Jerry Kill is beginning to feel comfortable in Minnesota, and if Saturday’s men’s basketball game was any indication, Gophers fans are starting to take a liking to the new football coach.
Kill received a standing ovation from the estimated 5,000 people who braved the blizzard to watch the Gophers beat Eastern Kentucky on Saturday afternoon.
“You always want to be at a place where there’s passion,” Kill said. “Even though some people are frustrated and those kind of things, and rightfully so, they care, and I’m excited about being around a great institution that cares.”
Kill, who watched the basketball game with quarterback MarQueis Gray, linebacker Keanon Cooper and some recruits, admitted his life has been hectic since being named the 27th football coach on Dec. 5. However, he said the people around the program have made it an easier transition than when he took the same job at Northern Illinois in December 2007.
That doesn’t mean the people will stay as pleasant if Kill can’t improve a team that finished 3-9 in 2010 and went 15-30 under Tim Brewster.
To make that happen, Kill’s top priority has been recruiting, he said. Kill reportedly met this week with Mahtomedi offensive lineman Tommy Olson, Edina receiver Devin Crawford-Tufts and Holy Family Catholic linebacker Peter Westerhaus. All are three-star recruits, according to Rivals.com, that have already committed to the Gophers.
“The big thing is making sure we take care of … our commitments in the state first, then we’ll go from there,” Kill said, adding that he plans to travel around the country soon.
Next on the agenda is filling his coaching staff, something Kill has already begun to do. On Friday, Minnesota announced that offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will both follow Kill and fill those roles for the Gophers. Both coaches have been on Kill’s staff for at least 12 years.
Kill said Saturday he plans to have the rest of his staff decided in the next four to five days.
“We’re going to be very cautious,” Kill said. “We’re going to make the right decisions, what’s best for the University of Minnesota.”
The Gophers are actually fortunate that the Huskies lost the Mid-American Conference title game earlier this month under Kill. With the loss, Northern Illinois will play in the Humanitarian Bowl on Dec. 18 while MAC champion Miami (Ohio) won’t play in the GoDaddy.com Bowl until Jan. 6. Kill is waiting to see whether his linebacker coach and Huskies interim head coach Tom Matukewicz will become the next head coach at Northern Illinois.
Kill, Limegrover and Claeys will all miss the Huskies’ bowl game.
“It’s a unique situation,” Kill said of missing the Huskies final game. “I love those kids. I would not be here if it wasn’t for those kids, so it is very difficult but it’s just the way things have worked out. It’s difficult, but those kids understand.”