COACH KILL: I appreciate everybody coming out today on a beautiful afternoon in Minnesota. We're looking forward to getting our kids in and going through the orientation part of our program, then our rookies practicing on Friday, and getting started with our whole team on Saturday.
We're looking forward to getting back out there on the field and it seems like it's been a long time. We've answered a lot of questions and so forth. The only way you can solve those questions is to get out there and work with the kids.
At this time, the most important thing is to give you an opportunity to ask any questions and we'll go from there.
Q. Last year a lot of the talk was big picture about what you had to do to rebuild this program. Going into this year after the uncertainty of year one, do you go into the season with a lot more specific, fine?tuned, in?season specific goals than did you a year ago?
COACH KILL: I think that we sold a strong vision a year ago of kind of where we wanted to go in the program. I don't think we've come off that. I think that probably the most important thing, I think, as a head coach or assistant coaches, our strength coaches, we've got the continuity. We didn't lose any of that continuity, so the vision stayed the same. I think we're just all much more comfortable with each other. The players, the coaches, and what we're trying to accomplish is much better.
I think it's true to life. The more you get to know somebody, the better you work with them. So I think the vision is the same. We want to continue to move our program forward. Our kids have worked hard to this point, and I think they've done some good things. Now we have to take it to, as I say, kind of the fourth quarter. And the fourth quarter is two-a-day camp and where we're going to go from there.
Our kids look real good. I've seen Brock Vereen and he stood out. He was up here walking the other day. I said he looks like his brother who is playing in the NFL. He weighs about 205 pounds and really looks good. So I think our kids have changed some of their body types through the weight room. So I'm anxious to see how that translates onto the field.
Q. What would make this a successful year?
COACH KILL: We've got to move the program forward and continue to get better. As long as we continue to make strides to get better and continue to build a foundation of the program and move it forward, that is what we're here to do. Again, nothing is a quick fix. It takes time. I'm cautiously optimistic of the way our kids are working. We're certainly looking forward to the season.
It's kind of like anything, you talk about all the things here, but it's what you do when you go play. I'm looking forward to watching our kids play and prove that they're better.
Q. Just in terms of the talent pool, do you see a significant increase?
COACH KILL: There is no way I can answer that question until I get out there on the field, because we have 36 new players that have come in this summer. It's hard for me to say that until I get a chance to go work with them.
On paper, I would say that some of those kids certainly have shown that they've got talent through coming in from high school, but they still have to prove that. They're still freshmen.
I think the kids that I can comment on are the ones that have been in the program, and I think they've all improved themselves because they've gone through strength and training conditioning programs all year. It started as soon as our season was over when we played Illinois. I think beating Illinois jump started us into that.
Off?season, I think we did some things differently with all the competition. So I think those kids, if you work hard every day and whatever you do and you stay persistent with it, you're going to get better. You're certainly not going to go the other direction.
I think they made themselves better. No question about that. I think they've gotten stronger, faster, some have gotten bigger, so we'll see.
Q. How do you think MarQueis got better?
COACH KILL: Well, again, I'll know more in two?a?day camp, but if I went back to spring football I thought he did a better job of reading coverages. I think he did a better job of knowing where to go with the ball because, again, he had gone through a whole season. I think he got more comfortable with the position.
The biggest thing he needed to do here in the summertime was make sure he did a good job of leading the kids in the weight room and throwing the football.
The other thing is getting himself in tremendous conditioning to stay healthy because that's critical. That's really why you do all the off?season stuff. Not only do you get bigger and stronger, you're trying to prevent injury. So he has to be very healthy going into camp and continuing to stay that way with all of our players.
Q. After a couple of months reflecting back on spring ball, did you make the progress that you expected?
COACH KILL: Yeah, I feel like our kids have done what we've asked them to do through spring ball, and I think they've worked hard. They've done a lot of things from community service, to academically, to physically changing some of their body types. They've worked hard to do that. They really have. I'm very proud of them to this point. Now we go to two?a?day camp.
But they've certainly done some good things and made some strides. We're pleased with that, and that's why we're cautiously optimistic going into this season, and we expect to move our program forward.
Q. MarQueis is the frontrunner but what about number two or is that wide open in camp?
COACH KILL: I think you talk about the quarterback, and I've been watching. I follow the Vikings and listen to all the things. I think when we go into camp, we rep everybody and we work everybody. With the injuries that happened in college football, I'm a coach that's always concerned about the next guy, the depth, those kind of things. We're trying to create depth on our football team. I think we're still thin in some areas, but we've created some depth. At quarterback, I think we have some depth which is important. All of those things will work out.
MarQueis is our number one quarterback, and that's where we're at. We'll see how everything else works out. To me, you prove yourself on the field. You don't do it anywhere else. I'm looking forward to it. I think we'll have some tremendous competition throughout camp, and that's what will make us a better football team. If we don't have any competition, we're not going to be very good.
There is a reason that I look out at USC when Pete Carroll was there and he talked about it. They had so much competition at USC there was nobody that could take a day off. I think that's where a good football program eventually gets that. So I think when you have competition all the time, it makes you better.
