Coach Kill Pre-Spring Press Conference Transcript - 3.21.12

Go Gophers!
Go Gophers!

Go Gophers!

March 21, 2012

COACH KILL:  First of all, people ask me about injury reports and so forth, so I'll give you an idea so when we go to practice, you'll know what we are going.  If we have somebody in an orange jersey, that means they can't have any contact and they will be working with our trainers and our strength staff. 

Jimmy Gjere, I think we know has a concussion and situation, we'll bring on very slowly, but he's improving and want to make sure about that.

Quinn Bauducco, a young freshman had a surgery back during the season and is recuperating from that.

Brendan Beal as you all know has had two knee injuries, kind of like that kid there that played well, so good at Purdue in basketball, but he's worked very hard.  He's made great progress.  Watched him run yesterday; so he may eventually get to where he can have some non-contract stuff.  He's progressing well.

Mike Henry during spring break was involved in a car accident and had a concussion and fortunately, he's okay, that's a good thing but he'll be slowed up early.

And then two young men we hope to get back as the spring goes, Brock Vereen, who we are going to move to safety and Foster Bush, both had their knees cleaned up a little bit.  Hopefully we look forward to having them in the spring.

Guys that will hold out with no contact, but they will do, pass, shell and you'll see them move around a little bit is Keanon Cooper, who his wrist injury got redone and he's moving around well but we do not want to take any chances.  We know Keanon can play.


 

 

Marcus Jones, who has come off ACL, unbelievable comeback that kid has made.  You won't even know he's got it, but we don't want to push something too fast, because he's kind of gone against science there.  Not many people -- he's running full speed right now, cutting full speed, but we don't want something to happen.  So we are going to be careful with him.

And Steven Montgomery, a young man that was a redshirt tore a pec muscle in the off-season and he'll be in green.  That gives you an idea where those young people are.  When go out, you can kind of see what they are doing.  And I get asked about the injury report, so I figured I would jump right in it. 

As far as new players, I get asked that quite a bit.  You know, the two young quarterbacks have done an outstanding job in the off-season.  They are both parallel, to vertical jump to speed, how they have handled themselves, they have done an outstanding job.  So I am looking forward to seeing what they do.  But in the classroom and weight room, they have got very good complements.

Isaac Fruechte, the young man that's got three years left that sat out this year so he would have three years, has done a great job in the off-season, kind of give you an idea of his athleticism.  He just tested here the other day and Isaac was a 34-inch vertical jump with a 4-1 pro agility, which is pretty good for a long, lengthy kid.  So he's definitely got some ability right here in our home state.

Kind of a unique situation, Scott Ekpe, another young freshman that came in, he's 17 years old.  And when he came in, he was 248 and right now, he's about 276.  I mean, he is eating and growing and right in front of our eyes.  We told his mother to take a picture, because you knew he was going to grow; if you looked at his brother and his sister, it's a big family, and he has really had a great -- set the tone.  I mean, good athlete.  I think we'll be excited about watching him play as a young person.  Jeremy Baltazar, junior college player that's came in to kind of give you an idea where he's at, he's a 200-pound corner, which we needed some stronger guys.  He benches 390.  He tested the other day at 390 and squatted 455 and verticals well over 33 inches of four or five guys; so a bigger, strong physical-type corner.

Briean Boddy and Martez Shabazz are two young secondary players that have three years left that have done very good in the off-season.  Those are the new players.

We had to do some things in the secondary.  We will be short in the secondary no matter what we do because we lost so many people a year ago.  I mean, that's why we had to do what we had to do.  You lose eight people, if we wouldn't have replaced anybody a semester, we would have been out without three or four people playing in the secondary.  That's why we did what we did in recruiting.  We got lucky in some aspects and then when we bring the two freshmen safeties in, and we have got a another corner, we'll be back to where we need to be.  Our guys did a nice job in recruiting getting that done.

Change in position, Moses Alipate has moved to tight end.  Moses has had a nice off-season, I'm proud of Moses.  I was talking with him yesterday, got a big 'ole smile on his face.  He's looking forward to learning.  But he's 290 pounds now.  He's always been big but he's in much better shape and I think he's excited about the opportunity to do that.

Kendall Gregory-McGhee is a kid that played tight end, was a wide receiver in Colorado.  Came here to play defense, really wasn't his natural thing, struggled with it, asked to move to tight end.  I think he's excited about it.  He's a 260-pound young man.  So we are hoping that one of those guys are going to work out; if both works out, it's really good.  You've got some big athletic tight end type guys.

