With the second semester in session at the University of Minnesota, new Gophers football coach Jerry Kill is getting his first looks at the players he will coach this fall as they show up at 6 a.m. for workouts at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex.
Kill has a reputation for telling it like it is. And to be honest, he wasn't impressed with his first look at the 2011 squad. Overall, he believes his staff has a lot of work to do, including recruiting, to build a winner out of the Gophers.
"I think the first time I got a chance to be with our kids was on Monday in the early-morning workouts, and I certainly didn't think we gave the type of effort and performance that we need to give," Kill said. "But I don't think it's that they didn't want to. I think they needed to be shown what we wanted. So on Tuesday, we taught a little better, and Thursday and Friday they got taught a little better and they worked hard."
Kill believes strength and conditioning coach Eric Klein -- an Apple Valley and Carleton alum who has worked for Kill for 17 years -- has his work cut out for him.
"I told Coach Klein you're accountable, you have to get these young men stronger and faster, because we just don't have the speed and strength that we need to have at this point in time to compete where we want to go," Kill said. "We've got a lot of work ahead of us, but the encouraging thing is we got better every day, I will say that."
Kill added: "There's nothing to tell a football player until you put them in shoulder pads and you get them out there on the field and see how quick they learn and how smart they play. Sometimes you'll go through an offseason and there will be somebody that will surprise you, maybe runs a little better than you think he does when he puts those pads on. I don't think we can really make a fair evaluation on these young people until we go through a five- or six-month period with them and see how they do. Because not only do they have to do it on the field, they've got to be able to do it in the classroom, too, so that's a two-fold thing there."
Three spring goals
Kill set up his plan for the spring, saying he has three goals.
"Number one is we've got to learn how to work hard," he said. "Number two is no academic casualties. In other words we've got to do a better job in academics. Number three is learn the Minnesota way; we've got to learn to do things the way I expect and our coaching staff expects them to do it, and that's the Minnesota way. So we've got to be held accountable, and so far, so good. But anybody can be accountable for two weeks. Can you do it for a long period of time?"
This is the fifth college coaching job Kill has taken, and he said the job wouldn't be open if everything was perfect here.
"There's some things we need to address, and there's some things that I said, 'I didn't think it was quite this bad.' Then there's things that I said, 'Well, this is pretty darn good, not too bad,' " Kill said. "There's nothing that can't be fixed. It's just hard work and working together with people and getting to know the system a little bit. I think it's all about relationships and trusting people and trusting each other.
"I've said this all along: One coach is not going to turn this thing around. There's been a lot of good coaches come in here and are not here anymore and it's not [just] the coach, it's a group of people that have to work together for one common cause, and that's to have a better football team. We can do that. That's my job, to get the people to understand what it takes to win at any level. It doesn't matter if you're high school, college, there's a formula, and I know as a staff, we know what it takes to win, and there's some things we've got to get straightened out and we're going to work through that."
There is a reason that Tim Brewster was fired, Glen Mason was fired before him, Jim Wacker before him, and you could go on. With no conference championship since 1967, coaches get fired.
No doubt Kill has walked into a very tough situation. And no doubt he finds something every day that has to be fixed. But he has impressed everybody who has been around him, and if anybody can do the job, I believe he can.
Took the wrong job
Brad Childress can look back to Jan. 4, 2006, when he let the Wilf brothers, owners of the Vikings, talked him out of making a scheduled trip to Green Bay to interview for the Packers coaching job before he decided to become the coach of the Vikings.
Had Childress stalled the Wilfs and interviewed with the Packers, who can guess what might have happened. I am sure he was the first choice of the Packers and could have had that job. Instead Mike McCarthy was hired to replace Mike Sherman on Jan. 12.
After interviewing for the offensive coordinator jobs with the Dolphins and Bengals, unless something really good comes up, Childress will sit out this year and draw his $3 million salary.
• The Eden Prairie football team went to Winnipeg, Manitoba, to play two games last year because the Eagles couldn't get enough teams to play them around here. This year, one of their opponents on a full schedule is Minneapolis South. Meanwhile, rumors continue that history might be made in city high school sports this fall with both North and Roosevelt not having enough candidates to field a football team.
• Sitting in on the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission meeting Thursday to decide the fate of the Metrodome roof was the first Vikings player to ever serve on the board, Tim Baylor, a safety in 1979-80. ... With the Dome still unavailable, the Gophers baseball team has started preparing for the 2011 season working in the Gibson-Nagurski Complex.
• One of the top-recruited football players in the state is Prior Lake junior Karmichael Dunbar, son of Vikings defensive line coach Karl Dunbar. The younger Dunbar, a 6-2, 290-pound defensive tackle, has been invited to not only the Minnesota summer football camp but ones at Iowa, Wisconsin and Louisiana State.
• Andre Hollins, the Gophers basketball recruit out of White Station High School in Memphis, Tenn., continues do a good job, scoring 20 and 16 points in victories last week. ... Hopkins' Joe Coleman, the other Gophers recruit signed for next season, had 17 and 16 points, respectively, in victories over Wayzata and Minnetonka the past week.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • email@example.com