Chip Scoggins: First-year excuses are now off table for Kill, Gophers

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 27, 2011 - 8:53 AM

After a predictable struggle in 2011, it's OK to expect more from the Gophers in Year 2 under Jerry Kill.

hide

Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray (5) ran away from Illinois tacklers Saturday.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Unlike his predecessor, Jerry Kill promised nothing when he took over the Gophers football program last winter. He didn't predict Rose Bowl trips or offer any other grandiose declarations.

Gophers fans welcomed that approach as a breath of fresh air. Tempered expectations trumped unfulfilled promises because that meshed more with the reality of their situation.

That worked in Year 1 of Kill's long-term plan, but the bar must be raised going forward. It's OK to expect and demand more.

The Gophers ended their season Saturday by throttling a woeful Illinois team 27-7, finishing with a 3-9 record. They finished on a high note and need to use that as a springboard into their offseason.

Growing pains were understandable this season. Everything was new. New coaches, new systems, a lot of new faces in the lineup.

That component is no longer part of the equation. Armed with a soft nonconference schedule and a year in Kill's system, the Gophers should be in contention for a bowl game next season.

That's hardly the gold standard for success with the proliferation of bowl games, but the program needs to display tangible proof of progress. Fans' patience eroded even more this season, and fan apathy reached a point where they did not fill their 50,000-seat stadium against Wisconsin, Iowa or Nebraska. The crowd was so small for Saturday's finale they could have held it at St. Thomas.

Kill said this week that his program is taking "baby steps" but otherwise declined to outline his short-term goals in concrete terms.

"I'm not going to make all those statements, but I will tell you, we'll be better next year," he said. "I can tell you that. Our goal is going to be set high."

Kill sounded particularly upbeat and optimistic as he discussed his team's progress the final month. His players finally realized the effort required to compete at this level. They showed some resolve and willingness to fight back in tough times.

That, however, should be the minimum standard now. The fact they didn't fold up tents and quit on the season is admirable, but the Gophers should be judged more on results next season.

Everyone knows that Tim Brewster left the program in shambles and with talent deficiencies. Those problems aren't solved overnight, or in one season. But it's time to turn the page and aim higher.

Nobody is suggesting the Gophers are ready to contend for the Big Ten championship. Or win nine games. But if they're sitting with three victories this time next season, any attempt to lament the team's youth and lack of talent will be greeted more skeptically.

Kill said his team's offseason work begins Monday with players hitting the weight room and the coaching staff hitting the recruiting trail. The players need to get bigger, faster, stronger. The coaches need to upgrade the talent and plug holes in the roster, notably in the secondary.

Beyond that, the Gophers need to establish an identity as a program and, as Kill noted, become more consistent in all three phases. They weren't competitive in four games and entered Saturday ranked 110th nationally (out of 120 teams) in total offense, 93rd in total defense and 93rd in punting.

But this looked like a different team by season's end. You could see the improvement. That's a positive sign. Now they move forward with fewer unknowns, beginning with their quarterback situation.

MarQueis Gray made strides after a shaky start, but he must develop into a consistent passer to complement his running ability. By the time the Gophers open the 2012 season, he will have gone through two spring practices, two fall camps and one season as the starter. He won't be new to the position or system anymore. They can't use that excuse again.

He's just one piece of the puzzle, though. The Gophers relied heavily on young players this season. Their experiences should pay dividends.

"I'll be disappointed if we don't move it forward," Kill said.

Kill has talked at length about the "process" of rebuilding this program. The Gophers completed the first phase Saturday.

Now they need to take that next step.

Chip Scoggins ascoggins@startribune.com

  • related content

  • What the Gophers need to improve in 2012

    Sunday November 27, 2011

    1 DEVELOP MARQUEIS GRAYTwo months ago, the junior quarterback's future at the position was in serious doubt, after coaches yanked...

