Chris Streveler could be factors at receiver, too.
In a blow to an already thin wide receiving group, the Gophers announced Monday that Devin Crawford-Tufts is sitting out the football season to focus on track and field. Here is the release from the team:
Devin Crawford-Tufts was a member of both the football and men’s track and field team at Minnesota during his sophomore year in 2012-13. For the upcoming 2013-14 academic year, Crawford-Tufts will participate only in track and field and will not be a member of the football team.
“Devin and I have met multiple times over the past couple of months, and he has decided to focus on track and field for the upcoming season,” said Minnesota coach Jerry Kill. “Devin is a fine young man. We wish him well and will be rooting for him.”
Crawford-Tufts made 24 catches for 345 yards in 21 career games for the Gophers. His lone touchdown reception came against Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl last season. Crawford-Tufts, who was a Minnesota state champion in the 100 and 200 meters in high school, joined the track and field team in February 2013. He went on to finish fourth at the Big Ten Championships in 60 meters.
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.
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