After Tuesday's mistake-filled scrimmage, Jerry Kill conceded that fatigue may have contributed to the problems. "We've been going for 10 or 11 practices now, and we haven't backed off them much," he said. "I think they're a little bit tired."
So here's a quick quiz: You're the coach of an underachieving team, trying to turn things around, but the players are wearing down in training camp. What do you do?
If you guessed "take it easy on them," you don't know Jerry Kill.
The Gophers ramped up for a double-session of practices on Wednesday, wore full pads in both, added some full-speed kickoff-coverage work to the morning workout, and even went a little longer than usual.
Fatigue, you see, "that's a mental game," Kill said. "You've got to push through it."
Nobody seemed to mind. Matter of fact, after a film session that highlighted all the miscues that need to be corrected, the players seemed more eager than ever to get to work on Wednesday.
Kill said the film revealed one problem he hadn't anticipated, and he blamed himself for it. "We've been running a lot of two-huddle and three-huddle [setups] to get extra reps," he said, but that meant players were used to the rhythm of running a play, then watching the next unit running one. During the scrimmage, each unit stayed on the field for several plays at a time, so huddling up in a hurry, thinking quickly, those skills weren't as well developed. "I probably didn't have them as prepared as I needed to for that kind of situation," Kill said.
The offense-vs.-defense play in the afternoon produced a few good moments, particularly for Victor Keise. The sophomore receiver made a pair of nice catches, including one long pass that he had to slow down and maneuver around cornerback Michael Carter to reach, and he nearly had a third one.
Marcus Jones, a few moments after dropping a dump-off that had Kill yelling, "You've got to catch that ball!" responded with a 45-yard touchdown romp on a nice ball from Tom Parish. Jones juked around DB Chase Haviland near the goal line to complete the score.
And as I noted in my story in tomorrow's Star Tribune, Eric Lair and Donnell Kirkwood returned from injury for the practice, while Ryan Wynn, Troy Stoudermire and Jake Filkins remained in the orange jerseys.