Ernie Heifort, a young redshirt freshman, about 6-6, 255.  We are going to move him to offensive tackle and grow him into an offensive lineman.

James Manuel has been playing safety and he's been that in-between guy, and we will move him to will linebacker and move him to get closer in the box and get more speed at linebacker.

Then Derrick Wells, he's gone from 175 pounds to a 200-pound kid and played for us last year.  We are going to move him to safety, as well as Brock Vereen.  So those are some changes that you'll see tomorrow as we go through.

I guess other notes is practice is certainly open to the public.  Our spring game is April 21.  It will be at 11 o'clock.  We will have a draft and we will try to make that a spring game, as long as we can stay healthy.  I mean, we'll draft everybody from the training room, split it up and have some fun in the 15th practice, if the injury thing, if we can stay healthy as much as we can.  So we would like to do that for obvious reasons.

And then our Minnesota Football Coaches Association clinic is March 29-31 at Doubletree Hotel.  That will be a huge event.  Our high school coaches have done a great job of working with us on that.  We have people, one of our own, Tony Levine, head coach at Houston is coming back.  It's a tremendously big, large clinic.

Right now that Saturday practice, you may have a time -- that time will be arranged around that clinic, so we are working with the high school coaches.  That practice may be a little later on Saturday so that you know, because we need to work around when those speakers are finished.  So we are working as we speak on that with our high school coaches.

With that being said, tried to get some of those answers sometimes, I try to think off the top of my head.  I used to be good at that but not quite as good.  Any questions I can answer at this point in time.

Q.  Kids that are expecting to get in for spring ball, were most of them able to come in?

COACH KILL:  Yeah, you know I'm not a guy that's really pushed that high school situation to come in here and play in the spring.  I think everybody is having to take a look at it because a lot of high school kids are getting finished quicker I guess.  And then they don't have many hours left and they are graduating and coming in earlier.

This just happened for us, both quarterbacks, which is a good thing, wanted to come in and then Scott Ekpe wanted to come in.  I have looked at their progress and how they have handled things, and it's went well.

But for us to have, with where we were at, we are very lucky.  Now, we have to see how they play, but we are very fortunate that we have the athletic bodies; the secondary thing was a huge concern.

I would rather take maybe two or three more high school players, but we just didn't have a lot of choice in some things.  We did what we had to do, and I think that for us in the spring, everybody is thin in the spring; but I think we did a pretty good job of getting the players that we needed to.

I mean, there wasn't anybody that we didn't get into school or something of that nature, or was left hanging that we thought we could.  We actually had about -- it's just like anything, we had two or three guys that are coming in, high school kids and then we had about seven of them that wanted to come in, but you can only take so many at a semester and we had our allotment, was seven or eight, and that's what we did.

Q.  Can you compare where you are at now going into spring practice to a year ago?

COACH KILL:  I think it's like getting older.  Each year you get older, you get a little bit wiser.  You get to know a little bit more.  I've been here a year or so.  I'm still trying to figure out some things.  Here, I don't think you figure it out all today.

But I think that from the level of where we are at, I certainly know more how things operate here at our university.  I certainly know more about our players.  I certainly know more about the Big Ten.  I certainly know more about where we need to go and what we need to do.

Can we fix it all today?  No.  But I feel much more comfortable, and coaching staff is all here; didn't lose anybody, all that kind of stuff.  I just think we got a little bit of continuity going.

So I think the only thing frustrating in spring ball, and every school has it, because I've talked to several coaches, is that the injuries and how far you go and all those kind of things, just can't control those things.  But you know, certainly feel more comfortable than a year ago.

Q.  There's less of a learning curve for your coaches than players; will that change the pace of how you do things in spring ball?

COACH KILL:  I think that we have such a group that understands -- I'm not sure how many seniors we lost.  I don't know that off the top of my head and I didn't write that down.  We lost those seniors and brought eight players in, so we didn't replace the other 14, 15.

So we have basically the same group.  You think they are a little bit farther along, but I don't think as far as the pace changes, I think the way we approach things may be a little bit different.  We have studied hard in the off-season, programs that I thought that could help us go another direction.  We looked at how we coached and what we could do better.  I think we'll implement more of that.

And I think that we have to be better teachers to be honest with you.  I'm talking about myself and our coaches and so forth.  We have to do a better job getting across what we are trying to do.  That may slow the pace a bit, we'll see.  But we'll always practice with a good tempo.

