Phil Miller's Gophers Insider: Growing pains old hat to U coach Kill

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 11, 2011 - 8:47 PM

The coach knows from experience how tough it can be — and he's intent on taking care of his young players.


Gophers coach Jerry Kill walked off the field following his team's latest loss, 45-17 at Purdue on Saturday.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

He and his staff have weathered this hurricane before. Jerry Kill knows from experience that a top-to-bottom rebuilding effort is popular in the hypothetical and rewarding in the past tense, but it feels like a pliers-and-blowtorch manicure in the here and now.

"It's frustrating for those kids in there. They go to practice, they work hard to try and get better -- you don't think they're frustrated?" Kill said after the Gophers concluded the first half of the 2011 season with a 1-5 record that actually understates the condition of Minnesota's football program. "I feel bad for them, I really do. I want them to do well. I want so bad to see them make a play right now and have something good happen."

But that's not how football works in the Big Ten, where today's success is secured by your actions four or five years earlier. "When you've got some young players, that's going to happen," Kill said of his team's 69-3 first-half deficit in its first two Big Ten games. "Our biggest job right now is to take care of those kids. Keep them working, keep them positive."

And keep getting experience. The Gophers used 59 different players in Saturday's 45-17 loss to Purdue, 32 of them freshmen or sophomores. Purdue used fewer underclassmen than the Gophers' 18-strong freshman class; Minnesota gave starting assignments to seven freshmen, the Boilermakers only one.

"That's the way life is, and you just try to find out how people react to difficult times," Kill said. "The ones who go off [the wrong way], they'll struggle their whole life. That's people in general -- how you deal with adversity, that's really important. We'll find out who stays in there."

Other than their willingness to compete -- and only the coaches can gauge that with any certainty -- the Gophers didn't have many positives at Purdue, a place where they hoped the talent gap would be less pronounced. Marcus Jones, the Gophers' most promising player so far this season, returned a kickoff for a touchdown. And the pass rush at least annoyed Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush. Some Gophers felt that had they not sabotaged themselves with three first-quarter turnovers, they would have had a chance to win by the end.

"We made some improvements. I think the D-line got after it today," linebacker Mike Rallis said. "We always want to put pressure on the quarterback. The other stuff will come -- we need to try to keep doing that."

With a schedule that includes Nebraska, Michigan State and Wisconsin over the next five weeks -- combined record: 14-2 -- those discoveries are likely to be made under the worst conditions possible. Which raises an important question for the second half of the season: Should winning another game even be a priority?

In some ways, Jerry Kill's first season as a coach in Minneapolis resembles that of Kurt Rambis. The former Timberwolves coach endured an excruciating 15-67 debut season as coach but said afterward that he didn't regard that as his first season. "I consider next year our first year," Rambis said at the time. "Last season was just a step we had to go through to reset the organization so we could start over."

Rebuilding the Gophers looks equally challenging, and Kill will keep the future in mind as he deals with the present. That could mean even more minutes, even more opportunities, for the underclassmen at the expense of veterans as Kill works toward a more competitive future. True freshman Cedric Thompson, for instance, received his first action of the season at Purdue, after Kill weighed preserving his redshirt status against the chance to start developing him through actual game reps.

The distant future is this week's emphasis, by the way -- Kill and several assistants already have departed on midseason recruiting trips, leaving the bye-week practices to his coordinators.

"We'll be all over the place. It's a big week for us, recruitingwise," Kill said. "Right now, that's where our focus has to be."

And when he returns?

"My job is to keep working and stay positive, keep trying to get the kids who want to get better," he said. "There's a lot of them in that room who want to get better. ... The ones that go the positive way, they'll get rewarded sometime."

Phil Miller •

  • related content

  • Gophers replay

    Sunday October 9, 2011

    The recap: A series of early mistakes removed any chance the Gophers had of being competitive. Three turnovers, bad penalties, poor punts and ineffective tackling doomed Minnesota to a 31-0...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 FINAL
Arizona 4
Boston 79 FINAL
Cleveland 110
LA Lakers 103 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Sacramento 124 FINAL
New York 86
Houston 96 FINAL
Atlanta 104
Utah 93 FINAL
Memphis 82
Washington 92 FINAL
Chicago 97
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
Denver 106
Nashville 1 FINAL
New Jersey 3
Calgary 3 FINAL(OT)
Philadelphia 2
Washington 5 FINAL
Columbus 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 3 FINAL
Florida 2
Ottawa 2 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 3
NY Islanders 2 FINAL(OT)
Dallas 3
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Arizona 1
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
Edmonton 2
San Jose 6 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Ole Miss 82 FINAL
Alabama 74
Eastern Mich 67 FINAL
Ball State 60
Kent State 81 FINAL
Bowling Green 80
Ohio 66 FINAL
Buffalo 93
Georgetown 60 FINAL
Butler 54
Toledo 77 FINAL
Central Mich 85
Rhode Island 59 FINAL
Dayton 75
Youngstown St 67 FINAL
Detroit 77
North Carolina 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 49
Loyola-Maryland 45 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
Iowa 77 FINAL
Indiana 63
Akron 63 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 70
Army 52 FINAL
Navy 56
Maryland 60 FINAL
Rutgers 50
Kennesaw St 54 FINAL
USC Upstate 90
Jacksonville 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 81
Lipscomb 76 FINAL
Northern Ky 73
Stetson 67 FINAL
North Florida 81
Wright State 57 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 60
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Northern Ill 65
Nebraska Omaha 80 FINAL
North Dakota 78
Houston Baptist 71 FINAL
Abilene Christian 83
NC State 66 FINAL
Clemson 61
Texas A&M 62 FINAL
Florida 66
Kentucky 72 FINAL
Georgia 64
West Virginia 69 FINAL
Kansas 76
Auburn 61 FINAL
Missouri 63
Michigan 78 FINAL
Northwestern 82
Villanova 76 FINAL
Creighton 72
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 68
UMass Lowell 60
West Virginia 55 FINAL
Kansas State 59
Texas 79
Fresno State 61 FINAL
Air Force 41
San Jose St 76 FINAL
Boise State 91
Nevada 61 FINAL
Colorado State 68
San Diego State 76
Wyoming 61 FINAL
Utah State 57
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is the best center on a Twin Cities sports team?

Weekly Question