Aug. 30, 2011
The following is a full transcript of Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill's August 30, 2011 weekly press conference.
COACH KILL: Thank you, everybody, for gathering here today. It's Tuesday, and we're looking forward to our preparations throughout the week. We felt like we've had a good practice yesterday. We gave our youngsters a little bit of time off on Sunday and part of Saturday. I think it certainly made a difference. I thought some people moved around a little bit better, and our focus and concentration were good. Sometimes when you take a day off, it's not so good. But I thought we got a lot accomplished on Monday, and we're looking forward to Tuesday and continuing with our progress to get ready for our test on Saturday. So preparations are going well, and we're looking forward to Saturday. So with that, any questions, and we'll go from here?
Q. How is the team's health?
COACH KILL: I think we're as healthy as you can be. I don't know of anything specific right now. I think that Hill is a question mark. He's got a tight hamstring, but we'll see. We'll be very careful with that. We've got a long season, and we're not going to risk anything. Pete had surgery a week and a half ago, but he practiced yesterday, and everybody else I've got time to think here right offhand, Josh Campion got a concussion early in camp and he still isn't practicing but he's starting to throw around. Again, we don't take any risk with that throughout the season. Really other than that, everybody has got bumps and bruises, but I anticipate to this point, today is Tuesday, you know how things going, but at this point I anticipate everybody else being ready to play.
Q. About the centers ...
COACH KILL: It is, but we feel good about the young men. We have two young people who have snapped the ball a whole lot. Again, yesterday he practiced well, and he was with the first group. But if he doesn't practice well, we'll play the other one. That's pretty much how it works.
Q. What have you discovered about your team? Anything you didn't quite know when you started the first day of practice.
COACH KILL: Sure. I think that the young people are really trying hard to do what they're asked to do, and I think it's definitely a change for them, just a different approach. That doesn't mean it's the right one, but it's different. I think their focus has been very good. I think we have so much to learn as a football program in general and also learning what to do offensively, defensively and kicking game, so that they really don't have time not to concentrate on what to do. You can refer to I'm sure what Coach Frazier is going through at Minnesota. When you're installing new things, it's new to everybody, so we're trying to put systems in. I think we still have a lot of kids thinking. We're going to have to cut back on what we do and make sure we take the personnel we have and put them in the best position we can. But you know what, that stuff may shift in the next three weeks. We don't get preseason games in college football, and so we don't get to say, well, we can do this or do that. We've got to do it from a winning and losing standpoint on game days. So we'll know a lot more about our team when we play USC and we'll know a lot more about it the next week, and we've got to make sure we get prepared for the Big Ten and make sure we've got everybody where they need to be and try and stay as healthy as we can be to get to the Big Ten.
Q. When you have a sixth year guy like Kim Royston, do you see a clear difference in intelligence and the confidence he plays with compared to young guys?
COACH KILL: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. I feel like as a football coach, I believe this is my 29th year, somewhere in there, that I've gotten better as I've gotten older, because you learn more and you understand things better, and you mature. Kim, he's older, he's been in it for six years, he's had the ups and downs, he's had all the kids that do things as young people, he's already done and understands that and is a good kind of like coach, so to speak, on the field. But we need him to stay healthy and we need him to play well. But there's no question that he's an important cog in what we do, certainly the back end.
