When I sat down to write this piece, I tried to find a new angle to follow. After all, Minnesota is returning it's head coach and both coordinators for the third consecutive season. Thats...well, it's just not something Minnesota fans have seen much of over the last decade plus. They didn't even lose any of the assistant coaches which means the "Newest Guys In The Room" idea is out too. The lack of turnover is awesome if you follow Minnesota, but I know it makes the information I'm about to share repetitive for those of you who are familiar with Coach Kill and his staff. If this is a problem for you...well...
That said, I am going to throw everyone a bone and ID the dumbest person in the room for Minnesota football as well. Who could that be? You'll just have to wait and see I guess.
The Head Coach -- Jerry Kill
This guy looks familiar.
Let's hit the high points:
- Known for building up struggling programs. Did it at both Southern Illinois (FCS doormat thinking of shuttering it's football program before Kill got there) and Northern Illinois (MAC school with recent success that had hit a rough patch).
- Not known as a recruiting superstar but is known for finding guys who fit his system and molding them into the players he needs.
- Had experience as both a OC and DC before becoming an HC.
- Has a fantastic last name which has spawned a wonderful meme we can all get behind.
- Definitely a leader in the category of "head coaches who look like their school mascots."
Recent Rough Spots
Despite most Gopher fans being pretty enamored with Kill (and Ted...Ted absolutely loves the guy), his tenure hasn't been without its bumps.
Obviously, the 3-9 finish in his first season was less than ideal but many gave him a pass given the complete dumpster fire he'd been left by Tim Brewster. Last season's overall record/outcome was pretty positive. Many were hoping for a bowl game, but the number of people (who were capable of rational thought) who had it as a baseline expectation were much lower. As a result, Kill was able to limit the rough press to a few off the field situations.
Cancelling the home/home with North Carolina
If you were reading the comments of yesterday's Preview you got a good deal of info on this. The short version is Coach Kill wanted to make the 2013 schedule easier by eliminating the road game versus a BCS school. He didn't really sugar coat the decision, making it clear that reaching a bowl game was the primary goal and that scheduling to assure such an outcome was his preferred method. He also suggested he'd have avoided the Syracuse game in 2012 if he could have.
This move alone gave critics ammunition to call it out as "sending a bad signal" or "lacking in confidence." Kill didn't spend much time addressing any accusations in that vein, but I would expect his characterization would be that he was being realistic and focused on the long term goals for the program, not any short term chest thumping.
The fanbase was torn about the move and the Twin Cities media (always looking for a good angle to bash any of the metro teams) jumped all over it. Kill and new AD Norwood Teague later admitted that they had underestimated the backlash towards the move. Given that breaking the contract cost the U $800,000 they probably shouldn't have been.
While many folks are still unhappy with the decision, the overall furor has diminished significantly since the announcement of a 2014/2015 home and home with TCU. The agreement not only beefs up the schedule (a big fear following the UNC cancellation for a fanbase that saw too many cupcakes under Glen Mason) but it resulted in financial payouts that eliminated the $800,000 hit the department took following the UNC move.
I'm keeping this one short because this was the most overblown story of the season. AJ Barker quit the team following the Nebraska game and wrote a 4,000 word diatribe online that blasted Kill and the team's medical staff and that insinuated/accused Kill and the staff of abuse. He then went on a tour of the TC media outlets to share his story. In retrospect (for him) he probably shouldn't have done that. Once he was faced with actual questions he A) never supported with evidence his assertions of abuse and B) he admitted that if he had received a scholarship he wouldn't have left. There was only one problem with B...he had only played one productive game in his career (@UNLV) prior to the academic year starting. And by NCAA rules, his scholly would need to be awarded by the start of school. So AJ was whining that he hadn't been given a scholly after a single good game against an inferior opponent. Not a strong place to start. Also, his rant included a section where he described how his mom's best friend thought he was the best player on the team. That actually happened.
Kill kept a pretty low profile during the whole thing, never badmouthing AJ to the press and limiting comments to a brief explanation of why he yelled at AJ during a practice right before he quit (AJ was being verbally disrespectful to training staff according to Kill) and the normal "we wish him well and my door remains open to him" stuff you often hear.
Unfortunately Kill's seizure disorder has not disappeared fully. While he has not had a major public event like he did in his first season, he did miss the 2nd half of the MSU game after having an episode during halftime. The dept and Kill remain mostly tight lipped on the matter, offering up a standard line about Kill and his doctors continuing to work together on a treatment plan that will allow him to minimize the incidents.
