Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
Jerry Kill got his long his long-expected raise Saturday.
The University announced that Kill's contract has been restructured through 2018-19. He'll make $2.1 million next year, up from $1.2 million last year, which was the lowest salary among Big Ten coaches.
“Coach Kill is proving his model works here at the University of Minnesota,” Athletics Director Norwood Teague said in the press release. “It is right to support him as he builds a program that will make the state of Minnesota proud.”
The Gophers have gone 3-9, 6-7 and 8-5 in Kill's first three seasons, and Kill has turned around the team in the classroom, too.
“Jerry Kill is the right coach for the University of Minnesota,” University President Eric Kaler said in the press release. "He has clearly moved our program forward and I am pleased we have come to this agreement to secure his long-term leadership of Gopher football.”
Kill thanked Kaler and Teague for their support in his statement.
The coach added, "I am extremely proud of what our players and coaches accomplished on and off the field last season. We still have a lot of work to do, but are moving the program in the right direction. I look forward to continuing to build a program that positively represents the great people of Minnesota and am excited to work with our players again when we start spring practice in early March.”
Update: Kill's new contract will increase his salary by $100,000 each year. So he'll make $2.1 million, $2.2 million, $2.3 million, $2.4 million and $2.5 million over the next five years.
The contract also has language that guarantees that the Gophers assistant coaches' salary pool will rank in the Top 6 of the Big Ten.
On Saturday at 4 a.m., ESPN’s national recruiting director Tom Luginbill was up studying videotape of recent Gophers commit Isaiah Gentry, a wide receiver from Cincinnati’s Moeller High School.
Luginbill tweeted about what he was doing, and this led to a quick exchange with a follower who has an Auburn logo for an avatar:
@ATL_JAY Yeah, good player too. Jerry Kill might be one of the top 5 coaches in CFB right now.— Tom Luginbill (@TomLuginbill) February 1, 2014
Two days later, ESPN held a media conference call with Luginbill, and I asked him to explain what inspired his tweet.
I used part of that answer in this story analyzing the class the Gophers are expected to unveil on National Signing Day. Here’s a longer version of Luginbill’s answer:
“Coaching can be defined in a lot of ways, but when you take a football team like the one [Kill] had this fall. You go through the off-the-field situation you had with the seizures and the epilepsy, you win eight-plus games with a roster -- and I don’t mean this to sound negative -- but that roster had no business winning eight games, and I think that’s a sign of coaching.
“In many ways, he’s like a Jim Grobe at Wake [Forest], when he had a great run there. There are guys out there that I don’t think get the credit they deserve, and [Kill’s] certainly one of them.
“And I think he’s in the process right now of enhancing the roster with more speed, more athleticism. It’s just not something you do overnight by waving a magic wand, it’s a process.
“All I know is, if you don’t believe in his process, then you haven’t been paying attention to his history because all he’s done is won.”
Note: Check back here in the morning for the latest Gophers signing updates, including the much anticipated decision by Jeff Jones at 10 a.m.
The Gophers announced today that they've promoted longtime director of football operations, Dan O'Brien, to Senior Associate Athletics Director overseeing the football program and facilities.
O'Brien, who has been with the athletics department since 2008 and worked closely with head football coach Jerry Kill for the past three years, moves into the role vacated by David Benedict, who has moved on to become chief operating officer at Auburn.
"We are extremely excited for Dan to take on his expanded role within the Athletics Department,” Gophers AD Norwood Teague said in the press release. "His work with the Gopher football program speaks for itself, and his more than ten years of experience as Director of Athletics at both Hamline and Concordia Universities will be a welcome addition to our current staff.”
To fill O'Brien's role as director of football operations, Kill promoted Adam Clark, the Gophers director of player personnel.
HOUSTON -- Gophers coach Jerry Kill contemplated a return to the sidelines for Friday's Texas Bowl, but decided to coach from the press box for the seventh consecutive game.
SCOUTING SYRACUSE'S OFFENSE
Syracuse sophomore quarterback Terrell Hunt had a rough October, completing just 43.1 percent of his passes for 194 yards with no touchdowns and six interceptions, as noted here by Syracuse.com. But in November, he completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns. In the regular season finale against Boston College, he passed for 270 yards and rushed for 90.
"I think what makes him more challenging is he isn’t necessarily known as a dual threat," Gophers cornerback Brock Vereen said. "He doesn’t look to run first. So they can kind of lull you to sleep a little bit. He presents himself as a pocket passer, and before you know it, he’s rushing for 20 yards up the field. So we can’t fall asleep on him. He’s definitely an athlete."
SCOUTING SYRACUSE'S DEFENSE
On defense, Syracuse has several playmakers, as noted here in this story written for the Star Tribune by Stephen Bailey. Three to watch are defensive tackle Jay Bromley and linebackers Marquis Spruill and Dyshawn Davis.
"You definitely see how good they are up front," Gophers running back David Cobb said. "Their linebackers and secondary -- they all crash to the ball, and it’s not just one guy, it’s one, two, three, four. They have guys on great pursuit angles, and they don’t give up on the play. It’s a big challenge for us, but our guys up front will accept the challenge and I’ll accept the challenge, and we’ll be ready to play just like them."
Update: The Gophers will be wearing white helmets with maroon jerseys, white pants and maroon socks. Syracuse also will be unveiling new helmets -- an orange and blue blend -- with white jerseys and blue pants.
Check back here for a few other pregame notes, as well as a halftime post and game story right after the final gun. Follow along on Twitter @JoeCStrib.
HOUSTON – The Gophers sold 3,375 tickets for Friday’s Texas Bowl, according to associate athletics director Chris Werle.
That’s well short of each team’s 12,000-seat allotment, but it’s up from 3,163 last year. The Gophers have three busloads of students making the trip from Minneapolis, and two fan charter planes coming down.
It’s unclear how many tickets Syracuse sold, but if today’s Texas Bowl luncheon was any indication, Gophers fans outnumbered the Orange fans by a wide margin.
The Houston Texans include tickets to this bowl game in their season ticket package. Last year, many of those fans turned out to see Texas Tech play the Gophers, but without a nearby college playing, the in-stadium attendance could fall well short of last year's 50,386 mark.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill said he’ll have a meeting Thursday night to determine whether he will return to the sideline for Friday’s game. Kill has coached the past six games from the press box.
“I’ll see how things go,” Kill said. “I’m going to visit with somebody this evening who’s in charge of that, and this is about the first time I’ve listened in all the time since I’ve been dealing with [epilepsy], so I’ll listen.
“But you know, sometimes it’s all overrated. I’m doing the same things if I’m up there as if I’m down on the field. And I’m a pretty emotional guy, so it’s probably best I am in the box sometimes, so we’ll see how it all works out.”
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