Q. Have you had some leaders step forward on this team? Are you happy with that aspect of it?
COACH KILL: You know, I don't know I think everybody on our football team has to be a leader right now. They have to be accountable for theirselves. They can control that. As far as somebody jumping out, certainly Kim has done some good things, as has Bennett and so forth, but you know what, I don't judge anybody until their back is against the wall. We've had six months, and there hasn't been any adversity. I judge people in adverse conditions. Do they turn on each other, do they step up. We didn't have any of that. We'll find out how we are through this year because there will be good times, there will be tough times, there will be bad times. How are we going to deal with it and so forth. That's how you develop leadership. Saying somebody is a leader in good times, hard for me to say that now, because saying that I would tell you that through the summer I think Royston did a great job, Rallis did a nice job of holding kids accountable and doing his part, Marqueis did a good job. So there are some guys who stepped up. But I expect all our players we're never going to turn on a program where it needs to be. You recruit college football players to a University, they all need to be leaders on and off the field. I look at it a different way. And then of course you always want somebody to kind of take the deal, and right now Kim has done that. There's no question, because he's older and more mature, and we need Marqueis to do that because he's the quarterback. Everybody knows that, that guy had better be a leader or you're not going to win. But it's hard to be a leader when you're still trying to learn what to do. But he's getting better, and like last night he kept the team himself after practice, and he wasn't yelling and screaming, we had some crowd noise and so forth, and he wanted to work on some communication, so I said, let him figure it out. We stood by the sideline and watched him figure it out. Sometimes you've got to do those things, so I was pleased with that. And he did it on his own. I'd say we're making progress, but again, you learn about people when you deal with adversity, who your true leaders are. Anybody can jump in that foxhole when it's good. I want to see how you react when your back is against the wall.
Q. Can you talk about the progression of Max Shortell and your young running backs?
COACH KILL: I think Shortell has done a nice job, he really has. He's got a tremendous frame and he's had his tail end chewed about every day. He's handled it pretty well. I think he's a mentally tough kid. His daddy played college football and comes from a hard nosed tough family. You know, he throws the ball well, and he's doing really well for a freshman. But he's a freshman. But I think he's picked it up, learned well. You can certainly tell that those quarterbacks have had a couple days to let their minds settle and their arm rest. They were a different type of person yesterday. They were fresh and mentally seemed to be really in it. And so it's been hard on him, but we've had to ask a lot of him, and I think he's done pretty well. At running back, we really Duane has got to have with what we're doing right now, he fits it and he's doing a nice job. And then after that I would say a downhill, hard nosed tough running back in Lamonte, he's done great. I don't think there's any question. He got dinged a little bit towards the end of it, but he's had a good camp, and I've been pleased with him. Donnell Kirkwood was hurt in and out of camp, but you know, we expect him to do well. And then we've got a couple freshmen, we'll see how it all turns out. They've showed up and had some nice scrimmages and so forth. Playing running back at this level is more than just taking the ball and running. That's what everybody sees. They've got to be able to pick up blitz protections, guys off the edge, or we won't have a quarterback, and that's the biggest problem we have. Duane knows how to do all of that. He's the only one. The rest of them are all learning because they're freshmen. They all line up in there and learn blitz pickup and all those kind of things, and that's pretty common to be honest with you. I've been watching guys try to learn how to do that for a long time, and that's the hardest thing as a running back, being able to do that. But that's why we do blitz every day, team blitz. We put them in as bad a situations as we can at practice, and they've gotten better. But again, we'll see how they react when the ball is kicked on Saturday.
Q. About the offensive line ...
COACH KILL: Offensive line, you know, we've got three older kids, and then the rest are all rookies, and so we'll I think they're progressing well. I think Coach Limegrover has done a good job with them. We're still not as strong as we need to be physically, but I think we're getting in the right position and giving ourselves a chance, and I think they work hard. I think the group has worked hard. But we basically were without Ryan Winn, so we had two seniors and the rest were all freshman, freshman, freshman, sophomore, freshman, freshman, sophomore, so young guys that are learning. But certainly not disappointing. I think two or three years down the road it should be a special group. We're going to try to red shirt about six or seven of them and going to try to red shirt five of them anyway, and maybe red shirt another one if we can. But we're going to try to build a group up. We're going to have to do something.
Q. What are your thoughts on USC quarterback Matt Barkley?
COACH KILL: First round draft pick. He's as good as some of the guys that came out this year. He's a good player.
Q. Is he a lot different than he was last year?
COACH KILL: Yeah, I think I think that was the third game last year, and he got better and better and better. He's a pretty good player. I give him his respect. He's got some nice receivers to get into and so forth, but gets the ball out quick, smart, well coached. They do a good job with him. He can play.
