Kill a more humble Gopher coachMINNEAPOLIS — In his seven months as a University of Minnesota employee, Jerry Kill has yet to utter these words: Rose Bowl, Gopher Nation, Texas and USC.
By: Kevin Schnepf, Forum Communications Co.
MINNEAPOLIS — In his seven months as a University of Minnesota employee, Jerry Kill has yet to utter these words: Rose Bowl, Gopher Nation, Texas and USC.
No, the new Gopher football coach is taking a much more humble approach than his predecessor Tim Brewster — who guaranteed a Rose Bowl trip and crowed about scheduling heavyweights such as Texas and USC.
After four seasons, Brewster left Gopher Nation with a 15-30 record and only six wins in the Big Ten Conference. So much for that trip to Pasadena. Exit Brewster, the slick car salesman lookalike who drove off into the sunset with a $600,000 buyout.
Enter Kill, whose appearance and message are about as polar opposite as the Gopher and Ohio State football programs.
Kill, who looks more like the character Homer Stokes from the movie ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou,’ has a folksy appeal accentuated by his Kansas drawl.
Instead of promising a trip to the Rose Bowl, Kill told reporters earlier this week that things won’t turn around in one year. Instead of boasting about bringing in top recruits, Kill is talking about instilling a discipline that hasn’t been present in recent years.
“I know what we’ve asked them to do is different than what they have in the past,” Kill said. “Are they truly wanting to change the culture. I think we will get our answer during two-a-day practices this fall.”
And instead of overlooking opponents like North Dakota State, Kill is well aware how a David can knock off a Goliath — like the Bison did against Brewster’s boys in 2007 with a 27-21 upset.
Kill, after all, made a name for himself at NDSU’s level of play — where he led Southern Illinois to five winning seasons. Kill’s Gophers host NDSU Sept. 24.
“Those games are the toughest ones to prepare for out of anybody,” Kill said. “If our players can’t get up for a Michigan or Wisconsin, then they’ve got a problem. The big key to coaching is you’ve got to get your kids to play well every week.
“Believe me, there is no game on our schedule that you can feel good about. There is not one. We’ve got to understand that and we’ve got to make sure our players understand that.”
It was just last year when Kill’s Northern Illinois team escaped with a 23-17 home win over North Dakota. Kill was hospitalized for dehydration hours after that game.
“Against North Dakota, we probably should’ve got beat,” said Kill, who compiled a 23-16 record in his three seasons at Northern Illinois. “When you are a IAA school, you are highly motivated. That’s your shot.”
Now Kill, equipped with a $1.1 million salary, a new weight room, new practice-field turf and a three-year-old TCF Bank Stadium, will get his shot in big-time college football.
It won’t be easy — especially now that Nebraska has joined the Big Ten.
It won’t be easy — with Kill realizing, after watching his first morning workouts, that Gopher Nation needs more speed.
“And some guys who could make some plays,” said Kill, who was quick to point out that the football team’s grade point average has improved to 2.87. “That’s tremendously better than what it was.”
Kill has also got to be hoping his players’ desire is tremendously better than it was under Brewster. Instead of talking Rose Bowl, Kill is saying things you never heard from Brewster. Like this:
“We’ve got to come to work every day. We’ve got to push every kid we’ve got. And they have to accept what we’re going to do. And if they don’t and they depart, I can’t worry about that.
“I’ve got to worry about the ones who want to be here, sink their feet in, go through some tough times and build a program the way we want to do it.”
Almost sounds like Homer Stokes running for governor. Oh brother, where art thou promises Brewster made?
Schnepf is the sports editor for the Forum of Fargo-
Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.