Improved team GPA pleases Kill

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 29, 2011 - 6:45 AM

Academics were a serious problem when he was hired, Kill has said.

Jerry Kill warned last month that he was concerned about the academic standing "of 10 or 11 players, and we may lose a few along the way when grades are posted."

But the Gophers survived that hurdle, and even thrived, the football coach said Tuesday.

"Our overall GPA for this semester was 2.87, and that's tremendously better than it was," Kill said. "But we still have issues and battles that we've got to take care of."

Academics were a serious problem when he was hired, Kill has said, because with no permanent coaching staff on board, grades slid during the fall semester. The transition to a new staff, and its hit-the-books emphasis, figured to lead to at least a minor exodus of players, not unusual for a coaching change.

But with preseason camp less than six weeks away, the Gophers have lost only four players, for various reasons: defensive end Jewhan Edwards, tight end Tiree Eure, running back DeLeon Eskridge and wide receiver Bryant Allen.

"There will be more changes; that's just the way it is," Kill said. "There will be somebody mad they didn't get into two-a-day camp, or somebody that's not getting enough reps. Kids aren't patient anymore. But you can't worry about them; you've got to worry about the ones that want to be here. ... You can't turn around the culture in one year."

Depth in backfield

The departure of Eskridge, whose 698 rushing yards led the Gophers last season, in order to be closer to his San Francisco home, shouldn't have too great an impact, Kill said, because Minnesota has a stockpile of running backs.

"I think we'll be OK," Kill said. "That's one position where we've got a lot of guys that are very similar."

Among them: redshirt freshman Devon Wright, an academic casualty last season. Kill said the Coral Springs, Fla., native has regained his eligibility.

Shiny new digs

The Gophers unveiled $1.14 million worth of improvements to their facilities, showing off a remodeled weight room and new artificial turf on their practice field. The old turf had begun to buckle in high-traffic spots, creating hazards for players.

The new turf, installed at a cost of $668,296? "It seems to be very soft,'' Kill said. "It certainly feels good for an old man like me to walk around on."

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