Jerry Kill addressed the media this week and began by reciting a line from Murray Warmath, the last Gophers coach to lead the team to the Rose Bowl in 1962:
“If lessons are learned in defeat, our guys are getting a great education.”
Kill was animated at Tuesday’s press conference, moving around the podium, clapping his hands together and drawing up schemes on the white board. He spoke much more on the state of the program than the upcoming battle against Purdue.
His description of the program was simply that they have to dismantle everything in order to rebuild properly. These comments reflect directly to the previous coaching regime, led by Tim Brewster.
“We’re not athletically gifted enough. We’re getting slower. You have to recruit tough, you don’t make them tough. You have to recruit tacklers,” Kill said.
In an interview Tuesday with the Minnesota Daily, Brewster defended the players he recruited.
“This is the same group of kids that beat Illinois and Iowa. Same group of kids that played well to start the season at USC.”
The Gophers are undersized and inexperienced compared to other teams in the Big Ten.
Those problems are manifested on the offensive and defensive lines specifically. Last week against Michigan, Minnesota had eight freshmen on offense.
“That’s a very talented football team that’s at the University of Minnesota right now. Coach Kill is very fortunate and he knows that,” Brewster told the Daily at Big Ten football media days in Chicago in July. Brewster is now a sideline football analyst for FOX.
In order to gain the toughness needed to compete in the Big Ten, they have to start from the ground up, Kill said.
He added they are unable to practice harder to gain toughness due to personnel limitations.
“We can’t practice the way I’m used to practicing. We don’t have the bodies in our program. We’re not gifted enough. We can’t do what we’ve done defensively. We got to quit trying to, because we can’t. We got to simplify some things,” Kill said.
Discipline is an area that Minnesota has lacked according to Kill, but that is where his change in culture must begin.
“We’re not disciplined off the field. I spend more time babysitting than coaching.”
Kill said when he and his staff took over the program there were “21 guys academically ineligible, or whatever it is. I’ve got to get the ground basis of that because right now it carries on the field.”
Adding: “That’s not Coach Brewster’s fault, now. I mean, there was transition and a lot of things going on. I’m not blaming anybody. I’m just saying, the facts are facts.”
Brewster said he had “no idea” what Kill was referring to.
“All I know is we had an extremely high graduation rate when I was there. I received bonuses from my [Academic Progress Rates]; that’s all public record.”
The number of players ineligible from a season ago could not be verified for this report.
Kill added that the current football program’s success is linked to its grade point average. The players were not disciplined and focused in the classroom and that translates to the football field, he said.
The state of the program looks bleak, but Kill said he believes that he is laying the proper foundation for future success. He spoke about how Wisconsin had blind faith in Barry Alvarez when he had a 1-10 season, because they believed in what he was doing for the program.
Kill is looking for that same blind faith to build Minnesota into a perennial Big Ten competitor.
Brewster told the Daily in July that his greatest disappointment was that the Gophers would be going to the Rose Bowl and he would not be there to lead them.
Brewster denied making those comments when reached by phone Tuesday.
Rose Bowl proclamations were Brewster’s calling card from the beginning of his tenure, and morphed into a punch line for critics by the end.
Kill has been much more realistic in his 10 months since taking over the job from which Brewster was ousted last October.
Never was that more evident than Tuesday.