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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Junior-college transfer Malcolm Moulton has earned a spot in the Gophers' starting lineup for Saturday's season opener at Southern California, coach Jerry Kill revealed Monday night in his first two-deep roster of the year.
Moulton, who enrolled this summer after a season at Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College, is listed as the No. 1 receiver at both the "Z" outside position and "V" slot position, in both cases backed up by true freshman Marcus Jones. Senior Da'Jon McKnight will start at the "X" receiver, with sophomore Victor Keise behind him.
Among other notable lineup decisions, freshman David Cobb, impressive through several practices early in camp, is not among the tailbacks on Kill's two-deep. Senior Duane Bennett is the starter, and redshirt freshmen Lamonte Edwards and Donnell Kirkwood, in that order, are behind him.
MarQueis Gray is listed as the Gophers' starting quarterback, the first time since 2006 that Adam Weber will not fill that role. Freshman Max Shortell is behind Gray.
The only to-be-determined starting position is at center, where the Gophers list Ryan Wynn or Zach Mottla as the starter; Wynn has been bothered by a sprained ankle for two weeks.
Two redshirt freshman will start for Minnesota on Saturday: Jimmy Gjere at right tackle, and Ben Perry at defensive end.
One other wrinkle: Eric Lair is listed at "H-Back/Fullback," which means he won't always line up at a typical tight-end spot on the offensive line, and will mostly see action in a two-tight end alignment. At "Y" receiver, a more traditional tight-end position, senior Collin McGarry is the starter. As if to emphasize their intention to use multiple lineups, the Gophers list 12 starting positions on offense.
The Gophers' starting lineup, as of Monday:
Offense -- LT Ed Olson, LG Chris Bunders, C Ryan Wynn or Zach Mottla, RG Ryan Orton, RT Jimmy Gjere, QB MarQueis Gray, TB Duane Bennett, H-Back Eric Lair, Y Collin McGarry, X Da'Jon McKnight, Z and V Malcolm Moulton.
Defense -- DE Ben Perry, DT Anthony Jacobs, NT Brandon Kirksey, DE D.L. Wilhite, OLB Mike Rallis, MLB Gary Tinsley, OLB Keanon Cooper, CB Brock Vereen, CB Troy Stoudermire, S Shady Salamon, S Kim Royston.
Specialists -- PK Chris Hawthorne, P Dan Orseske, LS Jake Filkins.
The recruitment of Malcolm Moulton to the Gophers' wide-receiving corps was months in the making, Jerry Kill said this week, a process that began almost immediately after the new coach's initial evaluation of his team in January.
"I knew once I got here and saw the morning workouts that we didn't have a lot of speed and guys who can make some plays," Kill said. "We certainly hope [Moulton] can establish some things. He can run. Hopefully he can adapt to our system."
Moulton was added to the Gophers' roster earlier this month after transferring from Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College. The Georgia native caught 44 passes for 714 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman last season.
-- Josh Tauaefa, a defensive tackle from Corinth, Texas, has been granted his release by the Gophers, the university confirmed Thursday. The 280-pound Tauaefa, who sat out a redshirt season last fall as a freshman, is the third player to leave the program this month, following running back DeLeon Eskridge and tight end Tiree Eure.
DeLeon Eskridge, Minnesota's leading rusher last season, will not return to the Gophers for his senior season.
The 21-year-old running back, who gained 698 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground last season, both tops on the Gophers, has been granted a release from his scholarship, the university announced Friday. Eskridge asked for his release in order to deal with a family situation and intends to transfer to a school closer to his San Francisco home.
"He and I both felt it was in his best interest to make this decision," coach Jerry Kill said.
In addition to Eskridge's departure, the Gophers announced that backup tight end Tiree Eure will also leave the team, and that two new recruits -- wide receiver Malcolm Moulton from Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College, and quarterback Dexter Foreman of Manvel (Texas) High, have been added for this fall's squad.
Eskridge's departure leaves the Gophers' backfield with one other senior, Duane Bennett, who shared the position with Eskridge last season and gained 529 yards and three touchdowns.
In addition, Minnesota has three redshirt freshmen at the position: Donnell Kirkwood, who gained 107 yards in four games before a leg injury ended his season; LaMonte Edwards, from Woodbury High; and Devon Wright, a Floridan who intends to regain his academic eligibility by fall camp.
With that depth, plus the running ability of quarterback MarQueis Gray, should allow the Gophers to absorb the loss of Eskridge, who finishes his Minnesota career with 1,706 yards in 451 carries over three seasons, an average of 3.78 yards per carry, and 46.1 yards per game. Eskridge, who also led the Gophers in rushing in 2008 as a freshman, scored 17 career touchdowns.
Eure, a senior who transferred from Lackawanna College and served as backup to Eric Lair at tight end, caught three passes for 47 yards and a touchdown in his lone season with the Gophers. No reason was given for his departure. "Things just didn't work out for Tiree," Kill said.
Foreman and especially Moulton will add depth to positions that need it, according to Kill. "After spring ball, we felt we had an issue with depth at the receiver position," the coach said, so he used his Kansas juco connections to recruit Moulton. The Gwinnett, Ga., native caught 44 passes for 714 yards and five touchdowns at Fort Scott last season, and will have three seasons of eligibility with the Gophers.
Foreman passed for more than 3,000 career yards and 30 touchdowns at Manvel High, and last season rushed for 402 yards as well. He completed 90 of 142 passes as a senior, with 10 touchdowns, five interceptions and 1,198 yards.
"We'd like to create some more competition at quarterback," Kill said.
The Gophers' receiving corps, already thin because MarQueis Gray is moving to quarterback next season, officially became even thinner on Tuesday when Bryant Allen transferred to Illinois State.
Allen caught 16 passes last season, and scored an 11-yard touchdown in Tim Brewster's last game, a 28-17 loss at Purdue. He was Minnesota's fifth-leading receiver, and his departure, along with Gray's position change, means that Da'Jon McKnight is the only returning receiver who caught more than one pass last season.
By transferring to a FCS team, Allen will not have to sit out a season.
"Bryant was someone I had my eye on when I first took over the program," Redbirds coach Brock Spack said in a statement released by Illinois State. "He's a real dynamic athlete and a potential next-level kick and punt returner."
Allen, who played nine games for the Gophers' basketball team last season, intends to play both sports for ISU, too, and has already begun working out with the Redbirds.
Troy Stoudermire has been restored to the Gophers' roster, but he's not a wide receiver anymore.
Tim Brewster announced at his weekly press conference that Stoudermire, apologetic about a Facebook posting that declared his intention to quit the team, is back in uniform after a one-game suspension.
But the junior wideout, who had six catches, including a 49-yard touchdown reception, in the Gophers' first three games, has switched back to cornerback, his original position in Minnesota. According to secondary coach Ronnie Lee, "he wanted to be back there, so we welcomed him. We can use him." Stoudermire practiced for the first time at his new/old position on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Stoudermire took to the forum he made headlines with last week -- his Facebook page -- to repair the damage of his "I'm no longer a Gopher" post. The junior's current Facebook post reads, "I apologize for my actions to my teammates, fans and coaches. I deeply regret letting my emotions get the best of me. I handled this situation incorrectly and realize the consequences of my actions. We are all here for one overall goal and that is to win championships. I hope we can move on from this and I will do anything to help my team win. I am proud to be a Gopher and let's go beat Northwestern!"
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