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Continued: Hartman: Kalil praised for being tough, smart

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 27, 2012 - 9:04 AM

From talking to a lot of NFL people, there was never any doubt in my mind that new Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman was going to take the safe pick in the first round and select All-America offensive tackle Matt Kalil from USC.

If you were allowed to enter the Vikings' draft room, I'm sure Kalil was at the top of their board from almost Day 1.

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who recruited Kalil out of Servite (Calif.) High School when he was coach at USC, knows what it takes to play left tackle in the NFL, having coached the Seahawks for the past two seasons, the New York Jets in 1994 and the New England Patriots from 1997 to '99. He got to watch Kalil's development up close.

"Matt is everything he is billed to be. He is tough, he is smart and he understands the game," said Carroll, who ranked Kalil the best lineman he coached in his nine years at Southern California. "There is nothing to keep him from playing right away and playing in the league for many years."

Apparently early in his freshman year Kalil had some jitters, but once he got over that, he became a starter. He protected Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley the past two seasons and allowed only one sack in 24 games.

Vikings offensive line coach Jeff Davidson was the Carolina Panthers' offensive coordinator for four years. Matt's brother, Ryan, is the starting center for Carolina.

"It sounds funny, but [Ryan] is smaller in stature [6-2, 295 pounds compared to Matt's 6-6, 306]," Davidson said. "[Ryan] is not the same type of player that his brother is. They have different demeanors."

Davidson, who had seen a lot of film on Matt Kalil before the draft, was hoping the Vikings would draft him so the left side of the team's line would be solidified by inserting Kalil at left tackle and moving Charlie Johnson from left tackle to left guard.

One person who was hoping the Vikings would draft Kalil was quarterback Christian Ponder, who now has an impressive new teammate to protect his blind side.

"Well, I think Kalil will be a great player," Ponder said. "Obviously he is highly regarded and did well at USC. I'd be happy to be his teammate."

High on Love

Mike Krzyzewski, the Duke basketball coach who had Kevin Love on Team USA in the FIBA World Championships last summer in Istanbul, Turkey, had nothing but good things to say about Love's time playing for him.

Krzyzewski, who will coach the U.S. team in the London Olympics later this summer, said Love has improved so much and has a good chance of making the team. Team members will be announced at the end of May.

"[Love] did an amazing job for us during the World Championships in Istanbul and grew as a player, he understood what he needed to work on," said Krzyzewski, who was in the Twin Cities this past weekend for the Nike EYBL tournament. "He's still a young guy. He had a personal trainer come out there and worked extra every day when we were overseas, and if he makes the Olympic team, he's going to do a tremendous job for us.

"He has a combination of outstanding talent, great competitiveness, but also he's an extremely smart player. When you have intelligence, talent and competitiveness, you have a chance to be one of the best. He's one of the best right now."

Krzyzewski said he wasn't surprised how well Love played for the Wolves before the forward suffered a concussion that sidelined him for the rest of the season.

"He just has an insatiable desire and appetite to become better," Krzyzewski said. "He wants to be coached and he works with the coach to get better. He's an easy guy to coach.

"He's got a great chance [to make the Olympic team]. I've called Kevin just to check on him, and he said he was fine. I asked him if he would still take a punch for his country, and he said he's ready to do that. In the World Championships, he did great. If he makes the team, he'll be a very valuable guy for us."


• Former Wolves assistant coach Eric Musselman was named the 2012 NBA Developmental League Coach of the Year on Thursday. Musselman guided the Los Angeles D-Fenders to the Western Conference championship and the first overall seed in the D-League playoffs. They also recorded a D-League-record 38 victories this year.

• While the Twins haven't been selling out this year like they did in April a year ago, Twins President Dave St. Peter is happy with the crowds that have averaged around 33,000 at Target Field. "Can you imagine how much we would be drawing at the Metrodome, considering our record, if we were playing there now?" St. Peter said.

• The word is that the popularity of Gophers football coach Jerry Kill has resulted in about 90 percent of season ticket holders renewing their 2012 tickets, despite the fact that the schedule isn't anywhere near what it was a year ago when North Dakota State, Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin played at TCF Bank Stadium.

• The Gophers football team will host two community service events Saturday. In the morning they will host an invitation-only event for children coping with cancer, and from 1:30 to 3 p.m. they will host a youth clinic that will have Gophers players and coaches working with children from around the Twin Cities.

• Gophers men's basketball coach Tubby Smith is confident his future is solid at Minnesota after spending more than an hour visiting with new athletic director Norwood Teague on Tuesday. "I'm a patient man," Smith said. "I'm expecting the [contract] extension is going to happen. I am not going anywhere."

• Former Twins pitcher Johan Santana struck out 11 batters over 6 2/3 innings in a 2-1 victory for the Mets over the Marlins on Tuesday. Those 11 strikeouts were the most for Santana since he struck out 11 Atlanta Braves batters on Aug. 2, 2010.

• Former Gopher Vincent Grier has played 14 games for Mersin Buyukeshir Belediyesi in Turkey. Grier is averaging 13.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 2.8 assists in 31.9 minutes per game. ... Former Gopher Rick Rickert is averaging a double-double for Kyoto Hannaryz in Japan. Rickert is second on the team in scoring at 13.8 points per game and leads the team in rebounding with 10.8 per game.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m.

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