We had SB Nation Northern Illinois blogger Mike Breese from Red and Black Attack on the podcast back in September when the Gophers played- and lost- to the Huskies. Little did we know then that Husky HC Jerry Kill would become our new head coach. As someone who covered Kill for his three seasons at NIU, we asked Mike for his opinion on Kill, especially as a recruiter (since that seems to be the main concern among Gopher fans right now) and how he thinks he'll do at Minnesota. A huge thanks to Mike for doing this! Here are his thoughts...
Kill, first and foremost is a recruiter, that is his lifeblood. With limited resources, he's brought in a bunch of somewhat unheralded kids in here, got them in the weight room and turned things around. He's really not going to care at all what recruiting services like rivals think of his class or anything like that. He's not going to be on twitter or facebook. He's just going to recruit athletes and tell them straight up what the program is going to offer and where they stand.
That's the main focus when Kill recruits: Just get the best athletes (speed!) and coach them up. The strength and conditioning program has improved so much since 2007, it has been night and day with Eric Klein at the helm. We are essentially a Big 10 program at this point in terms of just getting guys hitting the weight room, as evidenced by pretty much destroying the Gophers this past season. The base of recruiting will be in the midwest, but he goes to the south for speed, especially in Florida. If you need any quick fixes, Kill has extremely strong ties with the lauded Kansas JUCO system.The first major difference that we saw when Kill came in was an improvement on the defensive side of things. Tracy Claeys is a tremendous coach on the defensive end. He installed a pretty aggressive defense built on speed that has caused a bunch of turnovers this season. He'll whip the guys into shape right away and get them working hard. One thing I noticed under Kill's tenure is that the team never gave up, even if the gameplan wasn't working or if they were far behind. This will be a team with heart under Coach Kill. The next thing either work well or be annoying is the amount of defensive substitution during a game. I know that he wants to keep players fresh all game, but sometimes you just need your best players out there and players can get confused.
On offense, it is going to be a mixed bag. Matt Limegrover is annoyingly conservative on the offensive side of things. I guarantee you there will be multiple times you will pull your hair out over ridiculous offensive gameplans. Things seemed to be turning around in this year three of the Kill regime, but we still failed to win the MAC Championship against Miami. Odd personnel decisions is another thing. The first couple years here, Kill made strange decisions with playing his own recruits over incumbent players that had better talent. Or how he made the decision to start our backup QB in the first game against Iowa State instead of Chandler Harnish, who became 1st Team All-MAC.
Overall, I think it is a good hire and Kill can be successful as coach of the Golden Gophers. I'm still trying to catch up on articles, but it feels like he's receiving an extreme amount of blowback. This is absurd to me. He's an extremely good recruiter, a developer of talent and a coach that's won everywhere he's coached.
I would expand on what I thought of the guy and how much the team has changed, but he was only here for three years! The seniors and redshirt juniors who led this team were still recruits from the previous regime. I'm optimistic as long as he hits the recruiting trail right away, which he will. Oh, and I wouldn't worry about his 'health concerns'. He's been cancer-free for a while now.