Thankfully, it seems as though the fact that this is not a life threatening condition is finally starting to sink in for the media, as is the fact that it's an acute problem that will never be "cured." This resulted in a more level-headed media response to last November's attack and one that will hopefully be continued moving forward if (ok, probably when) Kill deals with an incident in the future.
I'm also hopeful that Kill will do more to speak for epilepsy awareness in the same way he has for cancer research. Not only is it a cause that could use the attention, I think it would go a long way to educating people about what this does and does not mean for him personally.
What to expect moving forward?
I you were to look at only Coach Kill's history at previous stops then you'd come into this season expecting a big improvement in record. But if you factor in the team's schedule and the increased difficulty of building up a program in the B1G, it becomes less likely. Prior to the schedule changes (seriously Delaney, go screw yourself) most fans would have pegged 2014 as the year to expect a breakout. Now? Well, I for least have chosen to focus on this season and look for continued improvement in depth, talent, execution, and wider implementation of concepts/gameplans for both the offensive and defensive systems.
Since I feel bad not including any head coach's Twitter info here I'd like to recommend that you follow @BeingBeilema if you haven't already.
The Offensive Coordinator -- Matt Limegrover
Good lord, we still have the same offensive coordinator? And while his playcalling can be maddening at times he isn't a complete failure who tried to change the throwing motion of our QB by making him pitch tennis balls for 17 hours a day? HOO.RAY.
While the team hasn't experienced any change in it's OC staffing, our OC has undergone quite a change of his own in the past year plus. What do I mean? Coach Limegrover committed himself to a new diet/fitness regime and underwent gastric bypass surgery. The result?
Coach Limegrover has lost 170 pounds and is experiencing all the positives that go with it. He was quiet about it for quite a while but has started to speak up about his story recently. It's a great thing for Coach, his family, and the team and I'm glad it's the news I can lead with for him.
But what about on field changes to the offense? Well, as we enter year three B1G fans should expect to see fewer QB runs, more pre-snap motion to identify mismatches with the defense, and MOAR MARYLAND-I. If that last one doesn't excite you then you are clearly an SEC spy sent to undermine everything that is righteous and holy about our conference and I'd kindly ask that you leave. I'd give you more thoughts on schemes except that A) I'm not the schematic wizard and B) I don't watch the games, per OTE protocol.
He's been keeping it low key since joining Twitter in March to announce the outcome of his weight loss surgery in a more public forum. 16 tweets in total since then.
How many years until he's in charge of a MAC program?
At this point I'd say Coach Limegrover won't be pursuing a role as a head coach. He might take a coordinator position if the right opportunity were offered, but if he wanted to be the head guy he'd have jumped on a lower level opening by now.
The Defensive Coordinator -- Tracy Claeys
Coach Claeys has been the under the radar member of the staff this offseason. And given the program's penchant for DC turnover or making fans very cranky by retaining guys like the personal tormenter of Husker fans everywhere, this quiet offseason is ok by me.
Coach Claeys is coming off a year that saw the Gophers improve from one of the worst defenses in recent B1G memory in 2011 to a unit that was much improved against the pass, cringe worthy against most ground games, and a solid "Meh" overall. In other words, a pretty solid outing by a rebuilding Gopher program's standards.
He looks to continue to improve on that foundation during the upcoming season. If Claeys is able to deliver a defense that is equally stout (or even better) against the pass while also being stronger against the run, the Gophers will be in a much better place to surprise in 2013.
Areas of focus will be pass rushing without blitzing as much as possible, improved run stopping by the front four, and the linebackers actually shedding blocks. Needless to say, I'll be really pleased if the last one happens...
How many years until he's in charge of a MAC program?
See my answer to Limegrover.
The Dumbest Guy/Gal In The Room
So who is the lucky winner?
The as yet unnamed individual who made it possible for the U to lose money selling booze. How stupid was the previous deal with Aramark?
A review of the university's recent agreements with Aramark, a Philadelphia-based company that has had contracts with the school since 1998, suggested that school officials initially might not have aggressively pushed for higher percentages of alcohol sales at the 50,720-seat TCF Bank Stadium.
Within months after the stadium opened in 2009, school officials agreed to get 22.5 percent of potential alcohol sales even though the university had previously agreed with Aramark on a much higher rate of non-alcohol concession sales at the stadium: 33.24 percent of non-alcohol concession sales up to $1 million, and 37.93 percent of concession sales above $2 million.