GoAUpher: Wanted to bump this last week, but I ran out of time plus I didn't want it to get buried at the end of the week. Great summary of what the 2016 recruiting class had to say on Twitter about Coach Kill's retirement.
Year after year, Jerry Kill and his staff have slowly been building something special on the banks of the Mississippi. He worked with what he had in his first season to the tune of 3-9, but he has brought the program back to gather small successes that haven't happened in the Gopher State since the 1960's. Successes like beating Nebraska in consecutive years, bringing multiple trophies home, winning four consecutive B1G games, and playing in a New Year Day bowl game. They aren't the destination, but they are certainly milestones along the path to where we knew Coach Kill was taking us.
How has he done it? By sticking to his tried and true recruiting style and looking for hidden gems. Brick by brick he has brought in the pieces to fit his system. Pieces of clay he knows he and his staff can mold into bricks that have helped the Gophers turn around the Brewster disaster from 1-11 into a team that is on the doorstep of being a perennial West Division contender. While this season has certainly not gone exactly how many fans had hoped, one thing that has kept the hope alive is the incredible recruiting class being assembled. It is being dubbed "The Empire" by the recruits themselves, as they have bought into the brick by brick concept before even setting foot on campus as an official Gopher.
Kill and his staff have locked down the borders of Minnesota in a year that has one of the richest caches of in-state talent in a long time. The Empire class is set to be the class that takes the foundation of bricks that Coach Kill and the staff laid over the past five years and build The Empire on top, which takes the next step of not just being a West contender, but being a B1G Championship contender.
With the heartbreaking, yet understandable, decision to step away yesterday many first thought of Kill's health first and foremost. But, as is the case whenever a college coach leaves a program, some wondered what would become of that class. Many great words have already been written about what a wonderful coach and man Jerry Kill was and is, so I won't even try. I couldn't do it justice. Instead we're going to take a look to the future and what comes next for the program. There are many other things going on at the University such as an AD search and now a new Head Coach, but for right now it's important to have a look at what is going on with the many bricks of The Empire class. What better way to do that in 2015 than by taking a quick stroll through Twitter? Come with me.
Carter Coughlin (@Cmoe34)
We'll start by looking at the man who started it all by not only committing to Minnesota early, but by dubbing the class The Empire and then actively helping the staff lock down other in-state talents. He is also the highest rated prospect of the class, a 4-star linebacker. Like a true Kill recruit, he is a man of his word.
Coach Kill is an incredible man, and I would have loved to play under his direction. But we committed to a staff and to a team.〽️ #TheEmpire— Carter Coughlin † (@Cmoe34) October 28, 2015
Sean Foster (@foster__75)
Sean hasn't explicitly said anything, but his many retweets suggest that he is sticking to his committment. He starts by saying what just about everyone across Gopher Nation felt when the news first broke:
Hope Coach Kill is all right.— Sean Foster (@foster__75) October 28, 2015
He followed up today with another message that speaks not only to Coach Kill and his situation, but to all of Gopher Nation, and even to his own personal situation as a player who just lost his coach:
God sends his toughest battles, to his toughest people.— Sean Foster (@foster__75) October 29, 2015
Dredrick Snelson (@D_Snelson2)
One area the Gophers need help is the passing and catching game. A key brick was in The Empire class in Dredrick, a 4-star receiver from Miami. While he hasn't tweeted anything, he did have an ominous retweet from Rivals:
With Jerry Kill out, can the #Gophers hang on to its prize recruit 4-star Dredrick Snelson? https://t.co/uxMwFUf3DJ https://t.co/k7UabBCUY6— Rivals.com (@Rivals) October 28, 2015
Let's hope it's just a player retweeting news about himself, and nothing more to the story.
Sam Schlueter (@samschlueter55)
Returning to inside the borders of Minnesota, the big OT piled more praise on the Coach who deserves it and so much more:
Coach Kill will always be one of the greatest coaches and men I've ever met. Prayers go out to him and his family. pic.twitter.com/I39Js8LRxv— Sam Schlueter (@samschlueter55) October 28, 2015
Kamal Martin (@KamalMartin6)
Along with this tweet, Kamal has been retweeting words of encouragement, mentions of Coach Kill's character, and what the Coach meant to so many players. We all agree with you on this one, Kamal:
Coach Kill you're in my prayers. It will always be Jerrysota to me— Kamal Martin7⃣〽️ (@KamalMartin6) October 28, 2015
Phillip Howard (@_PhillipHoward)
Another player who echos what so many of the others feel:
Coach kill I will keep you in my prayers , I would've loved the opportunity to play for you! Stay strong 〽️ #jerrysota— PHILLY〽️ (@_PhillipHoward) October 28, 2015
Drew Hmielewski (@hmielewski)
Drew hasn't post any of his own tweets but instead has been retweeting many of his fellow recruits, most listed above already. Also, I now know how to spell Hmielewski without having to look at it 30 times!
Elijah Daniels (@ImTooElite)
Elijah and his twin brother Elisha were an early and important pickup for Minnesota as out of state players.
My prayers go out to Coach Kill. He's a great man and a great coach I hope everything goes well with him and his situation. Stay Strong✊〽️— Elijah Daniels〽️ (@ImTooElite) October 28, 2015
Elisha Daniels (@_5Livee)
Elisha had a number of retweets reaffirming his excitement for coming to Minnesota, knowing that the program is in good hands with Kill's staff but also offered some words for Coach himself:
Keeping Coach Kill in my prayers to get well— Elisha Daniels〽️ (@_5Livee) October 28, 2015
Also, happy 18th birthday to the Daniels twins!
Matt Kegel (@matt_kegel)
Matt starts with the exact reaction I had when I got the news via text message:
Literally in shock right now— lil dad 7⃣2⃣ (@matt_kegel) October 28, 2015
He follows up with some more praise for Coach:
Coach kill is an amazing man and coach I wish him the best of luck in the future am praying that he gets better #jerrysota— lil dad 7⃣2⃣ (@matt_kegel) October 28, 2015
And then one simple emoji as a message for Gopher Nation:
〽️— lil dad 7⃣2⃣ (@matt_kegel) October 28, 2015
Conner Olson (@connerolson6)
Conner was an early commit, calling Minnesota his "dream school" so it's great to see him retweeting messages of support for Kill and others' commitment to stick with The Empire.
There are a few other members of the class who either have been quiet on Twitter or aren't on it at all. Of course all of this is secondary to Coach Kill's health, but it will be interesting storyline to watch develop over the next few months until signing day. Hopefully the University figures out the AD and coaching situation quickly and a few keys players, such as Carter help the staff by continuing to hold The Empire class together.
Best of luck to you Coach Kill. Maybe you can come share a Dilly Bar with Dan on the sidelines in the future when you're up to it. Forever Jerrysota.