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.
Gophers wide receiver Victor Keise has voluntarily dismissed his claims against the NCAA, as part of Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit, according to AL.com, which received a copy of the court filing today. No reason was given for Keise's decision.
Gophers tight end Moses Alipate remains part of O'Bannon's lawsuit, along with four other active college players, but now Keise has been taken off that list. The players are challenging the NCAA's right to use their likenesses in video games.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill held a press conference today, previewing fall camp, which starts Friday. I'll have more for tonight's first editions, but here are a few notables:
* Offensive tackle Jonah Pirsig (knee surgery) is the biggest remaining question mark health-wise, heading into camp. Kill said Pirsig might have to work some individual drills before he'll be ready to go at full speed.
* Defensive lineman Roland Johnson (ACL surgery) will be ready to go. Kill noted that players coming off that surgery sometimes take a while to get used to contact, but Johnson has progressed quickly.
* Freshman linebacker Chris Wipson (ACL surgery), also will be ready to go.
* Redshirt freshman Jack Lynn and junior college transfer Damien Wilson will continue to battle for the starting middle linebacker job. "I thought Damien and Jack Lynn were neck-and-neck for the spring," Kill said. "I think they both did some good things."
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.
It's too soon to know what impact incoming Gophers freshman Berkley Edwards will have this season, but the running back has impressed his new teammates with his speed in summer workouts.
"He’s a tough guy, too," junior running back Donnell Kirkwood said. "He doesn't mind going between the tackles. He might bust a dive for 80 yards. He’s going to be somebody to watch."
Gophers coach Jerry Kill doesn't want to overhype anybody, especially a player who just arrived on campus. But with preseason camp set to open Friday, there's no doubt the coaching staff is excited to see how Edwards' speed compliments the between-the-tackles toughness that Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams have shown.
"It’s hard for me to talk too much about a freshman until I’ve gotten a chance to work with him," Kill said, mentioning junior David Cobb as a player who shouldn't be forgotten. "Going back to Berkley, we hope from what we saw in high school, that he can he pick up the system all that stuff early. If you can have a guy like that, with a mixture of the big, strong [running backs] we have, that's a good thing to have. I don’t think there’s any question about that."
The Gophers were banged up on the offensive line last November, when their offense grounded to a halt against Nebraska and Michigan State. The line got healthier for the bowl game, and the results showed against Texas Tech.
With this week's news that the Gophers will be without centers Zach Mottla and Brian Bobek, it might sound dicey again, but Coach Jerry Kill is actually encouraged with the depth heading into preseason camp.
"I guess the best example I can give is left tackle," Kill said during Big Ten Media Days. "Ed Olson is returning from [ankle] surgery and everything I hear, he’s doing real well. Ed’s 6-7, about 310-315 [pounds]. But right behind him, a guy who thinks he ought to be the starter, is Ben Lauer, who’s a redshirt freshman."
Lauer is listed on the roster at 6-6, 302, but he's at least an inch taller than that, maybe two.
"Marek Lenkiewicz, who’s ahead of Ben, or they’re all about the same -- he’s 6-6, 290, and he thinks he ought to be starting left tackle," Kill said. "So we have three left tackles, and last year we had one. So I think going into camp and actually being able to take 15 linemen to camp, or 17, will be the first time since I’ve been there.
"We’ve got more depth, and I think we’re stronger physically. We’re trying to get back to where [Glen] Mason was back when [Marion] Barber and all those guys were playing. Those were prolific offenses, and we’re trying to get back to that.
"Our tight ends are big, even our freshmen are 255, 265, 270 [pounds], so we’re trying to get back to being more like that from an offensive side of the ball."
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