The Gophers football team added a specialist to its 2021 roster, a walk-on transfer.

Daniel Sparks finished his true freshman season at Louisiana-Monroe, where he handled kickoffs and punts. His 33 kickoffs went an average of about 53 yards, while his 30 punts averaged about 45 yards, including five of more than 50 yards. His longest was 63 yards.

The 6-6 Alabama native joins a Gophers team that has struggled on special teams. Presumed COVID-19 absences sidelined several kickers and punters to start the 2020 season, forcing pooch and squib kicks from the still-injured default starter, Brock Walker. The unit improved toward the end of the season when 26-year-old freshman Mark Crawford of Australia seemed to find his comfort zone, but his longest punt was still only 48 yards.

Megan Ryan

U volleyball ranked No. 7

The Gophers are ranked No. 7 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association preseason poll released Tuesday.

Six Big Ten teams are ranked in the Top 25. The others, with the dates Minnesota plays them, are No. 1 Wisconsin (March 17 and 21), No. 5 Nebraska (Feb. 19 and 21), No. 9 Penn State (Feb. 13-14), No. 13 Purdue (Feb. 5-6), and No. 24 Michigan (Feb. 26-27).

The 2019 Gophers advanced to Final Four, finishing with a 27-6 record and 17-3 in conference play. The Gophers, who return four starters, open the season with a pair of home contests against Michigan State on Jan. 23 and 24.

Cobbers pick golf coach

Chris Howe, an assistant for Concordia (Moorhead) men's golf for 10 years, was named head coach. He replaces Joe Christianson, who will stay with the program as director of golf operations.