Q. What position is the most wide open as you get set to go to camp?
COACH KILL: I think they're all open. I think where we need to find some play makers and see what they do is wide receiver. I think that's a critical position for us. I think we've got some young people that we recruited. I think we've got some kids coming back. A guy like Isaac Fruechte, you couldn't evaluate him during spring because he was learning what to do. Now he knows what to do. So I'm excited about seeing him where he's not thinking all the time and processing.
Are there going to be young freshman that can learn quick? I don't know. We'll have to see. We'll have to force feed some of that. But we need some guys that are going to be dynamic play makers to go up and get a ball and go make a play.
Offensively, I would say that is our biggest concern because we've gotten bigger and stronger up front. I think that is something that we have to identify in camp who are going to be some of those play makers, and we'll see how that works out.
I know Devin Tufts is going to have a good year. I feel that coming on the way he's worked. He got better at the end of the year, made some great plays, but we need more than just Devin. Who is going to step up? Is Marcus Jones going to be 100%? He says he is. And you'll get to visit with him on that. But get some play makers on the field that can make plays and make you look good as a coach. That is our biggest concern.
I think we have them, but can they learn and get ready to play here in a quick fashion.
Q. When would you maybe expect to make some decisions on redshirting and the quarterback area?
COACH KILL: I'm not ?? that all works out. We have staff meetings, we work late at night. We'll work all the way up to the first game and try to do what's best for our program. Again, we're trying to build a program where I've been before where we can compete year?in and year?out for a championship. To do that, we need some immediate help right now, but we certainly want to red shirt some kids to do that.
There is a sacrifice on both ends, because sometimes you like to play a guy, but if you want to be good down the road, you've got to red shirt some people. So there is a balance there. We certainly talk about that balance all the time. Our coaching staff has been through it. We'll do the best we can to redshirt as many as we can. I think that's how you build a program.
Last year we were in a difficult situation on that. This year I think we're maybe in a little better position to redshirt some kids. We'll see.
Q. Right tackle is a little bit of a question mark. Seems there is a lot of competition there. You have Josh Campion and Jimmy Gjere both coming off concussions, and Foster Bush had a good spring. What do you see from those three guys that they need to do to separate themselves from the pack to step up this season?
COACH KILL: Well, Foster can play guard or tackle. That is the great thing about him. He's going to be a great football player. I think all three if they stay healthy, it works out. That is the most important thing for all three of those young men. But they all three are blessed with talent.
Jimmy, I'd have to look at the deal, I didn't bring it in here, but he's probably 326 pounds, somewhere in there. They've all got bigger, stronger, look good. I think the big thing is we feel we've got eight or nine offensive linemen that have played, and that is encouraging. They've all gotten bigger and stronger, and we'll let it play out.
But it all goes back to whether it's in the NFL or college football, that health factor is important. Who is going to be there on a consistent basis every day that you can rely on? I call it durability and reliability. Those are two words I use a lot in the staff room. Durability and reliability.
Q. Anybody not healthy enough to practice?
COACH KILL: Anybody not healthy enough to practice? I talked to Ed yesterday, I think Philip Nelson had a strained hamstring, but he will be in camp. How full speed, we'll monitor that. I think really beyond that I think we're pretty good to go as today goes.
Q. Do you think that victory over Illinois created significant enthusiasm here in the off?season or would you have expected the enthusiasm anyway?
COACH KILL: I think any time you win and you win your last game, I think that jump starts you. I think if you deny that, I don't think you'd be very truthful. I think the kids felt ?? I felt great for the seniors that were leaving the program. It was great for them because of the sacrifice they had to make with the coaching change and what they went through. And it was great for the players in the program to know if we do what we're asked to do, this is what can happen.
So I think it jump starts you tremendously. Then I think our strength coaches, led by Coach Klein, was the biggest difference in the program they set up and the competition that we had. There was no place to hide. When there is no place to hide, you know you have to learn how to compete, and we did a good job of doing that. It made players better, and they'll be the first ones to tell you that.
Q. Coach, of the players expected to come in, were there any last minute drop offs?
COACH KILL: No, sir. Nope, not that I am aware of. I'll meet with them today here about 4:30. Maybe I'll get a surprise. But at this point, no, sir.
Q. Do you plan on naming captains this year as opposed to what you did last year?
COACH KILL: We'll have a team council. It will be made up, I believe, of 14 people that I'll meet with at 3:30 to today. It's a mixture of some seniors, younger people to have input in the program. That's what we're used to doing in the past. I think it's important for them to feel like it's just like anything. You run a company or anything, and you want to input from your employees or the input group.
Our players picked that unit, and represented by a couple of the freshmen class through, and we teach them leadership. I lead that group. Then at the end of the year we'll pick four captains who really stood out and were the type of leaders that took us through the tough times and the hard times. We'll vote on that and pass the torch. But that's what we'll do and what I'm used to doing.
