CHICAGO – Anytime Gophers coach Jerry Kill was asked about practice facilities during this week’s Big Ten media days, he stressed the importance of pushing forward on the University of Minnesota’s recently unveiled $190 million athletic facilities plan.
“Right now, we’ve got a beautiful stadium, a great place to play on Saturdays,” Kill said. “But we have to improve our practice facilities, strength training and academic facilities. This is a critical project for us.”
Last year, ESPN.com ranked the Gophers football practice facilities as the fourth-worst in the Big Ten. Minnesota ranked ahead of only Wisconsin, Northwestern and Purdue, but Wisconsin has since finished a major upgrade, and Northwestern is close to breaking ground on a $220 million upgrade.
The Gophers’ new $190 million plan would provide new practice facilities for football, basketball and several other sports. The plan calls for the facilities to be phased in over the next six to eight years. For now, the Gophers are doing a fundraising feasibility study. Athletic Director Norwood Teague and Kill both spoke to Chicago-based alumni on Wednesday night.
Asked how soon the Gophers could break ground, Kill said that’s a question for Teague.
“I told him, ‘You need to get a shovel in the dirt before we start camp [Aug. 2],’ ” Kill said. “I know I’m very aggressive. He called me a pit bull yesterday. We need to get things going. Time’s essential in life, and we don’t need to waste any getting it done.”
Gophers defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman is a preseason first-team All-Big Ten selection, and he definitely enjoyed the spotlight in Chicago.
Asked how focused he is heading into his senior season, he said, “It’s scary. I always dominate in the weight room. Coach [Eric] Klein is probably one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the country because I used to hate running and lifting with him, but I started seeing improvements in muscles that I didn’t know I had.”
Hageman routinely gets double-teamed, but he had six sacks and 7½ tackles for a loss last season.
• Redshirt freshman tackle Jonah Pirsig, who had knee surgery after spring practice, should be close to being ready for next week’s first practice, Kill said.
• Running back Donnell Kirkwood on incoming recruit Berkley Edwards: “You take the wrong angle on him, you aren’t catching him. It’s as simple as that. That’s a different type of speed we haven’t seen.”