Q. What are your expectations for this team? How do you set expectations?
COACH KILL: Well, I expect any time we go to a game, we go to win. I'm a competitor, and that's how I'm going to approach every game. But right now I feel like we're not going to build a program on sand. We're going to build it on concrete. There's a lot of things that go into that. Concrete goes with guys going to class, guys being accountable on and off the field, guys being accountable for their job, they make mental mistakes. Our locker room wasn't cleaned yesterday, they're going to be accountable for that the day of practice. Those are the little things that are the difference between winning and losing. With that being said, our job is to get better every day. I don't care if it's segmented or every week. Every time we play, we get a little bit better, and maybe some people don't see it that way or whatever, but we see it on film, and we'll find out who's going to come in here and be on concrete and who's going to be on sand, and we'll go from there. If we win games with it, that's great. If we don't, it is what it is. But we're going to build it on we're going to find those people that are going to build on an everyday basis, and that's how we're going to do it. And then you've got to recruit and then you've got to build that program where you've got that thing going where you've got people that want to be at the University of Minnesota and they want to do it the right way and they're going to compete like we expect them to compete and you expect them to compete. So we'll find out through adversity, good times. I mean, I've been a part of some great wins. I've been a part of when I was at Northern Illinois we beat Purdue and got our tail end kicked the next week. Kids weren't mature enough to handle a nice win. Then you've got to go from there. I think in football and in life, you've got to try to get better every day, and through the season head coach has got to be just like this. You can't be way up here, way down there. There's not any one game more important than another. Hell, they're all important. This is the first one on the schedule. That's the most important thing we've got going on is next week. When they come in, we'll grade it on Sunday, we'll evaluate it, we'll correct mistakes, we'll learn from mistakes, et cetera, and when Sunday is over we'll move on to the next one. We're not going to talk about it. We'll move on to the next one. That's the way you build a program. We've been doing it for years. There will be a few players who will get playing time and some of them won't because they haven't been through enough adverse conditions for me to really evaluate. I've got to put them through a tough spring and those kind of things, but there's nothing like game I'll video the sideline. I might be the only coach in America that videos the sideline. I'll video the sideline. I want to see how people handle themselves. I want to see who's throwing that helmet down, I want to see who's losing their cool. I evaluate the coaches because everybody is accountable on game day.
Q. What kind of things do you look for in adversity?
COACH KILL: It all starts maybe you're down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, are you going to battle back or are you going to lay down and quit, or maybe you lose a good player with an injury. Who's going to step up and play? Are we going to sit around and say, gosh darn, we lost so and so? The next guy has got to step up. Maybe something happens off the field. Maybe losing two straight games, maybe getting your tail end kicked, whatever that may be. But you'll find out who goes this way and who steps in there. I've gone through a 1 and 10 season my first year at Southern Illinois. Some of these coaches, most of them are still with me. Not one coach turned, not one offensive guy turned on the offensive guy, not one defensive guy turned on the defensive guy, not one administrator turned on a coach. We all stuck together, and I said one of these days we'll win. Now they're playing in a brand new stadium, and they've won a lot of football games. What we found out, we wanted to be in there in the trenches, including players. Some of them didn't make it. I think we played Faber the last game and I sent one home on Friday night. Again, you've got to lay the concrete, and that's tough to do, certainly in this day and age because everybody wants to do everything right now.
Q. If you controlled the schedule, would you be playing at USC in your first game this season?
COACH KILL: No, I'm very honest, we'd be playing at home. You asked. I'm being straight. But it is what it is, so we'll bow up and we'll be excited and we'll go out and do it. I'm not putting down anybody that did it, that's just not the philosophy I'm under.
