Hartman: Kill feeling better; expect him back coaching Gophers soon

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 25, 2013 - 12:19 PM

The football coach looked healthier when he stopped by his office, but he first needs to keep obeying his doctors.

When Jerry Kill is healthy, the Gophers football coach and I have a conversation almost every day. He also does a weekly radio appearance on WCCO-AM on Sunday, which he typically does 52 weeks a year.

So while I was at the football office Thursday, I asked one of the coaches if Kill was in. He was.

And there sat Kill behind his desk, looking as chipper as ever while talking to Gophers associate athletic director David Benedict.

So how was Kill, one of my real favorite people?

“I have to work my way through this thing,” he said, speaking about his leave of absence to focus on his treatment for epilepsy. “It’s been tough.”

He will watch Saturday’s game against Nebraska at TCF Bank Stadium from the coaching box, just as he did at Northwestern.

I didn’t think it was appropriate to ask many more questions of the recovering head coach, but he looked great and I think he will surprise everyone and be back coaching soon.

Still, Kill is listening to his doctors and is not going to rush his return. It will be one step at a time.

Peterson likes Ponder

Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson says the Vikings feel comfortable with Christian Ponder under center, because unlike Josh Freeman, who only recently joined the team, he knows the offense.

“Any time you have a guy that’s back there that can run the offense 100 percent and knows it in and out and knows the receivers, guys he has been throwing to for years, it kind of puts things together when you’re talking about being on the same page and it takes away those mental errors as well,” Peterson said.

Peterson was asked about the last time the Vikings faced the Packers at home, a game in which Ponder threw for 234 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Why was he so successful in that game?

“He came out and played with confidence and the guys surrounding him offensively we were all focused in and dialed in on getting a ‘W’ and we were able to be a balanced offense,” Peterson said.

Will it be easier as an offense to have Ponder taking snaps?

“Yeah, you can say that, definitely,” Peterson said. “Just taking last week, it’s obvious with a new quarterback coming in like Freeman that he’s not going to be able to know the full playbook. With Christian, we’re going to be able to pull more out more often. That’s going to help us.”

Peterson, who has been nursing a sore hamstring, also said he expects to get more carries this week after combining for only 90 yards on 23 carries over the past two games.

“Any time you have two games where you have 13 carries or less, you definitely want more touches,” he said. “I just haven’t got in the flow of things. Against Cleveland, the game got out of whack so we had to go away from the run game. But one thing we want to do and focus on is establishing getting those guys up front working and sweating and being able to become more balanced.”

Even though Peterson has seemingly struggled this year, he is still ahead of his unbelievable totals from last season. Peterson has 511 yards rushing and five touchdowns through six games. Last season he had 499 yards and two touchdowns through six games.

Martinez returns

The Lincoln Journal Star reported Wednesday that Nebraska senior quarterback Taylor Martinez had returned to the practice field and was likely going to play in Saturday’s game against the Gophers.

Martinez hasn’t played in over a month, and his return would only make things more difficult for a Gophers defense trying to stop the Cornhuskers’ dynamic offense, which is ranked 21st in the nation with 490.2 yards per game.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini wouldn’t say for sure Martinez would start, telling the paper there were some things he would need to see first from Martinez to make sure he’s ready to play.

“It’s going to be getting back footwork-wise,” Pelini said. “How he feels comfortable doing all the different movements — play-actions, footwork and the things that he has to do throwing the football — and, obviously, feeling comfortable putting his foot in the ground.”

Last year, Martinez completed 21 of 29 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-14 victory over the Gophers. In 2011, he went 13-for-22 for 162 yards and a TD.

Jottings

• Though both are playing at home, the Gophers are 10-point underdogs against Nebraska and the Vikings are nine-point underdogs against a beat-up Packers team.

• Chad Greenway, who will go down as one of the greatest linebackers in Vikings history, needs only nine tackles Sunday night against the Packers to reach the 1,000 mark in his career. Greenway, a former Iowa standout, has piled up these tackles since joining the club in 2006. Linebacker Scott Studwell leads the Vikings in career tackles with 1,928, followed by linebacker Matt Blair with 1,404 from 1974-1985 and linebacker Jeff Siemon with 1,375 from 1972-1982.

• Marcus Sherels, the former Gophers cornerback who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010, would have been the Vikings’ MVP of the Giants game Monday had he not fumbled a kick near the goal line that eventually resulted in a New York touchdown. But he did set some Vikings records — his four punt returns totaled 119 yards, including an 86-yard return for a touchdown. That was a 29.8 yard average. In addition, he saw service on the punt team, the kickoff team and played some defensive back.

• The Vikings could have sold 100,000 tickets for the Packers game, which is a complete sellout. The scalpers should have a banner day. The games with a few tickets still available are Washington, Detroit and Philadelphia.

• Gophers baseball coach John Anderson has won induction to the Minnesota High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. It’s quite a honor when the high school baseball coaches add a college coach to their hall of fame.

• Murrae Freng, who served as executive director of the Minnesota State High School League for 15 years, was recently honored with a Concordia College Alumni Achievement Award. Nobody did a better job as executive director of the MSHSL than Freng.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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  • Jerry Kill, head coach for the University of Minnesota football team, walks off the field after a home game against the Iowa Hawkeyes in Minneapolis, Minn., Sept. 28, 2013. Kill, who had a seizure and missed the Oct. 5 game at Michigan, has stepped away to focus on treating and managing his epilepsy.(Jenn Ackerman/The New York Times)

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