Oct. 25, 2011
COACH KILL: I guess to open up, sometimes people drop by my office and I look at things, and this happened to be written by Harvey McKay, who I think everybody knows here. I was reading it and I think it kind of sums up some things.
It says: "One of my favorite stories is about a dreamer whose name was Henry Comstock. Henry was a minor of precious metals whose story took place in the American west in the middle the 1800s. Henry found a mine, staked his claim and dug until he found his treasure. He unearthed a little bit of ore but knew there was more to be found in that mine. So he always picked and scratched and always convinced that somewhere there had to be a mother load. He was determined to find it. He was really going to make it big. The days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, the months to years, and finally he gave up in 1859, when someone offered him 11,000 for his claim, and in those days that was a lot of money.
"Henry Comstock looked at the buyer and said, 'You made a deal. You got yourself a mine.' The person who bought it, dug a little deeper, just a few feet deeper, and then mother load was found. Within a short time the Comstock mine produced ore worth $340,000,000. Dreams take work. They take practice. They take patience and sometimes they require you to dig a little deeper. Instead of giving yourself reason why it can't, give myself reason why I can."
Now that's a story by Harvey and of course he's been a publisher of many books and the title of it, "Persistence and Determination Separate the Finisher and the Finished." So that's kind of where we are at. We have to practice. We have to show a little patience and we have to dig a little deeper. That's a pretty -- it was put on my desk. I'm not even sure who put it on there but it was good timing. So that's kind of my opening statement of where we are at, and now I'll take any questions.
Q. How about a loan?
COACH KILL: A loan? Whatever you need, Charlie. Whatever you like, I'll just write you a check. I've still got the same slacks I had on from about ten years ago. They are a little tighter, though. I've been eating a little more.
Q. How about that? Will you say anything about (the contract)?
COACH KILL: Again, I look at it this way. When I came here and took the job, and you work together with people, and those kind of things, this isn't about Jerry Kill and a contract. This is about a football program and where we want to go with the football program.
And I've said all along, about investment and how important it was, and you know, I think and I appreciate Jordan Bussant (ph) that was my agent and he worked with Joel and his counsel and everybody on it, and sometimes things take longer than others.
But the bottom line is, I don't think anybody here in our administration is here, doesn't want this program to move forward. And I think the biggest thing that out of the contract is this. There's no question that Joel and our administration here, there's no question our president knows our football program needs to go another direction.
And it doesn't matter if you're Bill Snyder or where you're at and you're trying to turn something around that struggled for a while, it doesn't matter how hard any of us work, it's got to start at the top. And President Kaler, there's no question, I've talked to him, Joel has talked to him, he knows the vision.
I've gone through this before. These are the things that got to take place for this program to change. I've talked since the day I came in about the investment part of it and our president is invested. And you know, I can tell everybody here, it's important to him to have a good football program. We have got a great academic institution and we have got a football program that's struggled, and I certainly said all along, I'm not going to be able to change it. It's going to take a whole lot of people to help us change it. And I think he's made a strong statement from the top that he's committed and we are moving forward and it's going to change.
And so with that being said, we have work to do and we have been making some strides behind the scenes to get things done and cuss on what we need to do because there's a lot more to it than a contract.
Q. How did you arrive at seven years?
COACH KILL: Well, I just, you know, it's one of those things where I felt it was important for us coming in as a coach and coming into the program and seeing where we were at and the discussions with my agent and Joel, and also the president, I felt we needed time to do it right.
And the situation that we are in, and I'm not blaming anybody, it's just the situation that we are in, is that we have some -- we have some things that we got to get corrected. And I think that coming in, you know, there was more things than I thought and even probably Joel thought. There was some things in there that's going to take time. We have got some issues from academics to different things.
And when you're at a place where we are at, there's going to have to be a huge investment to get back at it. I've shared that with Joel and I've shared it with our president. It's like being -- I grew up and in state of Kansas with K State sitting there, and I remember my dad saying at the supper table, "ain't never going to win at K State, ain't never going to make a commitment." Heard that here at Minnesota, my dad speaking.
You know what, they hired a president, Bill Snyder -- when I took the job at Southern Illinois, I went and visited Bill Snyder and went and talked with him before we did it, and when I went to Southern Illinois we were lined up president, we all got on the same page and they were going to drop the football program there and we all said, this is what we are going to do.
It was going to take some time and we are going to take some hits and we are going to take some public hits and that's part of it. You have to have many mental toughness because it ain't going to be easy. And so, I felt like to do it right, you don't want to do it the quick-fix way where we needed to be is that, you know, that we needed to have that time. And so I was fortunate that our administration and Joel and visiting with the president, they felt the same way.
You know, it makes it to where, again, you don't have to worry about trying to do something a quick-fix way. Where we are at, I mean, I'm not trying to -- I get e-mail, Coach, I'm just shooting, being honest, and we are very similar with that. It's going to take, when you're in a situation down here and a lot of your competition is here, you're going to have to invest a heck of a lot to get up in there. It's more than just a coach; it's an investment from a lot of people.
