The football coaching tree that produced the Gophers' Jerry Kill and TCU's Gary Patterson is rooted in small-town Kansas, and the trunk is legendary coach Dennis Franchione.
Franchione, 64, turned around programs at New Mexico, TCU and Alabama before a five-year tenure at Texas A&M ended with his 2007 resignation.
Now, 30 years into head coaching, he's entering his fourth season at Texas State, starting with an enormous test Saturday against No. 10 Florida State. But Franchione hopes to carve out time Thursday night to watch on television when TCU visits Minnesota.
Kill and Patterson were college players under Franchione who eventually went to work for the man they call "Coach Fran," helping launch their own coaching careers.
Kill, 54, was an undersized linebacker for Franchione at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan. Franchione hired Kill as a defensive coordinator at Division II Pittsburg State in Kansas.
"I knew from what he was like as a player that he would be thorough, articulate, committed, hardworking and a good recruiter," Franchione said. "He's won everywhere he's been. If you don't love Jerry Kill as a person and as a coach, you don't like people because there's none finer."
Patterson, 55, was another undersized linebacker when Franchione, a Kansas State assistant coach, recruited him to be a Wildcat. They later coached together as assistants for two seasons at Tennessee Tech. Then in 1988, when Kill left Pittsburg State to become head coach at Webb City (Mo.) High School, Franchione hired Patterson to replace him.
The trio forged a tight bond back then, leaning on their Kansas ties. Franchione hails from Girard (pop. 2,789), Kill from Cheney (pop. 2,094) and Patterson from Rozel (pop. 156).
Patterson hopped to assistant jobs around the country before serving as Franchione's defensive coordinator for two years at New Mexico and three years at TCU. Patterson took over as TCU's head coach in 2001, after Franchione left for Alabama following a 10-1 season with the Horned Frogs.
"Gary's probably the finest defensive coach I know," Franchione said. "He has a knack in recruiting to look at a player on film — and he could be playing running back — and say, 'He'd be a great defensive end.' "
Franchione has a 210-126-2 career record. He had coached at Texas State when it was known as Southwest Texas State in the early '90s and returned in 2011, with the school transitioning into the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A). Now in the Sun Belt Conference, the Bobcats finished 7-5 last year.
"When I get up on Sundays, if I haven't seen it the night before, I check the Minnesota score, and I check the TCU score, and Pittsburg State and a few others," Franchione said. "That's the first thing I do."
Depth chart news
The Gophers released their depth chart Tuesday, with Cody Poock listed as their starting middle linebacker, and tight ends Lincoln Plsek (back) and Duke Anyanwu (knee) both out because of injuries.
Josh Campion is listed as the starting left tackle, with Ben Lauer, who is coming back from left knee surgery, behind him. The remaining starters on the offensive line are Jon Christenson at left guard, Brian Bobek at center, Connor Mayes at right guard and Jonah Pirsig at right tackle.
Chris Streveler is listed as the backup quarterback behind Mitch Leidner.
The biggest position battle in camp was at middle linebacker, where Poock edged out Everett Williams, at least according to this depth chart. Poock is a sophomore who transferred from Iowa Western Community College and was in line to start last year before tearing an ACL in his knee during spring practice.