Kill must hit the ground recruiting

** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS AUG. 20 - 21 ** Southern Illinois University-Carbondale head football coach Jerry Kill talks with his players following practice on the campus, Carbondale, Ill., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2005. Kill has lead his football team to back-to-back 10-2 seasons and the Salukis were ranked atop the Division 1-AA for several weeks last year and are again favored to win the conference and vie for their first national title in 22 years. (AP Photo/James A. Finley)

** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS AUG. 20 – 21 ** Southern Illinois University-Carbondale head football coach Jerry Kill talks with his players following practice on the campus, Carbondale, Ill., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2005. Kill has lead his football team to back-to-back 10-2 seasons and the Salukis were ranked atop the Division 1-AA for several weeks last year and are again favored to win the conference and vie for their first national title in 22 years. (AP Photo/James A. Finley)

Andrew Baker

When the University of Minnesota announced Sunday that Jerry Kill would be the GophersâÄô new head football coach, the clock was already ticking on the 2011 recruiting class. Kill, therefore, will not have time in the short term to reflect on his new post, the most prominent of his coaching career to date. At his first press conference Monday, Kill was quick to acknowledge that time is of the essence if he wants to secure the top available prep talent for next year. âÄúWe all know that you win games not with coaches, but you win it with players and recruiting, and youâÄôve got to have good players,âÄù Kill said. âÄúThereâÄôs no question about that and weâÄôve got to continue to do that.âÄù Kill said he will honor the commitments of the 15 players who have verbally pledged to be Gophers next year, and that speaking with those players will be his first order of business. âÄúAs soon as I get done here, if I have to go all night, weâÄôll get that done today,âÄù Kill said. âÄúIâÄôm meeting with some high school coaches from Minnesota tomorrow. WeâÄôre going to work.âÄù Unlike his predecessor, Tim Brewster, Kill was careful not to make any rash promises regarding his ability to recruit or the GophersâÄô prospects in the coming years. He did say heâÄôs persistent, recounting a tale of how, before he began dating his now-wife Rebecca, he professed his intention to marry her in front of her mother and then-boyfriend at her motherâÄôs dinner table. In the interest of recreating that success with local football recruits, Kill emphasized the importance of establishing a rapport with the stateâÄôs high school coaches, and of continuity among supporters of Gophers football. Kill also noted that heâÄôs no stranger to recruiting in Minnesota, though he qualified that statement with an even-handed realism that typified the whole appearance. âÄúWe have some players from our school who are not so happy with me right now that are from Minnesota,âÄù Kill said. âÄúThe hardest place to recruit sometimes is right in your backyard because people come in and get the great players. ItâÄôs not easy, but by gosh we need to work at it now and we need to try to keep the best players in the state and build relationships âĦ ItâÄôs not going to happen overnight.âÄù During his stints at Southern Illinois (2001-2007) and Northern Illinois (2008-2010), Kill demonstrated an ability to recruit and develop talent, as far as mid-major recruiting goes. His final freshman class at Northern Illinois included eight three-star recruits, according to Rivals.com, helping them to a 10-3 season and the teamâÄôs third straight bowl appearance. He wonâÄôt coach the team at the Humanitarian Bowl. âÄúI think thatâÄôs the biggest question,âÄù Zach Johnson, publisher of the Minnesota affiliate of Rivals.com, said on whether Kill will be an effective recruiter for the Gophers. âÄúObviously he brings a track record of winning, and it will just be interesting to see how he transitions from recruiting at the MAC level to the Big Ten level.âÄù When the news first broke Sunday night that the University had selected Kill to replace Brewster, reactions from the press, blogs and Twitter were mixed, but a common theme was the sentiment that Maturi had not followed through on his goal to find a football equivalent of Tubby Smith, and that Kill was not a big enough name to attract top talent to Minnesota. If Maturi had any qualms about his decision, however, he naturally did not express them at MondayâÄôs press conference. Included among the âÄúabsolutesâÄù required for potential candidates, Maturi said, was a âÄúknowledge of recruiting in the north-central part of the country.âÄù âÄúJerry Kill,âÄù Maturi said, âÄúis a winner.âÄù