  • Head Gophers coach Jerry Kill watched from the sidelines Saturday.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Team Irvin 7:15 PM
Team Carter
Miami 12:00 PM
Chicago
Oklahoma City 2:30 PM
Cleveland
Dallas 5:00 PM
New Orleans
Indiana 5:00 PM
Orlando
LA Clippers 5:00 PM
Phoenix
Minnesota 5:00 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 6:00 PM
Toronto
Milwaukee 6:00 PM
San Antonio
Boston 7:00 PM
Golden State
Washington 7:00 PM
Denver
Houston 8:30 PM
LA Lakers
Team Toews 4:00 PM
Team Foligno
South Florida 6 1st Half 15:27
Connecticut 7
Boston College 12:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Virginia 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Indiana 12:30 PM
Ohio State
Stony Brook 1:00 PM
Binghamton
Cincinnati 1:00 PM
UCF
Maine 1:00 PM
Hartford
Monmouth 1:00 PM
Manhattan
Fairfield 1:00 PM
Marist
Rowan 1:00 PM
Princeton
St Bonaventure 1:00 PM
Rhode Island
Duke 1:00 PM
St Johns
Saint Peters 1:00 PM
Siena
Drake 1:00 PM
Wichita State
Vermont 1:00 PM
UMass Lowell
Seton Hall 2:00 PM
Butler
NJIT 2:05 PM
South Alabama
Northern Iowa 3:00 PM
Illinois State
Louisville 3:00 PM
Pittsburgh
UMBC 3:30 PM
Albany
Niagara 3:30 PM
Iona
Notre Dame 5:30 PM
NC State
Belmont 5:30 PM
Tennessee St
Creighton 6:00 PM
Villanova
Northwestern 6:30 PM
Maryland
Washington 7:30 PM
Utah
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 13 1st Half 12:33
Georgetown 8
St Johns 4 1st Half 15:35
Villanova 7
Arkansas 5 1st Half 14:25
Florida 14
Maine 12:00 PM
UMBC
Vanderbilt 12:00 PM
Alabama
Lafayette 12:00 PM
Lehigh
UCF 1:00 PM
SMU
Utah 1:00 PM
Washington
James Madison 1:00 PM
Coll of Charleston
Delaware 1:00 PM
Drexel
Hofstra 1:00 PM
William & Mary
Hartford 1:00 PM
Albany
Binghamton 1:00 PM
Stony Brook
Towson 1:00 PM
UNC-Wilmington
Wake Forest 1:00 PM
(17) Florida State
Georgia Tech 1:00 PM
Virginia
(22) Georgia 1:00 PM
(5) Tennessee
Drake 1:00 PM
Evansville
Iona 1:00 PM
Canisius
Fairfield 1:00 PM
Monmouth
Northwestern 1:00 PM
Penn State
Wisconsin 1:00 PM
Michigan State
Ohio State 1:00 PM
Purdue
Northern Iowa 1:05 PM
Indiana State
Butler 1:30 PM
Xavier
Creighton 2:00 PM
Marquette
Providence 2:00 PM
DePaul
Northeastern 2:00 PM
Elon
(2) Connecticut 2:00 PM
Cincinnati
Oregon 2:00 PM
Arizona
Bradley 2:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
NC State 2:00 PM
(23) Syracuse
(7) Maryland 2:00 PM
Indiana
Illinois State 2:05 PM
Missouri State
Colorado 3:00 PM
Washington St
Tulane 3:00 PM
South Florida
(14) Kentucky 3:00 PM
Missouri
(9) Oregon State 3:00 PM
(13) Arizona State
Vermont 3:30 PM
UMass Lowell
Iowa State 3:30 PM
(8) Texas
Southern Ill 3:45 PM
Wichita State
(15) Duke 4:00 PM
(12) North Carolina
Miami-Florida 4:00 PM
(4) Louisville
(21) Minnesota 4:15 PM
(25) Rutgers
California 5:00 PM
UCLA
(11) Stanford 7:00 PM
USC
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you favor the plan for expanded athletic facilities at the U of M?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close