And certainly before I did this, all I can tell you is this, and I've said the same thing since the day I walked in. I've been darned honest. And you know, I wouldn't be doing what we are doing today, but I believe in the president and I've told the people I wouldn't do anything until I knew, and I know our president is 110% in, period. And I feel very confident with that, without a doubt.
And I can say that today and I look forward to working with our administration and Joel and the president. And we all know what we need to do, and to be honest with you, a lot of people, we have got to quit talking about how it got there and all of those kind of things. We have to talk about how we are going to fix it, and that's kind of what we've done and that's been part of the situation.
We have already done some. We have got to get situated in the academic center. We have to do things in the strength program. We have to make sure our assistant coaches are going to be here or keep as many of them here and have some continuity in those areas, and that was all a part of this. You've got to concentrate. You can't fix it all at once, but you'd better concentrate on making sure kids are going to school and eligible and they are doing the right things and you'd better get them strong.
Those two things are pretty darn important, and you'd better keep the people that are working with them all the time, keep them here. So those are the things that I felt is very important and that's what our administration has stepped up and done.
So that's a lot more part of it, and the time; you need time to do it. And I can't -- we have got some -- I have got to make some tough calls. We have got to get players through the right things. We still have some of them that don't understand what's right and wrong and so forth. I'm going to have to make some tough calls, and I'm going to beat up for a while, and that's okay. That's part of it.
A lot of people will say -- you know, I walked out of the stadium, I know who it was and I can't remember the security guy, he didn't know it was my brother. My brother was here for the first time and he didn't know who it was. And I went to the pep rally on Friday night, my brother walked out there, and he says, he's looking -- "Is that your brother over there, Coach Kill."
He said, "Yeah."
He said, "They ain't never going to win here at Minnesota. Ain't happening."
And my brother goes, "Well," he goes, "never know. You never know."
And the thing is, is that that's the same things that were said more so -- northern was different. Coach Novak had built a good base there. This is much more like Southern. That's exactly what they say at Southern. Some of my very best friends at Southern Illinois were the guys that were the hardest on me and said it ain't never going to happen.
And they are the same ones righting me right now when I'm getting tough e-mails like that and saying, hey, we believe in you, we've seen it happen. Just do what you did there. And my job is to take what we have done, because we have done it, and I'm presented and have been, me and Joel have been working on it, and the president and everybody on the same page, this is what it's going to take, and let's go do it.
And at this stage, I would not have signed a contract if I did not feel comfortable that we were going to go that direction. Doesn't mean we are going to wave a magic wand and win ten games all of a sudden. Just means we start putting the concrete in so to speak.
Q. Assessing the program, after being here a couple of months, you're saying it came clear to you that it was important to that have contract longer?
COACH KILL: Absolutely. I think our administration, I think Joel, I think the president, I think everybody understands that we can't keep turning over thing. It's not just me. It's from assistant coaches to the academic center. Like I said, we have had five different people in charge of the academic center. Lynn has done a great job in there. We have got two great people in there. We have got to do a good job of keeping them. We need to add to that. That's all part of the plan so to speak.
And that's more important than anything right now is the people and trying to keep the people here and that's not easy to do through tough times. Again, you don't want people that haven't been through tough times. And one thing that's helped me a little bit, a lot of guys that I've been with have been through this before. They have been beaten on, hammered. They did tell me this: We ain't doing it again, Coach. We have gone through it, and this is it for some of them, too. We ain't doing it again. It's hard. It's hard. There's no question about that.
Q. Speaking of support, apparently I had heard that you're thankful just for the students about this, and you and your wife are going to buy lunch for 4,000 kids or something? There any truth to that?
COACH KILL: There is. There's a lot of things I need to do. I already messed up one. I think I had a ticket for a guy, I don't know who it was exactly, actually signed their name to it. And they said that, you know, they were disappointed in my coaching and so forth and whatever and been a ticket holder. And if I had been smart, I've done it before, I'd write him a check and give him his money back and he would have free tickets this year.
I understand the frustration of the people and the fans and so forth. I will say this, though, that our students have been good to me. I've had a situation that was not real good that happened and we have had great support from our students.
And my wife and I were talking about it, and I said, you know, we play at Nebraska and those kids have been good to us and taking care of us and you know, we are not doing very well. So I said, let's reward them. So we are just going to feed them lunch on game day, and you know, they deserve that.
We need everybody to help us go this direction, and so I'm that kind of person that whatever it takes, and you know, we certainly appreciate them, I can't tell you the number of kids that come up through my office and, hey, thanks, coach and I'm sitting there, wait a minute, we are 1-5, we are not doing very well, what are you thanking me for, you know.
So there's some good youngsters at this school, and you know, it's been tough times for them, too. And we want to try to hold them in there and we need them.
Q. Going back to football for a minute, can you talk about MarQueis Gray, his progression from the first half to the second half?
COACH KILL: Well, MarQueis, he's certainly gotten better in the second half. It's one of those things where you look at the Indianapolis Colts right now, and all of the sudden their defense is not playing very good, and they know -- it's amazing how important that position is in football, it really is.