Q.  Why do you say good teachers?  Does this group need more teaching, basic stuff?

COACH KILL:  I think it's the group that you coach and the people that you're dealing with.  I mean, again, these kids have gone through a huge amount of -- there's probably only five or six kids in the whole program I knew, or even had a chance, four or five were in their homes.  So still trying to learn how some of them have learned, and some have moved positions and some have moved in five different schemes.

You know, it's just that's part of changing a program around, and when I say better teachers, we have got to make sure that our kids are playing fast on Saturdays and not processing things.  I think that if we have to slow down a little bit to make sure that we get that done, we will, and you know, I think you always are looking at ways to get better.

I sent a thing out to our players about how they felt.  I had 47-some-odd questions about how we travel, how we teach, what we do; how do you learn better, all that.  And I took all that input and met with the players, because you don't want to lose them.

So you want to see how they learn.  How we learn and how they learn is two different things.  So you try to get on their level to make sure you're better.  That's what I mean by teaching, do they learn better from video or do they learn better from walk-through or do they learn better from these reps.  Just because I like doing it that way, you have to make sure the players know what you're trying to get across.

So those are things that you always look at, whether you do your job or my job, I think you are always looking to get better, and if you don't, then you're going to get in trouble, you'll get bypassed.  So we are always trying to get better at what we do.

Q.  After a year in the Big Ten, have you changed or your staff changed any of your philosophy going forward?

COACH KILL:  I think through the years, I think you always try to stay a step, whether it's the Big Ten or not.  I don't think our philosophy has really changed.  I think defensively, I don't think you'll see major changes.  We have got to do things better.

Offensively, we have got to work around our -- now, that's the whole thing that's different.  NFL can go pick one and put them over here; is that we have what we have.  So I think that we have had to adjust more offensively maybe with the players that we have, because you can't ask somebody to do something they can't do.

And I think that's something that we have had to adjust.  Same with kicking game and so forth, so I think that's the biggest issue.  Again, with us only having about -- we have got eight -- about 14 kids I know a whole lot about in the background.  I've got this group.

And I will tell you, the group that we have here, when I took the job, the group that's here, there's a lot of young kids in there that have gotten bigger and stronger.  I'm proud of the group of how we have gone and where we are at right now, I really am.  I'm cautiously optimistic where we are at.  But again, we'll sue how it goes through the spring and see how the kids react and.

It's a process.

Q.  How about your punter?

COACH KILL:  Well, Sid, I look at it this way.  A lot different than you do in this fact; if our punter didn't do very well, who is back there every day, at every practice, trying to work with that punter?  Me, and other coaches and if our kids are not performing, I'm not going to blame the kid.  Evidently we are not doing a very good job coaching.

As I viewed the film and watched, there's a lot of things that we probably should have done better in teaching that young man.  And we'll have competition at that position.  But I don't think -- the bottom line in coaching is that you can point the fingers at the players, but it's your job to get them coached up.

As I look at it, when a young man can punt and do the things that he's capable of doing and there's a couple others; Peter Mortell is a kid from Wisconsin that walked on.  And that name needs to stick with you a little bit.  He's a punter and he walked on last year and I think he's got some potential.

The thing that we have to do is we need to make sure we are doing a better job coaching that kid.  I really believe that.  He's got a big foot, big leg and sometimes it's mental, it's like a baseball player not being able -- he's batting .360 and all of a sudden next year he's batting .250.  They lose confidence; mentally struggle and they can't get over -- or a golfer that can't get back that swing.

Like a punter and a kicker, those skill positions, when they lose their confidence, they go like that.  If you're a good coach, you get that -- you find a way to get that done.  We need to do a better job coaching and I'll take all the credit for that one.

Q.  How much of your success is predicated on the seniors …?

COACH KILL:  I think it's all about maturity level and our kids in the off-season they lifted.  We did things differently in competition.  We put a lot of those kids in leadership roles and they had to do a lot of things on their own.  That's the only way you're going to be successful.  Not only him, but other kids did that.

We'll have to see.  He has to leave off where he was at the Illinois game, and then he's got to continue to grow.  He has the ability to do that.  He's worked hard in the off-season.  But so has everybody else.

So I mean, that's a good thing.  But I think there's no question that he has tremendous ability.  I think we all know that.  And I'm looking forward to seeing his progression, I really am.

