It would be too obvious to point out that Jerry Kill, MinnesotaâÄôs 27th football coach, shares few similarities with Tim Brewster.
On first glance, Kill is simply smaller and less intimidating than Brewster. As junior captain Brandon Kirksey put it, âÄúHe looks like he never played football.âÄù
With a Southern drawl, the Kansas native also sounds different from Brewster.
But itâÄôs what Kill says âÄî and seemingly believes âÄî that truly separates him from Brewster, the Gophers coach of three-plus years who was fired on Oct. 17 with a record of 15-30.
During his first formal address Monday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium, Kill, 49, announced his intentions to improve the Gophers with hard work and by âÄúmarryingâÄù the program, steering clear of the lofty promises that doomed his predecessor.
âÄúWinning and success they donâÄôt happen over night,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs a journey. I love the journey.âÄù
He went on: âÄúYou canâÄôt talk about long-term goals. You can say what you want to do, and I canâÄôt promise you wins and how fast thatâÄôs going to happen and all those kind of things. I can promise you weâÄôre going to get better every day.âÄù
Minnesota finished 3-9 (2-6 in the Big Ten) in 2010 after winning its final two games under Jeff Horton, who took over as interim head coach for the teamâÄôs final five games.
Athletics Director Joel Maturi said he didnâÄôt consciously consider KillâÄôs level-headedness in his final decision to replace the ever-optimistic Brewster. The athletics department announced Sunday that Kill signed a five-year contract, the terms of which have yet to be set.
KillâÄôs last four jobs have been as head coach at different colleges, most recently a three-year stop at Northern Illinois. Under Kill, the Huskies went 23-16 and compiled a 10-3 record this season that included a 34-23 win over at Minnesota on Sept. 25.
âÄúWhen we drove up,âÄù Kill said, âÄúI turned to one of the assistant coaches, and I said, âÄòWow, this place made a commitment now. This is unbelievable,âÄô having no idea that I would be standing here today.âÄù
The Huskies will play in the Humanitarian Bowl on Dec. 18 without Kill.
Maturi declined to name other coaches he interviewed, but jokingly said three coaches âÄîTony Dungy, Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez and Gophers menâÄôs basketball coach Tubby Smith âÄî turned down KillâÄôs new job.
After firing Brewster, Maturi said he wanted to bring in a âÄúTubby Smith,âÄù words Maturi admitted he wanted to eat. Many feel Kill is not a coach of that caliber, but Maturi thinks the two share enough in common.
âÄúWe wanted someone with the integrity of a Tubby Smith and the values of a Tubby Smith and can hopefully create the success of a Tubby Smith,âÄù Maturi said. âÄúIâÄôm confident that Jerry Kill can do that.
âÄúFrom day one I knew we would not get a Tubby Smith hire because I knew from day one there was not a head BCS football coach out there who probably wanted the job âÄ¦ I hate to say this.âÄù
Players seemed excited after hearing what Kill said Monday afternoon and at a 7 a.m. meeting with the team. Kill preached that the Gophers can win if they are the hardest working team in the Big Ten, and his new players are behind that mantra.
âÄúIf we want to go to the Rose Bowl or go to any type of bowl we have to work hard in the offseason, and weâÄôre ready for it,âÄù said sophomore MarQueis Gray, the frontrunner to start at quarterback next season. âÄúAs long he says he wants to win and he wants us to win and this is our team, thatâÄôs fine.âÄù
Gray was the first player Kill saw this morning, and he joked that if all players had the size and speed of the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Gray, his job would be a breeze.
But he knows it wonâÄôt be easy to turn around a team that ranked ninth or worse in the Big Ten in scoring offense, scoring defense, first downs, punting, sacks, red zone defense and third down conversions.
Kill plans to run a 4-3 defense and use multiple blitz packages. The thought of adding pressure excites Kirksey, a defensive tackle with no sacks this year.
âÄúThatâÄôs kind of the defensive style that we all had been pressing for,âÄù Kirksey said. âÄúA lot of teams that we played we couldâÄôve put a lot more pressure on them. The defense that we ran really limited us.âÄù
Kirksey said heâÄôd like the new defensive coaches to listen to the players for suggestions. As for who those coaches will be, Kill is not yet sure, but he plans to bring in a staff thatâÄôs in for the long haul. He will meet with current members of the Minnesota staff individually Tuesday.
Kill wasnâÄôt bothered that he might not have been at the top of MaturiâÄôs list from the get go, but Maturi said he was on the list from the start of the process.
âÄúI think heâÄôs the perfect individual for the University of Minnesota at this time,âÄù Maturi said, âÄúand I think heâÄôs going to be here a long time.âÄù
Kill admitted to not being the first choice for other things in his life. He said his wife Rebecca had a boyfriend when he professed his love, but with a little work he made her believe in him, just as he plans to make Gophers fans believe in the team in the near future.
âÄúI wasnâÄôt her first choice. I was second or third down that line,âÄù said Kill. âÄúI had to work at it, so this isnâÄôt the first time maybe I haven’t been the first choice. I can live with that.âÄù
Rebecca Kill, a beacon about two years younger than her husband, said she stood by her husband through thick and thin âÄî he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2005 that is now in remission âÄî for more than 27 years and hopes the Minnesota faithful does the same.
âÄúOnce I got to know him, with his honesty, we just hit it off,âÄù she said. âÄúYou could just tell he was going to be successful some day.âÄù
Now Kill will try to carry a similar success into a job of which the previous seven coaches have failed to produce a winning record in the Big Ten.