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 Gophers recruiting

Analysts view incoming recruit from Wisconsin as potential steal for Minnesota

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: February 5, 2013 - 8:50 AM

Who is the biggest sleeper in this year’s incoming recruiting class for the Gophers? The best guess here is Owen Salzwedel, a 6-6, 235-pound defensive end from Beaver Dam, Wis.

We’ll get a better picture during National Signing Day on Wednesday, but analysts sound intrigued about this three-star recruit.

“He was kind of an under-the-radar type guy,” said Josh Helmholdt, Midwest recruiting analyst for “I watched him on film, and he’s a big kid. We’ve got him listed at 6-6, 235, and he’ll certainly play heavier than that in college. He moves pretty well at that size. He could develop into a big-time player.”

Last week, I was doing some reporting on Keelon Brookins, the defensive back from Tartan who de-committed from Minnesota and went to Wisconsin, while overcoming ACL injuries to both knees.

Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network, mentioned that while the Gophers lost Brookins, they went into Wisconsin and lured a pretty good one in Salzwedel.

“He’s got real good potential,” Lemming said. “He’s tall and athletic, with quick footing. He’s going to get bigger and stronger, but he’s a very good athlete. So in the long run, he may be better than Brookins.”

Which U football recruit excites analysts the most?

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: February 4, 2013 - 3:42 PM

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 "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: 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.

Report: Washburn RB Jeff Jones selects Gophers, giving them a four-star recruit for 2014

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: February 2, 2013 - 3:05 PM

Some big news just in for the Gophers football team.

Jeff Jones, a four-star junior running back from Minneapolis Washburn, has become Minnesota's first verbal commitment for 2014, reported today.

Jones rushed 111 times for 1,002 yards (9.0 Avg.) last season and scored 12 touchdowns, including three receiving. According to, 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 said in a recent interview. "So he’s a guy who immediately jumps off the page at you.”

Freezing in February ... and loving it

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: February 1, 2013 - 11:02 AM

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.

Towering tight end picks Minnesota over Miami

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: January 31, 2013 - 4:23 PM

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

Nate Wozniak, a 6-10 tight end from Greenwood, Ind., has picked Minnesota over Miami (Fla.), his high school coach told this morning.

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, 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.



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