But again, I'm optimistic about that.  I think we have other areas that we have to be concerned about.  I think at quarterback, we have recruited very well.  I feel comfortable with that.  We need to make sure we get some players around our quarterbacks and certainly a good receiver will make a good quarterback. 

Rogers is a pretty good quarterback at Green Bay but he has some pretty good receivers.  Hopefully we have answered some of those questions with guys that came in, guys that can make a play here in the spring and that's what I'm looking forward to.

Q.  So there's no question of doubt, Gray is your starter, there's not going to be any competition?

COACH KILL:  No, there's competition.  I've been that way all my life.  Chandler Harnish  had to earn his spot.  There's competition, because first of all, you don't know what's going to happen.  You never want anybody to get comfortable.  If you're working with anybody at your job and you've got somebody comfortable, then you're going to get fired.  I don't believe in comfortability.  I believe in keeping people going the uphill direction.

Now, is he our starting quarterback?  You bet.  But if there's three guys back there and somebody out-performs them, then you're going to play the best player.  But he's our starting quarterback right now.  No question about that.  But there's three other guys, four other guys that will be competing and every one of them I talk to, they want to play.  But they will all work together.

At the end of the day, you'll need all of them, because if you watch enough college football and certainly what we do, and ask a quarterback to run a ball some and that kind of thing, you'd better have -- the backup better be a pretty good player.  I think the NFL and college football proves that.  You'd better not be short at that position.  And if you're not good in that position, you will not win.

Q.  The transition for Alipate getting into that tight end spot, 290 pounds, that's a pretty big tight end if you can get that to work.

COACH KILL:  We are going to see if we can do that or not; I don't know.  I told him, get out there that first day, has to use his hands and get in the three-point stance, those kind of things.

But he's a good enough athlete; he's got to want to, and we have to be patient.  I told him, hey, don't worry about making mistakes, just play.  We are trying to give him an opportunity for success.  That's the best thing we are trying to do to help the kid and like I said, he's had a good attitude.  He's worked hard in the off-season.

And both him and Kendall, when you move to a new position, you don't judge them until two-a-day camp.  You just let them play during spring ball, because you know what I mean, they have to get comfortable.  They are learning a whole different world.  So you can't go, well, this kid is not going to play, because you don't know.

Believe me, I've coached for 30 years and every year I hear somebody go:  "I don't think that kid ever will play for us," and two years later, that kid's starting.  You never say somebody is not going to play, because you don't know.  Coach them all.

Q.  Late in the season Jordan Wettstein performed pretty well for you. How do you look at the field goal kicker position?

COACH KILL:  He performed more than pretty well.  The kid did an outstanding job.  I think that's a good situation.  We have got two kickers that have kicked.  Shoot, we'll see how it works out, from kickoffs to PAT field goals to long field goals to short field goals.  We have two kids on our team that are kicking games and kicked in big games.  That's a good situation to have.  I feel very good about that at this point in time.

Q.  More on Moses Alipate’s size.

COACH KILL:  About 285,290.  He's a big young man.  He's been -- since I've been here, I don't know, I don't want to speak out of turn.  I think the lightest I've seen is about 275 is the lightest I've seen Moses since I've been here.  He's a big man.

Q.  Running backs?

COACH KILL:  You know, I think that it's important for everybody, but you know, we have -- David Cobb, I kind of run through this real quick is that there's some guys capable.

Again, they were young last year, but David Cobb is a true freshman.  He's up to 220 pounds and benches 330, squats 500, got 36-inch vertical, pro agility of 4 -- we have some guys there.  Just need to get them coached up.  Devon Wright, James Gillum, the junior college kid's come in. We have a walk-on kid named Cole Banham that I'm excited about, 5-10,180 but done some good things.  I look forward to watching that position play out, also.

Q.  About the wide receiver position …

COACH KILL:  Again, I'm anxious to see -- I've seen what they have done off-season, physically they have made themselves better.  Some of them have just got to stay healthy.  For example, some kids that nobody -- A.J. Barker has been here and shows some really good things, but then he's had a hamstring or something, and like I told him, he had a great off-season.  He ran a 4.09 pro agility and 34-inch vertical.  There's talent there, but got to stay healthy and stay on the field.

We had a young man that walked on here last year named Derrick Engel that was a kid that was a great player, walked on and I tell you, I'm anxious to see what he does.  He did a great job on the work team, catching balls and making plays.  Brandon Green got better as the year went on.  Just a young football team.  I'm anxious to see their attitude and how they will work.  But like I said, if they can carry on what they did in the off-season to spring ball, I think that we'll feel good about that.

