With the accolades Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has received this season, he could have been a candidate to fill one of the many coaching vacancies around the country. But for now, Claeys sounds content where he is.
“I have confidence I could run my own football program if that’s what I wanted to do,” Claeys said Friday night. “But right now, I truly enjoy my job, and I enjoy the people I work with, and the people I’ve gotten to know in the Twin Cities.”
Claeys made $346,800 this season, making him just the 16th highest paid assistant coach in the Big Ten, according to research published this week by USA Today. By comparison, Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison made $840,000.
Gophers head coach Jerry Kill made $1.2 million, the lowest salary of any BCS coach. But there have been indications at the university that salary adjustments could be coming soon for Kill and his assistants.
“I told the Goal Line Club the other day, ‘This is the time when somebody ought to cut your pay because you enjoy it so much when you’re winning,’ ” Claeys said. “They need to pay you a heck of a lot more when you’re getting your butt kicked because the first two years isn’t a lot of fun.”
Nelson’s doing fine
Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson left the regular season finale on Nov. 30 after getting his bell rung, but he’s been practicing full speed since the team returned to practice last week.
Nelson was a big catalyst for the team’s first four-game Big Ten winning streak since 1973, but in losses to Wisconsin and Michigan State, he completed just 13 of 41 passes for 160 yards and two interceptions.
Thrilled for Lynch
Kill had a long talk with Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch this week, after Lynch was named one of six finalists for the Heisman Trophy. He will be at Saturday’s presentation in New York.
Kill recruited Lynch to Northern Illinois, and Lynch has credited Kill for being the only one who believed in him as a quarterback.
When the season ends, Kill plans to have Lynch and former Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish speak to the Gophers quarterbacks.
“Where Jordan is so good is the mental part,” Kill said. “I mean, he’s tough. To carry the ball that many times and not get injured — the mental toughness is what’s special about him.”
New white helmets
The Gophers will unveil new white helmets for the bowl game, featuring each player’s uniform number on the left side, and the block M on the right side, with a maroon stripe down the middle. On the back are the words “Brick by Brick.”
“I think it tells a story, a little bit,” Kill said. “You’ve got the great history we’ve had and some of the new stuff we’ve started.”