Kill finds the positives in sloppy scrimmage

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 16, 2011 - 11:34 PM

Armed with teachable moments, the coach saw promise in players' responses.

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Gophers coach Jerry Kill kept an eye on quarterback MarQueis Gray during Tuesday's scrimmage at TCF Bank Stadium.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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Jerry Kill knew what his morning would be like Tuesday. "I don't think I've tolerated mistakes very well," he said, and sure enough, he spent two-plus hours not-so-gently correcting his players for their missteps.

Freshman tailback Lamonte Edwards runs sideways a yard short of the first-down marker? "Know the situation!" Kill hollered.

Receiver Ge'Shun Harris lines up offsides -- twice? "Sit your [butt] down! Get me somebody who can line up right!" he screamed.

Quarterback MarQueis Gray fumbles a couple of snaps from backup center Zach Mottla? "MarQueis, you're killing us right now!" Kill yelled before banishing his starter to the sideline for a series.

But it's practically a ritual of the fall, the Gophers' new coach said an hour or two later. First scrimmages of camp almost always are brutal, even for veteran, accomplished teams, and he definitely doesn't have one of those yet. So after a mistake-filled morning -- various Gophers committed a total of eight fumbles, for instance -- Kill pronounced himself ... well, not pleased, but certainly not discouraged.

"I've been doing this 29 years, and every time you have a first scrimmage, that's pretty much how it goes. The offense is usually a little bit behind, you don't have much timing, [and] we're playing all kinds of people," Kill said. "We had a lot of adversity today, and the kids responded pretty well to it. Hopefully they do it on game day, because there's going to be adversity."

Adding to that adversity was a handful of injuries. Cornerback Troy Stoudermire, linebacker Gary Tinsley and long snapper Jake Filkins were shaken up during the scrimmage, tight end Eric Lair didn't even put on pads, and starting center Ryan Wynn appeared to roll his left ankle on the third play of the day. He was on crutches, his foot in a boot, by the end of the session, leaving Gray to make a shaky transition to Mottla.

"It's probably good for MarQueis to get under another center. He hasn't been underneath [Mottla] a whole lot, so it took a while for him to get used to it, but that's going to happen," Kill said. "What happened today is pretty much what needed to happen."

As long as it stops happening. "We had a great scrimmage, we just had too many turnovers," Gray said, largely blaming himself. "In the long run that'll make us lose the game."

Plenty of positive things happened, too. Harris, for instance, redeemed himself for his mistake by making a remarkable tip-and-catch in traffic near the goal line later on. Senior tailback Duane Bennett had a handful of long runs, and threw in a spin move to free himself for a touchdown on one play. He also dragged down Brock Vereen from behind at the 3-yard line after the sophomore cornerback intercepted a tipped pass and took it nearly 60 yards.

"It took me back to high school," Bennett said. "It wasn't fun chasing down Brock Vereen, but it was a necessary tackle to make."

The defense made a half-dozen "sacks" -- quarterbacks could only be tagged, not tackled -- including one by defensive end Matt Garin, who is just back from an injury, one by freshman Ben Perry, and a pair by linebacker Brendon Beal.

Best of all, Kill said, was the relentless running style of freshman tailback David Cobb, who got outside for a 43-yard romp at one point, then crashed his way up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown run a few plays later. When another back was stopped on a goal-line play, Kill yelled, "Get me the touchdown back," meaning Cobb.

"I've been comfortable with him since he's been here. He learns fast," Kill said. "We're looking for guys who maybe can contribute that we haven't had here. He's somebody that's stepped up."

That is progress enough for the first attempt at putting the playbook into practice.

"We knew we weren't going to be perfect execution. If we were, then we're probably in trouble," Kill said. "If we're going to make [mistakes], I'd a lot rather do it on a Tuesday on the 10th practice than on gameday. We'll point it out, and hopefully they'll get it corrected."

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