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.
Rodney Smith, a running back from Jonesboro (Ga.) Mundy High School, committed to the Gophers on Thursday night, becoming the 14th commitment in this year’s recruiting class for Minnesota.
The 5-11, 195-pound Smith is rated as a three-star recruit in the 247Sports.com composite rankings and rushed for 2,201 yards as a high school senior. He reportedly narrowed his choices to the Gophers and East Carolina University.
Smith announced his decision on Twitter (@Numerouno1_), saying “I am committed to the University of Minnesota! #SkiUMah.”
The Gophers are still waiting to find out for sure if Minneapolis Washburn running back Jeff Jones will sign his letter of intent after giving a verbal commitment last February. Jones canceled his official visit to Florida for this weekend, according to GopherIllustrated.com.
The Gophers would welcome the chance to sign both Smith and Jones in this year’s class.
I sat down with Minneapolis Washburn running back Jeff Jones and Washburn coach Giovan Jenkins today for story that will run in Sunday's paper. Here's where things stand with the four-star recruit who now ranks as the nation's No. 44 college prospect in the latest Rivals.com rankings:
* Jones made a verbal commitment to the Gophers last February but has kept his recruiting options open.
* Jones plans to announce his college choice on National Signing Day (Feb. 5) inside Washburn's gymnasium.
* He said his five finalists are Minnesota, Iowa State, Florida, Michigan and Tennessee. Michigan State had been on that list but the Spartans have two running back commitments and recently told Jones they won't be seeking more.
* Jones has made official visits to Minnesota and Iowa State. He will visit Florida on Friday and Michigan on Jan. 31. He won't be visiting Tennessee, but said the coaches have been working on him.
* Jones has yet to qualify academically for a Division-I scholarship, but he is very close. He is within a point of getting a qualifying ACT score and plans to retake the test on Feb. 8. Jenkins said Jones would have two more chances to take the test and qualify if it doesn't happen on this try.
I came away from the interview feeling pretty confident that Jones will wind up sticking with Minnesota.
The decision, he said, "is going to come down to the relationship with the coaches, and the trust we're able to build."
I asked Jenkins for his gut feeling, and he said: "I like his relationship that he has built up with Minnesota. They’ve done a great job. They were in on him first and early and often. They are well within their contact limits, and they do a good job making sure that Jeff knows where he stands with them and their staff.
"They’ve never left me guessing or him. And in terms of a relationship already built and established, it’s going to be very hard for anybody to come in in the 13th hour and make up the ground they’ve already made up in the two three years they’ve known the man."
For more on Jones, check out our Sunday editions.
Chanhassen offensive lineman Frank Ragnow, one of the most important recruits in this year's class for the Gophers, announced on Twitter (@Knarfwongar) today that he has narrowed his list of college choices to Minnesota, Florida State and Arkansas.
Signing day is Feb. 5.
Minneapolis Washburn running back Jeff Jones, a consensus four-star recruit who has made a verbal commitment to play for the Gophers, now has an official visit to Florida scheduled for Jan. 24, according to ESPN’s SEC recruiting reporter, Derek Tyson.
Jones gave his verbal commitment to the Gophers back in February but has since indicated that it’s a soft commitment, as he wanted to take other visits. Jones has made official visits to Minnesota and Iowa State and is expected to visit Michigan State. Tyson reported news of Jones’ pending visit to Florida on Twitter (@DerekTysonESPN).
Jones is in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., getting ready for the Under Armour All America Game (Thursday, 3 p.m., ESPN), and is making a strong impression in workouts. From ESPN’s, “On the Trail” blog:
RB Jeff Jones (Minneapolis, Minn./Washburn): As a late addition to the Under Armour Game, we were excited to have Jones join the roster. He has impressed with size, speed, strength and overall versatility. In fact he was so new that his practice jersey did not have a number on Day 1, but everyone and their brother was asking, "Who is that kid?" due to the fact that he stood out with his play. The Minnesota commit is unlike anything the Gophers have on offense right now and is a blend of power and speed inside and out.
The commitments keep coming for the Gophers football program.
After landing Alabama safety Khari Blasingame on Friday night, the Gophers received a verbal commitment Saturday from Cody Poock, a linebacker from Iowa Western Community College, who chose Minnesota over TCU.
Poock confirmed the news with a tweet (@codyallenpoock): "Just committed to the University of Minnesota. Ski-U-Mah."
Then, according to 247Sports.com, the Gophers received a verbal commitment from Luke Rasmussen, a 6-7 offensive tackle from Brookfield, Wis. Rasmussen, who scored a 33 on his ACT exam, had reported offers from Air Force, Harvard, Yale, Bowling Green and Ball State.
The Gophers now have 13 commitments for their 2014 class.
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