Kill talks offseason progress

The Gophers are entering their third year under Jerry Kill, who has made decent progress so far.

by Dane Mizutani

Amid a hectic offseason, head football coach Jerry Kill met with reporters last Friday at TCF Bank Stadium to talk about the Gophers’ progress in the offseason.

– Kill said he had about 85 to 90 percent of guys back on campus last week and he expected the rest of the team to return over the weekend. He added there is a different feel amongst the team this offseason.

Kill said it was important that the players maintain the progress they achieved throughout spring practices.

“I met with each one of them before they left and said, ‘This is exactly where you need to be strength-wise at the end of the summer,’” he said. “Those results don’t lie. We’ll see what happens August 1 when we start.”

– Kill preached the youth of his squad again Friday, much like he did most of last season. He added that the culture change of the locker room is still in motion, but he said it continues to improve with time.

“We’re farther along,” Kill said. “We’re just young, and the biggest thing we need to do is get older.

“We’ll maybe start one or two seniors on offense and maybe three on defense. We’re a very young football team yet.”

– Kill said his players had 17 major surgeries in the offseason. He said the biggest question marks in terms of recovery are wide receiver Devon Wright, offensive linemen Jonah Pirsig, Brian Bobek and Zach Mottla and linebacker Peter Westerhaus.

– Kill said sophomore wide receiver Andre McDonald is back with the team, but he wouldn’t say much more.

McDonald was previously not enrolled in school last semester and was taken off the team. He has since returned, and Kill said he was optimistic.

 “I’m not going to tell everyone his situation,” Kill said. “I will tell you Andre is in summer school right now and working out. I feel cautiously optimistic that he’ll be ready to go.”   

– Kill received a lot of criticism last season after he pulled the redshirt off true freshman quarterback Philip Nelson in the game against Wisconsin. Nelson was baptized by fire at points last season, but Kill said he knows it was the right decision.

“We’ve got somebody [this season] that’s played,” Kill said. “There’s no question that’s helped him.”   

– Kill seemed confident with Nelson, but he also spoke highly of redshirt freshman quarterback Mitch Leidner and the strides he has taken.

Kill said the quarterback duo reminds him of his circumstances at Northern Illinois with Chandler Harnish and Jordan Lynch.

“We’ve got two quality kids there that understand what we’re trying to do,” Kill said of Nelson and Leidner. “I feel good about that right now.”

– Minnesota’s football team scored a 994 in the NCAA annual APR report, six points off a perfect score. This is a significant jump from the team Kill took over in 2010.

Kill said upon his arrival, the team was one player away from losing scholarships and had 25 people on academic warning, as well as three players suspended due to academic performance.

“I would say give the kids the credit,” Kill said. “All we did as a coaching staff is we held them accountable. That’s how that turnaround came about.

“If I got fired today I could tell you this: It’s farther along than it was. Now we’ve got to continue and continue to do better.”