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.

Posts about Gopher quarterbacks

Philip Nelson keen on Rutgers but also is considering Kansas State

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: January 27, 2014 - 4:27 PM

Former Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson enjoyed his official visit to Rutgers but also is considering Kansas State, his father Pat Nelson said in an e-mail.

Pat Nelson wrote: "Visit [to Rutgers] went very well. Philip very impressed. Kansas State now interested and talking with them."

Philip Nelson announced he was transferring from the Gophers two weeks ago. He'll be able to sit out a year, under NCAA transfer rules, and still have two years of eligibility remaining because he has yet to use his redshirt.

This would be true even if he picks Rutgers because the Scarlet Knights don't enter the Big Ten until July 1.

Nelson set to visit Rutgers; linebacker commits to Gophers; DB flips to Vanderbilt

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: January 25, 2014 - 8:59 PM

Former Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson has an offer from Rutgers and will make an official visit there Sunday, his father Pat Nelson said in an e-mail Saturday night.

Rutgers will be joining the Big Ten this season, but they aren't scheduled to play the Gophers until 2016.

Philip Nelson, who announced he was transferring from Minnesota last week, has been working out in Arizona with Terry Shea, the former Rutgers coach. Shea also has given quarterback instruction to the likes of Robert Griffin III, Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford.

Recruiting update

* Khari Blasingame, a safety from New Market, Alabama, flipped his commitment from Minnesota to Vanderbilt on Saturday night.

* But the Gophers added a verbal commitment from Jonathan Celestin, a linebacker from Jonesboro (Ga.) Mundy Mill High School. That's the same school running back Rodney Smith attends, and he just committed to the Gophers this week.

Gophers QB Philip Nelson announces that he's transferring

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: January 16, 2014 - 5:48 PM

Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson has decided to transfer, his father Pat Nelson confirmed to the Star Tribune.

In a statement, Philip Nelson said, "I want to thank Coach Kill for the opportunity to play football at the University of Minnesota. I have the utmost respect for Coach Kill and what he's done for this program. I also want to reach out to all the great Minnesota fans that supported the football program and say thank you. Your effort makes a difference.

"For me, I am looking  to play in a system that centers more around the pass game which utilizes my skill sets. I am excited to go out and meet with programs that match up with my talents."

Nelson met with Gophers coach Jerry Kill on Wednesday, and it was an amicable parting according to Nelson’s father.

Pat Nelson said Kill offered to use his contacts to help the quarterback find the best landing spot possible. Nelson hopes to enroll somewhere quickly so he’s eligible to play in spring football.

He hasn’t used his redshirt season yet, so he’ll have three years to use his two remaining years of eligibility.

Pat Nelson said his son is open to transferring anywhere outside of the Big Ten. If he stayed within the conference, he would lose a year of eligibility.

As for the reasons for the transfer, Pat Nelson said it really came down to looking for a more pass-heavy offense.

“I hope there isn’t going to be a perception that this is about the quarterback competition,” Pat Nelson said. “The people who have the best relationship on the team are Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner.”

Nelson played in just three series in the bowl game loss to Syracuse. Asked if frustration over that led to the decision, Pat Nelson said, “This whole entire conversation started a long time ago. The bowl game had nothing to do with it.”

Kill released a statement on Twitter (@GopherFootball), saying, "Philip is a terrific young man. I wish him all the best as he continues his education and football career elsewhere. I want to thank Philip for the contributions he made to our football program both on and off the field. And I will do anything I can to help him both now and in the future.”

Come back to startribune.com later for more on this story.

On radio, Kill says Maxx Williams won't require knee surgery and tiptoes around QB question

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: December 29, 2013 - 10:12 AM

The Gophers were holding their breath after tight end Maxx Williams suffered a knee injury in the final minute of Friday's loss to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl.

Williams limped to the bus after the game, and the team feared the worst. But Coach Jerry Kill said Sunday on his weekly WCCO (AM-830) appearance that Williams' injury won't require surgery.

"We certainly didn't want to lose that kid during [spring practice]," Kill told Sid Hartman and Dave Mona. "We found out it's not great but not as bad as it was. It won't require surgery. So that started my new year right. We're excited that it wasn't as bad as we thought originally."

Little clarity on quarterback competition

The Texas Bowl appeared to throw the quarterback competition wide open for next season between Philip Nelson, Mitch Leidner and, perhaps, Chris Streveler, who redshirted this season. Kill tiptoed around that question on Sunday, however.

"It’s one of those things that I’m not really going to say a whole lot about," Kill said. "All that will work out. … I think time will take care of all that, and we’ve got a lot of things that we need to work on. We went through those things [at Northern Illinois] with Chandler [Harnish] and Jordan [Lynch]. And Chandler, a kid that played for me at Northern had been through some times, and we had to do different things his first year as a sophomore and so forth ... so it all works out."

Halftime: Syracuse leads Gophers 7-3; Kill returns to sideline for second half

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: December 27, 2013 - 6:56 PM

HOUSTON -- Playing their first game in 27 days, the Gophers showed serious signs of rust in the first half of their Texas Bowl matchup against Syracuse on Friday and went to the locker room trailing 7-3.

Minnesota has now played 12 consecutive quarters without an offensive touchdown.

With only a few thousand fans on hand at 71,000-seat Reliant Stadium, the Gophers tried two quarterbacks but could get nothing going offensively.

Philip Nelson started the game and played the first two series – a three-and-out, followed by a fumble by Isaac Fruechte.

Mitch Leidner took over for the third series and finished the half. It might have been injury related for Nelson, as Leidner had some shaky moments of his own. Nelson loosened up on the sidelines but didn’t return.

Syracuse went on an 11-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run from Jerome Smith for a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Chris Hawthorne trimmed the lead to 7-3 with a 41-yard field goal at the end of the half.

Update: Jerry Kill returned to the sideline for the start of the second half. Tracy Claeys remained on the sideline, too.

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