Claeys adjusts to added responsibility

The interim head coach now needs to oversee all aspects of the football team.

Interim head coach Tracy Claeys speaks at a press conference regarding Jerry Kill's resignation on Oct. 25. Kill's departure came as a shock to Claeys and the team.

Maddy Fox, Daily File Photo

Interim head coach Tracy Claeys speaks at a press conference regarding Jerry Kill’s resignation on Oct. 25. Kill’s departure came as a shock to Claeys and the team.

Ryan Falk

The Gophers are in their first full week under slightly new management.
 
Interim head coach Tracy Claeys — promoted following Jerry Kill’s retirement on Oct. 28 — was in charge of the team during its 29-26 loss to Michigan on Saturday and said again on Tuesday he hopes to take over the job full time.
 
“I’ve said I want to be the next head football coach here,” Claeys said. “All I can do is make sure the football team is prepared as well as I can, and I’ll live with the result.” 
 
Claeys was previously the Gophers defensive coordinator under Kill, but he is now adjusting to overseeing the whole team as interim head coach.
 
“I need to spend more time in with the offense, just learning what they’re doing and not necessarily being a bother to them but knowing what the plays are,” Claeys said.
 
Redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Leidner said the change has yet to affect the way the team prepares.
 
“I wouldn’t say we skipped too much of a beat other than Coach Kill and Coach Claeys are different personalities,” Leidner said. “Just seeing the amount of confidence from
Coach Claeys when he stepped into that role and he really got guys to follow him.” 
 
Claeys was faced with big decisions in his first game in charge on the sidelines this year.
 
The Gophers went for a game-winning touchdown Saturday against the Wolverines instead of kicking a field goal to go into overtime.
 
The team was faced with the decision after junior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky was called down after a review at the half-yard line, and the Gophers then ran 17 seconds off the clock running a passing play that included shifts and motions.
 
“If I had to do it all over again, we would have clocked the ball coming out of the play reversal, and we would have gotten one more opportunity,” Claeys said. “At the same time, we shouldn’t have needed one more opportunity to get the ball six inches.”
 
Claeys used to help Kill with clock management from the press box, but on Saturday no one was there to help Claeys with the clock, offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said Tuesday.
 
The Gophers are adjusting responsibilities after Claeys’ promotion.
 
Defensive backs and special teams coach Jay Sawvel has taken on more responsibility on defense, Claeys said, and special teams quality control assistant Jay Nunez will now have more duties on special teams.
 
The adjustments are subtle for a coaching staff that worked together many years under Kill, though now there’s a new man in charge.
 
Claeys said he wants to keep leading the program, but until any long term plans are made, he’s been asking future recruits to remain patient.
 
“The kids are going to [this] school because of the people involved in the football program also, and that weighs heavily on that trust,” Claeys said. “I’ll fight every week on the phone to keep them in there as long as I can.”