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.
Two days to national signing day, and we're gearing up here at the Strib.
Which player in this Gophers recruiting class excites the analysts the most? We've heard about QB Chris Streveler from Woodstock, Ill. We've heard about LB De'Niro Laster from Cleveland. And we've heard DE Owen Salzwedel from Beaver Dam, Wis., could be a sleeper.
But it's hard to look past RB Berkley Edwards from Chelsea, Mich. The brother of New York Jets WR Braylon Edwards and the son of former Houston Oilers RB Stan Edwards, Berkley Edwards is a 5-9 speedster.
"I’ve been around Berkley for a long time," said Josh Helmholdt, Midwest recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. "He has the work ethic. He’s a very humble, hard-working kid. He’s not one of these sons of former NFL players who think they’re entitled.
"On top of that, he’s got a number of tools, that make him physically elite. Number one is his speed. He’s one of the top sprinters in the state of Michigan on the track, and he’s also built like a running back. He’s a big solid kid. I think we have him at 5-9, 185, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s closer to 200."
Note: GopherIllustrated.com is reporting that the Gophers received a commitment from DB Daletavius McGhee, a two-star recruit from Ellenwood, Ga., who had been committed to Louisiana Tech. McGhee gives the Gophers 17 commitments for the 2013 class.
Some big news just in for the Gophers football team.
Jones rushed 111 times for 1,002 yards (9.0 Avg.) last season and scored 12 touchdowns, including three receiving. According to Rivals.com, he also has offers from Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State and Illinois.
“I think he’s a legitimate, high-BCS caliber running back,” Josh Helmholdt, the Midwest recruiting analyst for Rivals.com said in a recent interview. "So he’s a guy who immediately jumps off the page at you.”
Our baseball writers, La Velle Neal and Phil Miller, head to Fort Myers in a little more than a week. Will I miss it? Sure. The temperature difference alone is enough to make one pine for spring training.
But at the same time, I'm really digging the new beat. I feel like I'm at the Minnesota Daily again with so much to learn. I'll be the first to admit the recruiting stuff has left my head spinning at times, but I'm trying to keep Strib readers up to speed on the bigger developments.
We have a few things planned leading up to national signing day next Wednesday, and I'm anxious to see the entire Gophers class unveiled. The rankings aren't pretty, but there's more to it than that, and we'll work to give it all some context.
Meantime, I had a chance to write this feature story on the Gophers women's hockey team. Amanda Kessel, Noora Raty, Megan Bozek and Co., have won 34 consecutive games. My favorite stat: During that stretch, they've played 2,040 minutes -- and trailed for all of 27:45.
Minnesotans are used to seeing prolific hockey, but this might be the best women's team of all-time.
OK, it's back to football now. Super Bowl Sunday is almost here, and it's final decision time for some recruits. Enjoy the weekend, folks.
Thanks for your input on the Big Ten. I’m sure we’ll re-visit that topic several times in coming weeks, but right now, there is more Gophers recruiting news.
Photo courtesy of 247Sports
Ranked by the 247Composite as the nation’s No. 37 tight end, Wozniak becomes the 16th commit for Minnesota in the class-of-2013. He also held scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Indiana, Iowa State, Maryland and Purdue.
Ryan Burns, of GopherIllustrated.com, confirmed that Wozniak has committed to Minnesota over Miami, as well.
According to the Indianapolis Star, Wozniak had 20 receptions for 331 yards last season for Greenwood Center Grove High School. His coach was Eric Moore.
“It’s definitely a major get for Minnesota,” ESPN’s Midwest recruiting analyst Jared Shanker told me this morning. “For one thing, Miami was his number one school for several months. For Minnesota to swoop in and get him so late, from Miami, it’s definitely a major feather in the cap for Jerry Kill and his staff.”
At 6-10, Wozniak would be one of the biggest tight ends in college football history. (Corrected)
“Six-ten at any position on the field is very rare,” Shanker said. “Usually you’re talking offensive tackles, primarily, being 6-8, and that’s even kind of odd. But if he’s able to overcome that -- and based on his offer list, and the schools that wanted him, Wozniak is going to be OK height wise. I would have all the faith in them that his height won’t be a deterrent at all for whether he does play tight end or whether he does get moved to tackle down the line.”
In August, Wozniak told the Indianapolis Star, “I can understand why schools will see me as being a tackle, but I prefer to be a tight end.”
So the Gophers now have 16 commitments in this year’s class, including a 6-10 tight end, and a kicker who is 6-5, 270 pounds.
With eight days until national signing day, I caught up with CBS Sports Network's recruiting expert Tom Lemming today and got his thoughts. A sampling:
On QB Chris Streveler (Woodstock, Ill.)
"I watched him play this year," Lemming said. "He’s definitely a big-time quarterback with arm and running skills and could develop, just like last year when they brought in [Philip] Nelson."
On WR Drew Wolitarsky (Canyon Country, Calif.)
"He's not real fast, but he’s big and catches everything within reach," Lemming said. "We had him at a couple of our combines the last two years. I was impressed with him. He’s a red-zone type receiver who doesn’t drop passes."
On RB Berkley Edwards (Chelsea, Mich.)
"He's a small, compact and explosive running back," Lemming said. "All his strength is in his legs, and that’s what you want in a running back. He can run between the tackles effectively and has real good speed to cut it outside, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he [plays] next year."
On Minnesota's in-state talent
Lemming said it was the thinnest crop from within Minnesota's borders that he can remember.
"[Notre Dame recruit] James Onwualu is a very good player; after that, there’s a lot of question marks with everybody," he said. "Normally Minnesota’s better than Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana even. So this seems to be bad. I guess it’s cyclical, so maybe next year will be better."
On Wayzata LB Chris Wipson being the Gophers' only in-state scholarship commit
"Jerry Kill’s a very good recruiter," Lemming said. "That’s why Northern Illinois did so well this year; all those guys were his starters. And I think he knows where to get talent. If it’s not in Minnesota -- I know he’ll go there first, but the fact is, if it’s not Minnesota, it’s Illinois or Florida or something.
"The key is to go to the best talent, and if you win, nobody’s going to care. The only time they care is if you’re losing, and you’re not getting the top players in the state."
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