I caught up with Gophers coach Jerry Kill today and got his thoughts on a few subjects:
On Maxx Williams turning pro:
"You give all the information to their family, and they’ve got to make a decision," Kill said. "As I told Maxx, ‘Boy it would be great to have you back. At the same time, you go out, all these are going to help our program.
"People are going to say, 'Those guys are doing things right. They’re recruiting good people, they’re getting developed and shoot they’re leaving early.'
"Plus Maxx is smart. He’s going to get his education and so forth. So to be honest, certainly we’d like to have him back. But at the same time, you do what’s best for his family, and he’s also helped our program by doing that in a lot of ways."
I asked Kill for his thoughts on recruiting heading into signing day, Feb 4, mentioning that a couple Minnesota commits have torn it up in recent All-Star Games. Running back Jonathan Femi-Cole was named the MVP of the NUC All-American Game in in South Carolina, with 23 carries for 137 yards. And quarterback Demry Croft completed 12 of 15 passes for more than 200 yards, with two touchdowns, in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl. Kill can't talk about specific recruits, but he gave a general answer:
"I think things are going pretty good. You know, some of those guys playing, I don’t want them playing that good. That means they’ll get a lot more attention and with [new Michigan coach Jim] Harbaugh running around here late, that’s the whole thing. When these coaching jobs change, you never know what’s going to happen, so you’ve got to stay on the kids you’ve got committed, and then you’ve just got to continue to recruit.
"But so far, our class is exactly what we need, and certainly with the athletes we’ve got redshirted. We feel right now, we’d like another defensive back, another linebacker, three defensive linemen, which I think we’re fairly close on one. Offensively, we want another wide receiver, and really trying to figure out whether we wanted another tight end or not."
Finally, I asked about Jon Christenson playing right guard in the Citrus Bowl. It was Christenson's first start since he broke the tibia and fibula in his left leg at Indiana in November 2013. With center Tommy Olson and guard Zac Epping both graduating, Christenson's return to health has been a big development, as he has experience at both center and guard:
"That’s huge," Kill said. "And I wished we could have redshirted him because of injuries, but Connor Mayes -- that allows him to be the guard, or we could flip that with Joe Bjorklund. We know we have Joe, Connor, and Jon between the center, two guard spots. Jon being able to be healthy and come back -- he’ll be a leader and a captain on our team. I can tell you that because of the way he is.
"The reason [Christenson] played in that game was because of his size, and Joe did a good job, too, but the physical size of Jon helps you against their D-line. And then with Joe’s situation he played on a bad knee all year, and he’s going to be better a year from now.
"We’ve got a chance to be a really, really good football team next year. I don’t think we’ll be under the stone so to speak, being picked fifth or sixth or something like that. I think people know that we’re getting better."
Note: I'll have much more on the Gophers' 2015 outlook in our Sunday edition. Have a good weekend everyone.