The Gophers football team will hold its kickoff press conference on Thursday, followed by its first practice of fall camp on Saturday.
As part of preparation for the 2012 season, coach Jerry Kill and his staff visited with several schools around the country this offseason to gain some insight into how other programs operate in certain areas.
This is nothing new, of course. College coaches traditionally visit other programs during the spring to talk shop and see if they can glean anything that can be incorporated into their own program.
A steady stream of coaches used to visit former Gophers coach Glen Mason each offseason to see how his staff taught their zone blocking and running schemes.
“I think in any profession that you’re involved in, if you want to be the best at what you do, you better figure out how to be the best,” Kill said. “We try and study the best programs in the country every year, or some program that’s very similar to us or fits what we’re trying to do. Every year we’re going to visit a couple of college teams, a professional team. I’m going to reach out to a couple of different head coaches.”
As Phil Miller wrote this winter, several Gophers offensive coaches visited Baylor to see how that program used Robert Griffin III last season, looking for any wrinkle or idea that might work for MarQueis Gray and the offense as a whole. Quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski and wide receivers coach Pat Poore made that trip.
The defensive staff visited TCU and Mississippi State. The Gophers director of recruiting and director of player personnel visited Oklahoma State. In addition, Kill invited former Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick to spend a few days at the Gophers complex.
“At Colorado State, he won a whole lot of football games with not all the resources and did a great job,” Kill said. “I got a chance to spend time with him. He’s a very defensive minded football coach.”
A number of programs also visited the Gophers complex, including Toledo, Northern Illinois and Mississippi State.
“It’s like going to clinics,” Kill said. “You may listen for three hours and get one idea that may help your program, but it’s worth it at the end of the day.”
Kill has coached long enough that he has his own system, his own philosophy on how to run a program. He’s not going to rewrite his manual after visiting a particular school or coach. But he likes to see how his peers handle certain situations or larger program issues.
“You are who you are,” he said. “It’s like anything, you look at something that maybe can fit in to what you do. You don’t want to get a bunch of hodgepodge things that don’t fit into your [system].
“One of my questions when I visit with head coaches is, ‘Tell me about your academics, tell me how many people you have in academics, how many tutors do you have? What are you doing with your strength program? What are you doing in recruiting? Social networking, how do you utilize that to help you? How are you dealing with player discipline?’ Those are a lot of things you ask.”