Kill starts fast-paced spring football practice

Josh Katzenstein

The Gophers football team started spring practice Thursday, and first-year coach Jerry Kill didn’t hold any punches.

He sped up the tempo, demanding that the players worked through every whistle, and he got in the face of any player who slipped up.

The coach also moved at the same pace as his players. Early in the practice Kill tackled a dummy bag to give players an example for a drill. He said the speed will increase with the remaining practices.

“I’ve been coaching 28 years, and I ain’t coached any different,” said Kill, adding that he was hit in the head by a kicker at one point.

The players responded fairly well to the up-tempo demands, Kill said, but he wouldn’t fully assess the team until he watches Thursday’s film. He said the practice was “solid” and was happy the players didn’t ask why they were running so much.

“This practice was like fast, fast, fast; on point, on point, on point. The tempo is unbelievable,” cornerback Troy Stoudermire said. “If you have speed you’re going to play, and if you don’t, you’re not.”

All starting positions are up for grabs, and although some expected starters (like quarterback MarQueis Gray and wide receiver Da’Jon McKnight) played together in 7-on-7 drills, Kill said he doesn’t have a set first team.

The quarterbacks (Gray, Moses Alipate, Adam Lueck, J.D. Pride and Tom Parish) all looked rusty in throwing drills, misfiring numerous times when throwing to receivers against single coverage early in practice.

“The one-on-one drill was pretty horrible,” Gray said. “I don’t even want to watch that on film.”

Sixth-year senior Kim Royston practiced fully with the defensive backs. He broke two bones in his leg during spring practice last year and missed the entire 2010 season. He said he felt good mentally and is about 90 percent ready physically with the 10 percent coming from a loss of speed and coordination since the injury.

One of the players who filled in for Royston last season did not participate in team drills for disciplinary reasons. Defensive back Michael Carter wore a brown jersey that said “Minnesota Lophers” on the front and “I let my teammates down” on the back. Kill would not elaborate on what Carter did wrong, but the junior had some intense individual strength drills Thursday.

Kill praised some of the players throughout practice, including McKnight multiple times, and he ran as far as 20 yards at a time to either pat someone on the back or yell at him for a miscue.

“It’s not personal. It’s the way we coach,” Kill said. “I think we’ve had tough teams where I’ve been, hard-nosed kids.

“When we’re out here it’s time to play ball and go to work.”