Q. If not on the road at USC, who would you be playing?
COACH KILL: Well, I'd have to set here and see who's available on the schedule and those kind of things. I don't like playing the first game with BCS I want to play at home. There's a whole lot of difference between playing at home and going on the road, plus going to USC and the time difference, the whole ball of wax. But it is what it is, and we'll have them ready to go. They'll be fine. Again, you asked me what I prefer. I'm not worried about it. I'm looking forward to it. But I think any coach in America thinks there's an art to scheduling. I think there's an art when you turn a program around. We have large plans for what I think it's going to take to turn the program around. Part of that is scheduling. It is what it is.
Q. More on scheduling ...
COACH KILL: I think everybody in the Big Ten is going to have to solve that problem. I can't give you that answer right now because I'm worried about playing USC. But everybody is going to have to look at that because we're going to an extra conference game now, and then we're going to have three games, and you'd better win those three. You know, there's going to be a whole change in the Big Ten scheduling because of what's going to happen. So I think all our coaches from the Big Ten are going to have to look at what you're going to do because you'd better be ready for the Big Ten. Nebraska wasn't in the Big Ten last year. Nebraska and playing nine conference games is going to change the whole ball of wax. There's going to be a lot of coaches thinking about what they're going to do with scheduling.
Q. How extensive was the plan you presented to Joel?
COACH KILL: Extensive.
Q. Several volumes?
COACH KILL: Just extensive. I don't know what volumes are. I'm not smart enough. I don't make it that complicated, about four or five pages worth of stuff. That's a fair question, but it's not that complicated. It's not something I just did here, it's what I've done everywhere I've been. You go in, you look at the things that need to change, this is what we do, this is how we do it, this is what I see, and then you go do it.
Q. Did you present that before you were hired or after?
COACH KILL: I think they probably looked at what I did before I got here, and I think I thought I'd give a plan if I don't know about the culture. I'd come in, I'd be like I've been married to my wife, I've used that for 28 years, and I didn't learn about her in five months. I mean, you've got to look at the culture and what you're seeing and what you're doing, you have to talk to people, you have to listen to people. There have been hundreds of people running through my office at one time or the other. I mean, I've had no time because people come in and visit with me, and all of you, I've listened to what you think and then I've looked and worked with the people here, and I say, okay, this is what I think it's going to take at Minnesota because Minnesota is different. But to be honest with you there aren't a whole lot of differences at all of them; when they're broke, they're broke, and you've got to fix them.
Q. What was the culture before you got here that you have to change?
COACH KILL: I don't think that's fair to anybody. I think the biggest thing I would say about that is that you would probably have a better answer to that than me, that we well, it's been since 1967, so it's been a long time. When you have that long of a period of not winning the Big Ten, why is that? What do we need to do different? What do we need to change and so forth. So I don't think you can blame you can't blame one person, one coach, player, I mean, it's a combination of many things, and it's all about commitments. I can tell you from the situation that me coming in here is that, again, you've got stability with coaches, we've had offensive coordinators and I don't know how many defensive coordinators or academic people have gone in and out of there like club sandwiches. I mean, it is what it is. There's been no stability, and sooner or later, you give a guy a chance, you stick in here and you get your feet in the ground, let's get it done. So that's pretty much I mean, that's who I am, and that's what I plan to do, and if they get rid of me next year, then I guess they get rid of me. But I came in here saying this is what I'm going to do, so I ain't changing.
