The Golden Gopher coaching staff is doing its very best to keep things as normal as possible for the team in the absence of head coach Jerry Kill this week. That approach seems to be resonating with the players.
"Business as usual isn't the best way (to approach this week)," senior center Ryan Wynn said as part of the Gophers' regular Tuesday press conference. "It's the only way."
Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys and offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover stepped in for Coach Kill's portion of the press conference. Limegrover said Coach Kill was on everyone's mind when the squad returned to film study and practice Sunday. But they also made sure the team got its work done.
"We kept it pretty regimented, pretty quick," Limegrover said. "I think that made a real difference. Got in, got out, got some good work done."
"When we watched film on Sunday, it was awesome how well film sessions (went)," Claeys said. "Those kids want to do well. They worked their tails off, asked questions. Hell, it's important to them. It's up to us as coaches to keep getting after them. They had a great attitude on Sunday, worked hard at practice. I expect the same thing today."
Claeys said the staff knows they better focus on preparations for Miami and continuing to improve, because Coach Kill expects nothing less.
"When you get out there, it's all football," he said. "If we don't handle things that way while (Coach Kill's) away, when he gets back, we'll be fired. Stick to football, make sure the kids are prepared ..."
As for this week's opponent, it's one the Gopher coaching staff is familiar with. Miami is a member of the Mid-American Conference, the same league virtually all of the current Minnesota staff coached in at Northern Illinois for the past three seasons.
However, there has been a complete change in coaching staff at Miami since last season. But Limegrover said familiarity with the Redhawks' players helps the Gophers prep somewhat.
"I think it helps from a personnel standpoint," he said. "With having a new head coach and a new staff and them only playing one game, it's a little bit tough. We've been able to do our research. Personnel‑wise we've got a pretty good idea of them. We're relying on that and then some past history with some of their coaches."
In fact, Northern Illinois and the Redhawks met in the MAC Championship Game last season, with Miami taking the title in a hard-fought, 26-21 victory at Ford Field in Detroit. Limegrover and Claeys have taken different tacts with going back and re-living that contest.
"Yeah, I've had a chance to take a look at it," Limegrover said. "It's hard to watch. It was a tough game all the way around. You try to look at it and go, 'Okay, where did they get us?' You make sure that you're prepared for those things. We've taken a look at it once, have some ideas on things."
"Where Matt has looked at the film, I have not looked at the film," Claeys said. "We remember their personnel, went back and looked at (our) notes. I don't get a big kick out of going back and watching that myself. (Reviewing our notes) helps us from a personnel standpoint, we know what kind of kids we're going up against."
As the team heads out to practice today and gets to know the personnel they will be going against, Coach Kill's absence will be noticed. But the lack of his raspy, southern Kansas drawl will hopefully be the only noticeable difference.
"You won't tell a lot of difference," Claeys said. "It will be a little bit quieter."
That quiet will hopefully be broken sooner rather than later. Everyone involved in the program is hopeful Coach Kill will make a return to the team as soon as possible.
"He definitely lets it be known he's ready to be back and right now," Claeys said. "I think that Doc Smith put it best. When you have him caged up, can do some things, you need to do it, because once he's out, he's going to hit it full stride again. They're just making sure, that's all. Obviously there will be some frustration. He loves being around the kids. We love having him around the staff. We're friends. That's all there is to it. It's hard not having him around, too."