Q. Could you explain what you mean by there was no place to hide?
COACH KILL: Well, you get out there and if you're in a tug of war and it's you against the other guy and the other guy whips your tail end, there is nowhere to hide. If you're matched up and some times you're running, I guess, best example would be you say you're really fast, and you run against somebody that is a lot slower and you're winning by ten yards, so we test them, we evaluate them, and then we took speed against speed.
In other words, if you think you're fast, okay, here are all the guys that run 4.6 and you're going to compete against them, instead of a 4.6 guy competing against a 5.2 guy. That's what I mean by that.
We've got good on good, and we found out who is going to compete. They had team groups and we had eight team captains and eight groups of people. They're in charge and got positive points for doing good in the classroom, competing in the weight room, competing in the off?season running. If there is a discipline problem, they lost points. They'd meet up here.
Team captain, I won't say who, one was walking upstairs one day pretty discouraged. I said, What's the matter? Well, I can't get so and so lined up on my team. I said, welcome to being the head football coach. But you're also the same ones that were a pain in my tail end last year. Now you got a taste of it. That’s called leadership. So get your team straightened out. Get them out of last place.
So we try to develop leadership in what they're doing and try to teach them through the off?season. When we get to this part and two?a?day camp, we try to move our program forward and concentrate and focus on getting them ready to play.
Q. What are your thoughts on the road again this year and playing on a Thursday night?
COACH KILL: I like them all at home. The study I've done, there is a big difference between playing on the road and being at home and opportunities to win. But I think that's what we've got to do, so we get prepared to go do it. Playing on a Thursday night, we get to open up college football. I think that is a big deal for our program. It's a good deal for our players.
Being that we are going to Vegas we're probably not going to get back to 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. after the game. It gives our players a chance to get rested for the next game. Gave us an extra day to prepare. Gave us an extra day to evaluate what went on in that game, so it can get you ready for the next one. I'm not against playing on Thursday night at all.
Q. How's your health?
COACH KILL: I'm doing fantastic. Thanks for asking. I'm doing great.
Q. How you doing mentally?
COACH KILL: Mentally? (Laughing). You know what, I've been coaching this is my 30th year, and I've never had anybody ask me if mentally I'm okay. First of all, I played college football, so mentally I'm not okay. Because anybody that plays the game of football we're a different breed of cat. So in answer to your question, I'm probably never going to be mentally okay.
Q. I know it's still a year off, but how about the recruiting of Brian Bobek come about? And what's it say about the program that you got him to come here?
COACH KILL: I think like all transfer kids we recruited ?? we didn't recruit very long, but we were at Northern Illinois and knew about him. Knew about the coaches and so forth. Of Course, he went to Ohio State, and when he decided that that wasn't going to be what he wanted to do, he contacted schools and sent a release out. Then he talked to the high school coaches and got the release and that is pretty much how it started.
He's a kid that grew up in Chicago and wanted to stay in the midwest. That's kind of how that all worked.
Q. That is a big get for you, isn’t it?
COACH KILL: We're excited about it. He's a young man that was very sought after in recruiting and through high school. Got an opportunity to see him play in high school and knew about him and so forth. So there is some familiarity there. We look forward to it. Again, all those kind of things have to take place, that's a year off right now. But certainly glad to have him coming into our program.
Q. Coach, of a roster of 105 that you have, are there any guys that you decided to leave off that maybe will be part of it?
COACH KILL: Every player on our roster is important. When you have to cut down to 105 or whatever, I've never been really good at that kind of thing. If you've got 115 that worked out, I'd like to be able to bring 115, but that's the NCAA rules. We have the 105 where we are right now to get started for camp. It's just like we've done every year.
What happens usually, you hope it doesn't happen. But usually you have an injury or two that happens. The rule is once a kid gets hurt and he's out for camp, you move somebody else in in that position. Usually for football, it's a very tough, hard, physical game through two?a?day camp, so most generally a lot of those kids get into camp. It's just they've got to wait a little longer than others.
It's never easy to tell a kid that worked his tail end off that he can't come to camp. I'm not very good at that. But we did it, and we moved forward.
Q. Is there someone that didn't make the 105 that you will still be counting on?
COACH KILL: We count on all of them. Best example is Caleb Bak last year. I think he was about third-team offensive line. I had gotten after him. He didn't hardly go through spring ball. He had a class. When he did come to spring ball, he struggled and didn't do very good. All those kind of things. Kind of had the same conversation we're talking about. I believe he started five games for us. So I never say somebody's not going to do something. That is the best way I can answer that question. He is a great example of why you never sit in the staff room and say I don't know whether this guy's going to play or not. You never underestimate a young man and his will and being able to change from year to year.
Certainly from 17 to 22 there is a lot of maturing that takes place. So you never give up on a kid. I've been in many staff rooms where they've said that a guy is never going to play here, and guess what? You lineup playing with him and win a championship with him. So kids mature at a different age. Got to be careful on giving up on them. Usually the time they're junior, senior, they've pretty much figured it out by then. We only have ten seniors I believe it is. We're a young, young football team. We're fully youthed, so to speak. But young, hungry guys that are looking forward to going to work.
Tag(s): Gopher Football