Q. Can you talk about the positives and the negatives of having an NFL team here?
COACH KILL: I think people use that ... As a head coach I take all those things, turn them into a positive. Shoot, we were out here in the summertime and there's NFL guys all over the place. I think that's an advantage. Football is important here in Minnesota. That's an advantage. Hey, we've got the Vikings here. That's great. Use that in recruiting. I think it's what you say. If the coach walks around and says, well, the Vikings are here and we're not the No. 1 team, that's what everybody thinks. But I embrace it. Shoot, I went out to eat with Leslie Frazier, and we can use it as a resource, and it's a positive resource. So I don't think that has anything to do with whether we can win or not. Our job is what we can deal with in my opinion. In my opinion we can't worry about what everybody else all around we need to take care of the University of Minnesota and what's inside it, and that's the guts right here. Worry about what we can control. We can't worry about all that stuff. Just like I can't worry about you'll write things throughout the year about me, and shoot, that's your job, but I can't worry about it because if I worry about it how am I supposed to be a good coach and spend time on what I am supposed to be spending it on? For me, we control what we do, so we're the ones that need to take care of it. It has nothing to do with the Vikings. But since I've been here, unbelievable place. My wife loves it, Twin Cities. The state of Minnesota, what we have to offer to be honest I don't think we sell it. I think we need to take more pride in our state. All I heard about when I came up here, I called my brother, and he said, man, it's cold up there, what are you doing? He came up this summer, got a chance to take him to the Twins game, he got to hang around, he goes, "this is unbelievable. I had no idea." So we need to be more positive, and we need to sell what we have in this state because it's a special place now. I'm telling you, there's not you can be in the city, you can be in the country. I was out at the state fair, holy cow, the state fair where I'm from ain't nothing like that. You get out there, and I mean, it's neat. It's neat. But these kids we recruit, they know nothing about it. They're the same way I was when I was getting recruited here to be the coach. You don't know sometimes. So I think we need to concentrate on the good things we have in this great state, and we've got plenty of them. So that's what we'll try to do in recruiting. Believe me, all the things we're talking about right now we'll be selling in recruiting because we've got a great place.
Q. What else stands out about USC?
COACH KILL: Well, they're USC. They've got great tradition, they're going to have 500 tailbacks lined up there that all can play. They're at a great place for recruiting. California is arguably one of the top three places in the country to recruit. They're fast, they're big, they're strong. You all seen them here last year. I think that's what you can go by and what we've seen throughout the year. We've certainly got their video, watching all the stuff. They improved immensely as the year went on. They're a good, athletic team.
Q. Does your message change to the players? You've been building them up all spring and into the fall. Does it change now when you come to game day, when you come to game week, for these guys to get ready for Saturday?
COACH KILL: Really I don't think it does. If you talk to Dan I'm probably a little bit different in my approach because I'm locked into my own little deal because it's game week and you're concentrating on all the things that you can control to get ready for the game. But nothing has changed with them. I told them, it's real simple. If you do this, this, this, this and this, you'll be in the game and you'll have an opportunity to win. If you don't do this, this, this and this, it could be a long day. I mean, we make it complicated, but if you tackle well, you block well, you don't missed assignments and misalignments will beat you long before mismatches, that's about as good as I can sum it up. Missed assignments and misalignments will beat you long before mismatches. That's what I mean by discipline. Discipline is not how you wear your hair or do you have an earring. Discipline is doing those kind of things day to day, being consistent. We can't walk out there being an offensive line, all of a sudden they change a front on you and you block the wrong way. You're not going to win that way. Or you go in there and you let a kickoff go the other way because three guys ran out of their lane. You're not going to win that way. That's discipline, doing the same things on a consistent basis. I don't know how many plays on Saturday, but there will be 12 or 13 of them that will determine the game. That's why you can't take a play off. Again, we try and make it complicated but it really isn't. It's just getting people to play hard all the time. They can't take plays off. I don't know if we're there or not, I really don't. But we'll get a chance to find out before long.
Q. What is it that you're doing well, that you'll do in the game Saturday?
COACH KILL: We'll know a lot more on Saturday. I don't think I'm not trying to avoid the question. I don't think as a coaching staff I think we think we know what we're going to do pretty well, but until you get out there, you know, it's like I hear what you're saying and I trust what you do, I've got to see them do it. I think that we've got to be able to use Marqueis, we've got Duane Bennett has to play well, Da'Jon McKnight has got to, Eric Lair is kind of a unique tight end, what are we going to do with him, we've got to get him some catches, get him involved in the offense. Defensively are we going to be able to keep everybody in the gap and do what they were taught, or is somebody going to get undisciplined and do their own thing and the ball goes 50 yards. I don't know, but we'll just have to see.
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