Head coach Jerry Kill got a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday To You" sung to him by his team bright and early Wednesday morning on the outdoor practice fields at the Gibson-Nagurski Complex. His 50th birthday was also celebrated in the office with plenty of decorations, plenty of sweetsand a nice bouquet of flowers and treats from his wife, Rebecca.
So, what were Coach Kill's big birthday plans for his evening after Wednesday's second practice?
"Well, I've got to go watch film here at 7:15," Kill said, noting that for as long as he can remember his birthday coincided with football practices and watching film.
I'm not sure what Coach Kill thought about his team's singing ability. But I do know he was pretty pleased with what he got out of his team after their a cappella effort.
"This morning went well," Kill said. "We shortened them up this morning and went 12 or 13 periods and then 16 (this afternoon). We were able to do some things. We started preparing for USC. I thought practice went well. We've got some tired bodies and so forth, but everybody does. We'll practice tomorrow and then give them some time to get their legs underneath them and get ready to play."
Senior defensive tackle Brandon Kirksey said more and more game preparation means less banging on each other and the pace slowing down just a bit during workouts.
"It's not so much us against each other anymore. It kind of slows things down a little bit," Kirksey said. "It's more of a mental practice than a physical practice, so we know what we're doing when we get over there."
As preparations turn more and more toward USC, Kill was asked what specific concerns he has as the season-opener looms larger and larger on the horizon.
"Everything concerns me, because we've got a bunch of kids who haven't played a college football game and we're gonna go play USC. I'm more concerned about us getting better every day, because I can control that. After that, I can't control a lot of things. I see us making improvement. There will be tough times and hard times. But as long as our kids continue to show effort and give what they have, that's all you can ask at the end of the day. I think we're improving on a day-to-day basis."
>Quarterback MarQueis Gray shot an interview with KSTP Channel 5, the Twin Cities ABC affiliate after practice Wednesday. The interview will air during a special pre-game show the station will be airing leading into the season-opener at USC next Saturday, which will be broadcast on ABC.
>Coach Kill will get the same treatment from KSTP tomorrow after a morning walk-through.
>Coach Kill bumped the players' schedules ahead about 30 minutes after this afternoon's practice, trying to get them out of meetings and into bed a little sooner. He told them after this morning's practice that he has always tried to make sure his teams are as fresh as possible heading into the season-opener, so they can play as fast as possible. He is working toward that end with the Gophers as this week comes to a close.