Hartman: Gophers football staff will keep team stable while Kill is gone

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 11, 2013 - 12:29 AM

Assistants such as interim coach Tracy Claeys have passed up better offers to stay with the Gophers coach.

The announcement that defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys is officially taking over as interim Gophers football coach while Jerry Kill takes an indefinite leave of absence from the program to find the right medical treatment for his epileptic seizures shouldn’t surprise anybody.

In a statement issued by the university Thursday, Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague said, “Kill is continuing to take time to focus on his treatment and better manage his epilepsy.”

People who know Kill well report that after previous seizures, he has perhaps returned to work too soon and, being the workaholic he is, that might have affected his ability to manage his health.

Kill and his doctors can’t pinpoint how long it will take to control the problem. However, in a statement issued by Kill, he said: “I look forward to returning to the Minnesota sideline on a full-time basis soon.”

It’s been difficult for Kill to watch the Gophers start out 0-2 in the Big Ten after four nonconference victories. Kill took the Iowa loss hard on Sept. 28 and, even though he wasn’t on the sidelines, the Michigan defeat last Saturday didn’t help either.

Teague might have influenced the decision of Kill and his family. In an interview with Teague on Wednesday, he said he had a long conversation with Kill on Tuesday night.

If he came back too soon and had another seizure, it might have hurt recruiting and maybe even the program as a whole.

The one advantage Kill has over other programs is that he and this Gophers staff have been together so long that they will have a much better chance for continuity. The coaching staff will do a first-class job in his absence.

Claeys has had numerous chances to leave Kill for more money and successful programs but he has remained loyal to him. The same is true of offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover.

If Kill had to give up coaching because of his seizures, my guess is that Claeys would be named head coach and the entire staff would stay.

Weber likes Freeman

Former Gophers quarterback Adam Weber spent all of last season, OTAs this year and most of training camp this year as a Tampa Bay teammate of new Vikings quarterback Josh Freeman.

“I was surprised that they did let him go,” Weber said. “But I know that it sounded like the relationship kind of fell apart. I figure it’s best for both Tampa and Josh that they went their separate ways.”

How good a quarterback is Freeman?

“He’s good. He’s really good. He’s still developing,” Weber said. “He’s still getting better. He’s only 25 years old, so he’s not even close to his prime yet. When he figures out how to play consistent football at the level that he can, he can be really, really good.”

Weber said he believes Freeman has demonstrated that high level of play before.

“He’s shown that he can do it,” Weber said. “It’s just a matter of doing it every week, and I believe he can do that.”

Weber also said he thinks Freeman will fit in with Vikings players, even though he enters in the middle of the season and into a complicated situation with Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel already established as the top two quarterbacks.

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