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.
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Some quick notes from tonight's practice:
* Rodrick Williams (turf toe) and Derrick Wells (injured shoulder) both participated in Wednesday's practice. Acting head coach Tracy Claeys said their availability for Saturday's game will be determined later in the week.
* Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said the team won't pick a starting quarterback between Mitch Leidner and Philip Nelson until after Thursday's practice.
"The big thing is Mitch started the last two weeks, but Philip knew he was going to play, and Philip came in and took great advantage of the reps he got," Limegrover said. "So we may flip it, we may keep it exactly the same.
"I think everybody in the entire greater Twin Cities metropolitan area cares more about our starting quarterback than me and Coach [Jerry] Kill and [quarterbacks coach Jim Zerbrowski. We’ve got two good ones, and I think it’s unfair to say we’re going to go with one guy the whole way. We like them both."
* Kill was at practice and took questions from reporters again. He looked and sounded great. He plans to coach from the coaching booth again Saturday at Indiana.
"The bottom line is we’ve won back-to-back games, and I’m smart enough to know, let’s not upset the apple cart," he said. "Let’s keep doing what we’re doing and we’ll be fine.
"It’s great for me because I get to be around kids more, and I’m doing a heck of a lot of recruiting. When I get done here, I’ve got about five or six calls tonight. Because that’s the biggest thing; we’ve got to let the recruits know I’m alright.
"But that’s been great. Through all the adversity, we’re moving forward. And sometimes adversity determines what kind of person you are, and what kind of people you have. And we’ve got a long way to go, there’s no question about that, but we’re on the right track."
Gophers acting head coach Tracy Claeys said Sunday that the team came out of Saturday's 34-23 victory over Nebraska relatively healthy. But one lingering concern from last week is running back Rodrick Williams.
Williams has a sprained big toe on his right foot. He was in a walking boot Saturday.
"He wasn’t running around very good on Thursday, so we put him on ice," Claeys said. "It was a lot worse than what we first thought it was."
Claeys didn't rule out Williams for next week's game at Indiana, saying the team will see how he's feeling Tuesday.
David Cobb has been thriving at running back for the Gophers, and Donnell Kirkwood has returned from his sprained ankle injury. But besides Williams, the Gophers also have Cole Banham injured, and they don't want to burn a redshirt for Berkley Edwards.
Claeys said James Gillum gives the Gophers a third running back they can use in addition to Cobb and Kirkwood. Still, this is a position where the team can't afford another injury in coming week.
The Gophers released this week’s depth chart and injury report Thursday night without naming a starting quarterback for the Nebraska game, listing the choice as Mitch Leidner or Philip Nelson.
Acting head coach Tracy Claeys had hoped to name a starter by Tuesday, but changed his mind when he found out Leidner was sick. Leidner took some antibiotics and was able to practice this week, but the Gophers still chose not to name a starter.
Claeys has said no matter who starts, both quarterbacks will play with the backup getting some snaps in the first half. Claeys said he likes to do this so the backup doesn’t have to come in cold if he’s needed later in the game.
That was the plan going into the Northwestern game, when Leidner started and Nelson came on in relief. Nelson wound up having more success moving the offense.
The Gophers listed running back Rodrick Williams as questionable with a foot injury.
The new depth chart also reflects the changes in the secondary from last week’s game at Northwestern. Brock Vereen and Eric Murray are listed as the starting cornerbacks, and Antonio Johnson and Damarius Travis are listed as the starting safeties.
Cornerback Derrick Wells and safety Cedric Thompson have been dealing with injuries and won’t start against Nebraska.
Jerry Kill was back at Gophers football practice today. He's still on leave to treat his epilepsy but is gradually working his way back in.
"It's good being an assistant coach," Kill said on his way off the field.
* Running back Rodrick Williams suffered a foot injury this week and didn't practice today.
* Mitch Leidner, who was sick earlier in the week, practiced fully today. Acting head coach Tracy Claeys said no decision has been made over who will start at quarterback between Leidner and Philip Nelson.
Gophers acting head coach Tracy Claeys met with the team's beat writers this morning. A few highlights:
* Claeys said Jerry Kill is making good progress but isn't yet ready to return from his leave of absence. Claeys guessed that Kill would watch next Saturday's game against Nebraska from the coaching box, and that Kill might even want to stop by to watch practice this week if he's feeling up to it.
Those would be considered steps in his progression toward returning full-time.
"In my opinion," Claeys said, "I don’t anticipate it'll be all of a sudden, wham, he’s back going full speed. There’ll be a build up to it, and when the time’s right, he’ll be ready to go."
* Claeys didn't name a starting quarterback for the Nebraska game, but said he expects the offensive staff to evaluate that so a decision can be made by Tuesday. Claeys said whether it's Philip Nelson or Mitch Leidner, the non-starter will still see time in the first half, just as the plan went against Northwestern.
"The one thing I can tell you we’re not going to do, we’re not going to get into alternating series," Claeys said. "I just don’t believe in that. I think you play the guy who gives you the best opportunity to win."
* Claeys said the team came out of Saturday's game relatively healthy. Return man Marcus Jones is dealing with an ankle injury, and left tackle Ben Lauer (corrected) has a shoulder issue, but those were the only new injuries of note.
* Rodrick Williams played on special teams but not at tailback.
"Rodrick has got to grow up a little bit off the field," Claeys said. "He’s a good football player, and we need him, but the principles are in place that we’ve set since we’ve been here. He had a little bit of a rough week off the field on things he was asked to do. So as soon as he takes care of those issues we’ll make sure we get him back in there."
* Claeys was asked about the team's approach to its final possession before the first half against Northwestern. After taking over at midfield, the Gophers were cautious, running the ball before a Nelson pass put them in field goal range. Chris Hawthorne missed a 44-yarder as time expired.
"I told the offensive guys, 'Hey, be careful with the football here ... because we haven’t finished right before the half very well defensively the last few weeks. And going into halftime tied 7-7 on the road -- there’s no shame in that. And we felt like momentum had turned our way in the second quarter, and I didn’t want to do anything to give that back to them."
Claeys noted that the Gophers gave up a late second-quarter touchdown to fall behind at Michigan, and saw Michigan take the ball for another touchdown to open the third quarter in an eventual 42-13 defeat.
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