In-staters warming to Kill and his staff

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 20, 2011 - 6:34 AM

Recruits for 2012 are beginning to show signs of buying what the Gophers' new football coach is selling.

hide

Gophers coach Jerry Kill

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Philip Nelson was only a sophomore at Mankato West, had barely begun the process of choosing where to play college football, but he had already made up his mind. "I remember telling my dad, 'There's no way I'm going to be a Gopher,'" Nelson said. "Ruled them out right away."

He laughs at the memory, because now he's got a new one: Last February, a full year before he could sign a letter of intent, Nelson, widely considered the most promising prep quarterback in Minnesota since Adam Weber, found himself in Jerry Kill's office, delivering an entirely different message: I'm yours.

"I'm a home-grown Badger [his father, Pat Nelson, played for the Badgers], and everybody thought I was automatic for Wisconsin," said Nelson, who has family in Madison. "But I don't want to leave Minnesota. That's how powerful Jerry Kill was to me."

It's a common refrain as Kill and his assistants slowly put together their first real recruiting class. The new coach, like most of his predecessors, said keeping Minnesota's most talented high school players at home would be a priority. At least initially, he's having some success.

Already, four Minnesota seniors-to-be have promised to play for Kill -- five if you count Hopkins receiver Andre McDonald, who committed last spring but has since said he is delaying his final decision. The Gophers also have a commitment from wide receiver Isaac Fruechte, who played last year at Rochester Community and Technical College.

Nelson signed on early, and offensive guard Isaac Hayes of St. Thomas Academy committed to the Gophers earlier this month. Both players had scholarship offers from such high-profile programs as Virginia Tech, Ohio State and Iowa. "With Hayes and [2011 freshman] Tommy Olson, you've got the inside of your line locked down for three or four years," said Matt O'Connell, an analyst for Gopher Illustrated, a rivals.com affiliate that closely tracks college recruiting.

McDonald, rated the top prep player in the state by the website, began wavering after a recent scholarship offer from Ohio State. Still, "the in-state players have really bought into Kill and what he's trying to do. They like his honesty, they like his vision for the program, and he's got a track record for winning," O'Connell said. "The in-state class is deeper this year, in terms of recruitable talent, than in past years. That said, [Kill and his staff] are targeting more in-state kids than other coaches did."

It's not just Minnesotans, of course; the rivals.com-affiliated website has confirmed 11 commitments from out-of-staters, including four players this month from Miami Central High. And some other highly recruited in-state players are still considering the Gophers, such as offensive linemen Nick Davidson of Eden Prairie and Jonah Pirsig of Blue Earth, tight end Will Johnson of Osseo and linebacker Nick Rallis of Edina.

But it's also becoming clear that the Gophers coaches don't rely on outside evaluations to narrow their focus. "They don't seem to care whether guys have other offers or not," O'Connell said. "They're not afraid to be the first team in on a guy, and that says something about their confidence in their ability to develop the players they like."

The NCAA strictly prohibits coaches from publicly commenting on recruits until after they have signed letters of intent, so Kill could offer no details about his haul. But "we certainly feel good about where we are now," he said earlier this month. "I like our approach. I think it's going well. We've worked very hard at it."

Part of that work paid off right away when Nelson met assistant coaches Pat Poore, Jim Zebrowski and offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover, who made it clear how impressed they were with the 17-year-old quarterback. "They told me right off the bat that I'm their No. 1 guy, that I'm the future at quarterback," said Nelson, who led Mankato West to an undefeated regular season and a berth in the state quarterfinals last fall.

Yet it was Kill's honesty about what would be expected of him that really sold the teenager, who had already paid informal visits to Iowa, Iowa State and Wisconsin. "He said they're going to bring in other guys, too, and that they're going to make me work really hard" to win the starting job, Nelson said, and sure enough, Mitch Leidner of Lakeville South made a verbal commitment in June. "There's something about the new staff. They didn't guarantee anything, but they just seemed way more interested, more friendly and honest."

Nelson attended a few spring workouts to watch Kill and his assistants at work -- he'll graduate a semester early, so he plans to enroll and take part in those practices next March --and spoke to several other Minnesota recruits who have been similarly impressed.

"I could see why all these kids are excited to stay home now," Nelson said. "It reminds me of Iowa, my No. 2 choice -- they have a stable coaching staff and keep most of their in-state kids at home. There's a bright future with this staff."

  • related content

  • Home-grown

    Tuesday July 19, 2011

    New Gophers football coach Jerry Kill has 16 verbal commitments, including five Minnesotans -- maybe six, if Andre McDonald sticks to his original plan. The in-state recruits:

  • 2011 U football schedule

    Wednesday July 20, 2011

    Sept. 3 at Southern California

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco 2 Bottom 6th Inning
Kansas City 2
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 90 FINAL
Orlando 89
Brooklyn 86 FINAL
Boston 100
Washington 100 FINAL
New York 103
Cleveland 74 4th Qtr 6:23
Memphis 81
Minnesota 98 4th Qtr 4:17
Milwaukee 80
Atlanta 90 3rd Qtr 2:39
San Antonio 70
Portland 9:00 PM
LA Lakers
Phoenix 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Toronto 0 Postponed
Ottawa 0
Philadelphia 3 3rd Prd 12:22
Pittsburgh 2
Washington 1 1st Prd 3:49
Edmonton 1
Buffalo 9:30 PM
Anaheim
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Chivas USA 0 1st Half 15:00
Real Salt Lake 0
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close