Q.  Will Mike Rallis move to the middle linebacker position or stay outside?

COACH KILL:  I think he can do either one but he'll stay where he's at, and you know, again, we'll get the best players on the field and the good thing about him is the flexibility, he played linebacker -- you have to be able to play in college football with the spread offenses and stuff like that, you have to be able to play inside or outside.  You don't have any choice.

This game in college is a very hard game to defend when you're on the defensive side of the ball, because you may see a pro-style offense.  Look at the NFL found out with Tebow, the first three or four games with Tebow, they didn't know how to defend zone read.  The defensive coordinators, they are calling college coaches up.

It's tough being a defensive coordinator, and it's tough;  those linebackers, like James Manuel, has got to be a guy that is a big safety that can play linebacker and still be able to take on the iso.  That's hard to do.  That's why you've got to have some depth at linebacker.

Q.  Did the Big Ten turn out to be what you thought it would be?

COACH KILL:  We didn't play Ohio State, Penn State, so forth, but pretty much even where I was at, we played Big Ten schools.  I think the big thing is, no different than any -- some of the conferences like Nebraska coming into the Big Ten, some of the schools that are going into the Big 12, some of the schools, all these conferences; the biggest difference is in the Big Ten, you're going to play physical, good team every week.  That's the difference and you're going to play somebody -- you are going to tee it up every single week.

You know, then we threw USC in there last year.  There is no -- and then you play North Dakota State who wins the National Championship, I mean, you are going to have to tee it up every week, and I would say that's the biggest thing our kids need to understand.

Q.  No. 1 question to be answered this spring?

COACH KILL:  The No. 1 question?  I want to see if our players got everybody to understand what we want.  Takes awhile when you are turning something around.  These kids hear the same things that you -- when I talk to them:  We had not won a Big Ten Championship in X-amount of years; this hasn't happened; we haven't done this.  Well, we have got to get that turned around.  You have got to shut out everything that you hear and you have to concentrate on what you can control.

So I think the focus -- and they are focusing on what we are doing and trusting the coaches, and us trusting them, I think that's where you are at.  When you are at this time of changing a program around, that's exactly where you are at.

Again, we are still working with the majority of the same group of kids we have had.  We lost a few, that's going to happen, you are going to have natural attrition of football in college.  So have these guys bought in; if you look at the off-season there is much more buy-in right now than there was, and I think there is trust starting to happen.  You still have a few that have not figured it out, but you are going to have that in any organization.  You just want to have the majority going in the right direction.  I think we still need to continue and move the program as we go.

I think we have taken some strides, and like I said, I look forward to watching the kids and seeing them get better.  I'm kind of like you, it's nice to go out and get out of the office, traveling and all that stuff.  I'm anxious just to be on the football field and watch the kids.

Q.  Getting ready to start, what's your feeling on the effectiveness of the weight program?

COACH KILL:  Well, I think it's been huge.  I think that our strength staff during spring break, they went to a clinic, and then they went to  -- we have been all over the place when we have had time to do it.  And our strength guys have done a great job.  I think the best thing we did and I spoke on it at a national convention seven, eight, nine years ago, we didn't do it our first year here because we didn't know enough about the kids.

 But with us dividing those teams up, our eight guys that drafted their teams and having competition all spring long, you know, kids like that.  We are going to have competition during -- once we get the pads on and stuff like that, we are going to have competition within our own team.  We'll keep points and whoever wins, we'll have a jersey.

 But the competition, they have bought in to Coach Klein and the strength staff and what they are doing.  They feel good.  They have got the results.  They are getting stronger and they are getting bigger and watching on the training table.  They are driving Coach O'Brien, hey, Coach wants to see this.  They are starting to understand what you put in your body is what you get out of it.  So when you see a difference, then you start to believe a little bit.

 So I think the strength program, you don't get stronger overnight now.  That's a whole four-year deal.  Like your freshmen, like Scott Epke is the best example I can give you.  I just mentioned his numbers, and he's 17 years old and 248, now he's 278 and he's only 17.  Just think what he's going to be like, he has not played a down yet.  If he was redshirt or not, I don't know what we would do, but think in four years what that youngster will look like.  Most of these kids have been in the program for a year, and you make strides, but not the strides you are going to make over a three- or four- or five-year process.