CHICAGO — Rutgers coach Chris Ash knew Jerry Kill casually over the years. They crossed paths in recruiting and at coaching clinics, and Ash said he always appreciated Kill’s acumen as a head coach.
So when Ash went looking to hire a new offensive coordinator last December, he contacted Kill, who was working at Kansas State in football administration after retiring from Minnesota due to health reasons.
“When we had a position that opened up, I had heard that he wanted to get back into coaching so I reached out to him,” Ash said at the Big Ten media days. “We started to have conversations and quickly into those conversations, we found out this would be a good fit.”
At his news conference announcing he was leaving the Gophers in 2015, Kill said, “I feel like a part of me died.” His seizures had returned and his health deteriorated to the point that he couldn’t continue coaching.
“This is not the way I wanted to go out,” Kill said that day. “But you all know about the struggles, and I did my best to change. But some of those struggles have returned, and I don’t want to cheat the game.”
Kill’s health improved during his year at Kansas State. Ash said he spoke at length with Kill about his health before making the hire.
“That was a big part of the conversations,” said Ash, preparing for his second season at Rutgers. “We couldn’t move forward if he didn’t feel comfortable or I didn’t feel comfortable about his health. He’s in great shape. The time off allowed him to get back into shape. Develop some healthy habits in terms of sleep and eating and things like that. He’s in a great spot right now.”
Kill will try to help Rutgers improve on its 2-10 record last season in the East. The Scarlet Knights are not scheduled to play Kill’s former team until 2019.
Being a coordinator and not head coach might take some adjustment for Kill, who hasn’t served as a coordinator since 1993 at Pittsburg State.
“I’ve never coached on offense before,” Ash said. “I have an idea of what I want it to look like and what I think we need to do to be successful with the players that we have and the division that we play in. But he’s the offensive coordinator. We have a lot of conversations about what we’re going to do and certain things we need to emphasize and personnel decisions. But at the end of the day, Jerry has been hired to run the offense.”