Aug. 4, 2011
The University of Minnesota football team reports to preseason camp Sunday. When they take the practice field for the first time on Monday afternoon, not one of the Golden Gophers should feel as though they have a starting spot wrapped up.
“Nobody is entitled to anything in life,” head coach Jerry Kill said Thursday. “You earn it.”
Kill was speaking to the Twin Cities media during his pre-camp press conference. He made it clear that everyone will have to work hard for their playing time.
“I don’t get into what’s open, what’s not,” Kill said. “We’re going to put the best damn player on the field. That’s what our job is. If all of a sudden we’ve got somebody come in that’s the best player, we’re going to play him. If we’ve got somebody that’s not performing and we’ve got somebody that’s going to perform better, we’re going to play him. This isn’t intramurals. It’s college football. I’m into competition every day.”
However, Kill is realistic about some areas on the field and how much competition there will be. For instance, quarterback is one position that looks to be fairly locked in with Marqueis Gray at that spot. But Kill said the Gophers’ quarterback will still need to work hard and improve throughout camp.
“There are some places you’ll look at and say, ‘It’s going to be hard to beat this guy,’ because there’s not a lot of competition,” Kill told the media. “You’ve got to figure that sometimes the competition is within yourself. A guy like MarQueis (Gray), some of the competition’s within himself. How good can he be? It’s about the individual being the best he can be. So to me, you always have competition. If we can get every player that we have to give their best of their ability and play as hard as they can play, then we’d solve a lot of problems quickly. But that’s not easy to do in this day’s culture.”
One of the reasons there may be a lack of competition at some positions is simply an issue of numbers. Depth for the Gophers may even force the head coach to change a little bit, even if he doesn’t necessarily want to.
“You have to adjust with what you have,” Kill said. “Each team is different from year to year, and so we’ll take what we have and we’ll work with that group of youngsters to see what direction we need to take. If we have to cut down on some of the things we’ve done in the past, that’s what we’ll do. So we need to find out what this group can do, and then we have to adjust a little bit. Do I like having to adjust a lot? No, but it is what it is. That’s called coaching. So we’ll have to work with what we have, and if we have a lack of depth in some areas, then we’ll have to be careful in those areas.”
While there are areas of concern and lots of work to be done, the first-year head coach said he and his staff are looking forward to getting out on the field and beginning the work of preparation toward the season-opener.
“We’re excited about the opportunity that will be coming upon us Monday, getting out on the field and throwing them out there and seeing what we have,” Kill said. “It’s been a long time since the spring, and now we’re going into fall camp and we’ll see how much work and progress we’ve made.”
The public will get plenty of opportunities to get a look at the progress the Gophers have made this summer, along with the coaches. Kill has opened the first 10 practices to the public, as well as a scrimmage on the morning of Saturday, August 20. Monday’s first practice is scheduled to begin at 3:55 p.m. at the Gibson-Nagurski Complex.
-By Andy Seeley, Associate Director of Athletic Communications
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