I don't know about you, but I can't get enough Jerry Kill. Just can't. Could listen to the man talk about Gopher football all day. I mean really- do you EVER remember feeling this way about Brewster? Ever? I wasn't much of a fan from the beginning, so I'm sure there were some who bought into the Rose Bowl talk right away. Contrast that with Kill, who not only hasn't uttered the phrase "Rose Bowl", but I'm not sure he's even used the words "rose" or "bowl" in any context in an interview or when public speaking. He's been honest, frank, and have kept the expectations low- or perhaps better word is reasonable- and yet I haven't been more excited about a football season in a long time. And I haven't felt this confident about the head coach of Gopher football since...well I haven't.
I know I know I know, he hasn't coached a game yet. This season could be filled with losses like last year. But we're in good hands here:
"Again, we're trying to build a program on concrete, not sand, so we're going to try to do it the right way I've been doing it and the way our coaching staff's been doing it for a long time. Not everything's going to be perfect the first year. It's just not going to work that way."
That was Coach Kill talking to E!SPN.com's Adam Rittenberg. And that's really all you need to know about the man in charge and the expectations for this program. But of course we want more, and while we've seen and heard a LOT of interviews with Coach Kill, this one is poignant and hits on some good topics. A review of their Q&A after the jump...
Let's start with what's always the most scrutinized position on the team- the quarterback. He talks about MarQueis Gray's development thus far:
He's still going through the learning process, and he will for a while...There's learning going on every game, and it's certainly different from spring ball to two-a-day camp because we're getting closer to game day, and there's a lot more to do at that position. But he's working his tail end off to do something that's pretty darn near impossible, to go from a wide receiver to a quarterback.
That's the biggest takeaway for me- Q just hasn't had many reps as a quarterback since he left high school, which was all the way back in 2008!!! Tom Parish went from high school straight to the U, and even though he redshirted, he still got his practice reps at QB. Max Shortell, had a ton of game and practice reps in high school, and now this fall. He's also a more polished pocket passer, whereas Q ran some form of the spread option in high school. Q missed the 2008 season because of academics, played and practiced QB in 2009 (but was used in games to basically hand the ball off or keep it), and in 2010, of course, he played wide receiver.
Gray is still definitely a work in progress as a passer, but he's not going to be asked to run a pro-style offense. He's not going to be asked to drop back and read coverages and sling the ball around 30 or 40 times a game like an Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley. He's going to be running a run-based offense with plenty of option runs where he'll get to utilize his marvelous skills as a runner and athlete, and throw to keep the defense off balance. He didn't always looked great in the open practice sessions in straight throwing situations, but we also didn't see what the REAL offense is going to look like.
But a follow-up question I would have liked to seen Coach Kill's answer to: How long is the leash on Gray this fall? IF- and that's just an IF- he struggles in games, how long will they stick with him? I hope it's not an issue, but with the way Shortell has played in camp, I think it's a legitimate question.
Of course, part of the questions surrounding Gray are only because practices were open to the public, which leave open the slight possibility of SOME people overreacting (not sure who that would be or anything...). Coach Kill's reasoning for having open practices?
I remember asking Bobby Ross, back when I was coaching Saginaw Valley State and the Detroit Lions were having training camp and Coach Ross was in charge. They had the open practices. I asked him why he did that and he said because players will practice harder. I don't think there's any question about that.
Interesting. You'd think motivation wouldn't be much an issue considering the players have to perform to impress the new coaching staff, but obviously Kill likes the idea, and I'm glad he opened them up for the first two weeks. Definitely a positive experience, and hopefully something he'll do next year.
Another question surrounding camp has been to redshirt or not redshirt? That is the question. Kill reiterates the lack of depth, and that he just doesn't see much of a choice. He tells Rittenberg that besides a few seniors at the top of the depth chart, this is a REALLY young team. And it is. Asked to name some young guys that have stood out, he mentions David Cobb and Lamonte Edwards at tailback, Devin Crawford-Tufts and Malcolm Moulton at wideout, and Tommy Olson along the offensive line. All names we've seen mentioned previously. A surprise? True freshman lineman Foster Bush. Defensively, he talks about ends like Ben Perry and true freshman Michael Amaefula.
While I maintain I would shirt Shortell if he's not your starter, I can see why he's going to let the best players play, regardless of class. I know some folks would like to see guys like Olson and Bush start, remember that there's three interior linemen who are seniors this season, and after that it's pretty thin on experienced guys. If Kill and OC Matt Limegrover think they can learn best by being backups this year and then fighting for starting jobs next year, then so be it. Kill has been talking about the lack of depth everywhere since he was hired (he makes a good point in this Q&A that one of Brewster's recruiting classes only has 5 kids remaining from it. And the vaunted 2008 class- while high on good talent and contributors, doesn't have many guys left from it either), so I just think this makes sense.
Rittenberg also asks about who leadership and while Kill has talked over and over in past forums about Gray's leadership, here he mentions HB Duane Bennett and S Kim Royston. Bennett's going to be the starting running back as long as he's healthy, and Royston will be the leader on defense, also as long as he's healthy. Kill said Royston has looked good, and I believe Royston's health is the key to the entire defense this season.
Finally, Rittenberg asks about turning around the program, and the success Kill has had doing just that at every stop he's been at...
I don't feel like you ever know what to expect. I knew we were thin when I went to Southern Illinois, and I knew we had to not have any injuries when we went to Northern Illinois. We tried to keep the games as close at Northern Illinois as we could and tried to win in the fourth quarter. We were fortunate to win a couple we maybe shouldn't have in our first year. I don't know. That's why you play the game. I know we're short in some areas, but hopefully, we can teach them to play hard and get in the right spot and buy into what we're doing and get a break here or there, and we'll see what happens. You never know until you get on the field.
Again, we're trying to build a program on concrete, not sand, so we're going to try to do it the right way I've been doing it and the way our coaching staff's been doing it for a long time. Not everything's going to be perfect the first year. It's just not going to work that way. I've enjoyed our kids during camp. I've enjoyed working with them. I think they're giving us as much effort as they can give us. And I can live with that. We'll see what happens.
I know I can definitely live with Jerry Kill as the head coach of Gopher football, and hopefully we'll get to for a long, long time. Can't wait for the season to start, even while I'm trying to keep my expectations for it in check.