B1G 2011 // Minnesota Football Cocktail Party Preview

Today we continue B1G 2011, our comprehensive offseason preview series.  From now through early July, we'll be dedicating each week on OTE to individual programs, and providing daily team insight and analysis.  We'll work in reverse chronological order from last year's conference finish.  (Don't worry, we'll make sure to squeeze Nebraska in somewhere along the way.)  This approach will allow us to thoroughly appraise each club.

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Minnesota at a glance...

First season: 1882
Head Coach: Jerry Kill (1st Year, 0-0)
All-Time Record: 635-454-44 (.580)
2010 Record: 3-9 (2-6 Conference)

2010 was a tumultuous year in DinkyTown as the team started the season with a win under Tim Brewster... a win that would prove to be his last, as he was fired following a loss to Purdue in October, the team's sixth straight loss at the time. Offensive Coordinator Jeff Horton would take the reins for the remaining 5 games, and manage to lead the Gophers to two conference wins (Illinois & Iowa) in their final two games of the season to salvage some semblance of respectability.

[Conversation Pointer: Don't be afraid to make fun of Tim Brewster when talking to a Gopher football fan. We used to think we liked him, but we learned he was all talk and no walk. A real snake-oils salesman, if you will. We aren't happy about what he left us with, so go ahead and join in the fun.]

Bring on the Jerry Kill Era

After determining that, despite getting two wins out of the team, Jeff Horton was not the man for the job, Gopher Athletic Director Joel Maturi undertook the process of finding a new head coach. Maturi claimed to want a "Tubby Smith-type" hire. (In hindsight we maybe all should have objected when he said that, but whatayagonnado?) Instead Maturi announced that he'd be hiring Jerry Kill. Gopher Nation went into meltdown mode.

But once we got to hear Kill speak, understand his philosophies, and realize the fact that this guy has more football knowledge in his mustache than Tim Brewster had on his whole staff, we've learned to like him and are beginning to have some optimism.

Jerry Kill is the definition of climbing the ladder. Webb City High School (Head Coach), Pittsburgh State (Kansas, O & D Coordinator), Emporia State (Head Coach), Saginaw Valley State (Head Coach), Southern Illinois (Head Coach) and Northern Illinois (Head Coach) all show up on his resume. He has a history of taking programs that are in the tank, whipping them into shape with solid fundamentals, hard work, and a nose to the grindstone attitude, and turning them into winners.

Kill has also managed to keep those who have helped him in this process around. OC Matt Limegrover and DC Tracy Claeys have each been coaching under Jerry Kill for over 10 years.

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In the cupboard...
Total returning starters:
15 (5 offense, 9 defense, 1 special teams)

The most important position on the field will be filled by a returning starter in MarQueis Gray. But he, of course, isn't returning to the position that he started at in 2010. This is a good thing. There are a lot of Gopher fans (this guy) who thought Gray should have maybe been starting last year over 4 year starter Adam Weber.

Another important returnee on offense was last year's Big Ten leader in TD catches with 10, Da'Jon McKinight. McKnight should emerge early as Gray's best, and probably favorite, option.

Having 9 defensive starters coming back should be exciting, and from an experience standpoint, it is. But those starters are returning from a defense that gave up over 390 yards and over 30 points/game. They were in the bottom 3 in the Big Ten in almost every defensive category that matters.

[Conversation Pointer: The two worst seasons in recent Gopher football history both happened under Tim Brewster's watch. In his first year the Gophers were 1-11, the low point of which was an October loss to North Dakota State who had just made the move up to Division I. The Gophers will welcome the Bison back to the Twin Cities on September 24th of this year. This is the kind of game that scared the pants off Gopher fans under Brewster, but it's the kind of game that a coach like Jerry Kill, who preaches hard work and sound fundamentals, should not lose.]

2011 Schedule:

Date Opponent
09/03/11 @Southern Cal
09/10/11 New Mexico State
09/17/11 Miami (OH)
09/24/11 North Dakota State
10/01/11 @Michigan
10/08/11 @Purdue

10/22/11

Nebraska

10/29/11 Iowa
11/05/11 @Michigan State
11/12/11 Wisconsin

11/19/11

11/26/11

@Northwestern

Illinois

12/03/11 Big Ten Championship

Stat to make you sound smart...

In the 17 seasons he coached since 1994, when he started at Saginaw Valley State, Jerry Kill has had just 4 losing seasons. All of those losing seasons came in his first or second year on the job at that school.

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This week...

MONDAY | Cocktail Party Preview

TUESDAY | Point/Counterpoint

WEDNESDAY | 4th and 3

THURSDAY | OTE Potluck

FRIDAY | Keeping the Enemy Close - Rival Blogger Interview

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