Right now we have got a young man that's in both -- has not played college football at that position. He will be the first to tell you, a critical play in the game, when him and Da'Jon (ph) had a mis-exchange and they go the distance on a misread. He's learning the hard way. But, you know, I think he's still processing a little bit. I think missing the game really hurt and two weeks of practice, but you know, he'll get better and we are going to keep working with him and we have got to continue to do smart things and we'll just keep working at it.
Q. Given all of the problems you've talked about, are you surprised you've only had one victory, is this what you expect?
COACH KILL: I think it going into a new job you really don't know what to expect. When I went to Southern Illinois, I thought we were going to win five or six and then I got out of spring ball and I said, oh, we'll still find a way. And wheels came off and we won one game and it was homecoming. And then the next year we went for it.
I wish I had a timetable but it is -- really there's so much has to do with the players coming together and chemistry and so forth and strength. And then when I went to Northern Illinois, we had about 17 kids that didn't go through spring ball, they were injured, didn't have any idea -- I didn't think we would win a game at Northern and then we turn around and win six and go to a Bowl game.
Coming here, after going through spring ball, I said, gosh, we are going to have to, and I know what some of the other people look like, we are going to have to play really, really good football.
And the quarterback situation, not having a true one, I was concerned but I'm a competitive guy, and just like anything else, you get them ready to play and it's no different this week. We play well and play mistake-free football and get going, get a break here or there.
You know, so I just don't -- did I expect this, you just don't know your first year. That's why you can't go in and predict what you're going to do and you predict the next year or the next year. To kind of do what this article says is that you have to just keep digging in there and sooner or later things will go your way.
Most of it has to do with you know, building stability. Once we were at Southern Illinois, after the first year we lost a lot of players; it would similar to what happened at Coach Alvarez at Wisconsin. We lost a lot of players and then we dismiss them and just didn't do what they were supposed to do and we redshirt a lot of kids. And then just started and then all of a sudden the new kids came in, they blended in with the ones that wanted to be there and all of the sudden it turns.
At Northern, like I said it was a little bit different and I think this one is more similar to Southern a little bit. The tougher thing that we have here, I think Joel has said, when you talk about years on contract, this is a tougher situation. This is not the same what it was when Bill Snyder took over K State. It's not the same as what Barry did. It's not the same as Jerry Kill taking over Southern Illinois, because we have got the thing called APR now which makes that a whole different deal. And so it makes it a lot tougher to turn something quicker, and the NCAA has done that for a reason.
When we went to Northern, we didn't lose a lot of kids there, and that goes because of Coach Novak. He had recruited some good kids. They had a recruiting year, too, that was tough but they were good kids, and they had worked hard and we had some classroom stability there. And so we didn't lose a lot, and then we rallied up and we retented -- our retention rate was very good and then we added to it.
And then we had one -- I think we were the fifth-highest APR in the country last year, where if we had had to do that at Southern, we would have been -- we were in the APR situation here, we would not have been able to do some things. And it's probably, I would like to be optimistic. We are probably going to get hit here. There's nothing I can do about it, working as hard as I can and there's a whole hour TV show on that how you try to work that out. That's why we needed some time, too, because it's not the same as what it was in those days. You know, they made it tougher.
Q. It's a question of you beating yourself, you started out the Nebraska game, guy fumbles the kickoff, you get a 23-yard punt and then you get another penalty that puts you in the hole and that's happened every game.
COACH KILL: You know what, that means I need to do a better job coaching, Sid. I told you that Saturday and I'll repeat it today. I mean, it's -- you're absolutely right. Bennett is not trying to fumble a kickoff. We kick him every day and he's a senior. He dropped the kick. And then we have a punt that's not very good, and then they score and it's happened. You know what, it's kind of like this article. Sometimes you keep digging and you keep getting hit in the face.
When I was at Southern Illinois, let me tell you, when you're 1-11 and I think whatever it was, and then you know, you start questioning if you can coach and all those kind of things. And you start wondering, man, all of a sudden, I'm a bad coach, we were at Northern Illinois, 11-3 and all of a sudden you come and -- won one ballgame, and go, oh, man, I'm a bad coach.
But at the same time I think we all believe in what we do, and you stay the course and you just keep teaching it. And those kids are not trying to make a mistake and they are not trying to -- if anything, I think some of them try too darned hard.
We had one penalty on offense, we had one penalty on defense, which was crucial, you know, and I'll give their credit. Nebraska as quarterback got up there, hard counted it, used his head and our guy jumped, can't do it, but he did. And we had three on kickoff return, and two of those is that we had a young man that was given everything he got, he just got ran over.
And when you get run over on kickoff return, you go like this and they are going to call holding every time, whether you hold or not, you get run over, they feel like you're going to pull them over. And you know, we are matched with 178 against 240. And that kid doing everything he's got, love him to death.
I looked at our effort and believe me I'm an effort coach, and any of you, if they let you on the sideline, I'd let you down there. The one that we do have sideline reporters, they will tell you, we are down there coaching effort, playing hard, doing all those things.
And then we watch the film and there's a couple plays in there I didn't think we played as hard as we could play. We had a couple kids that didn't play as hard as I think they can play. But, the majority of them were playing hard, you know. Just it's one of those things we struggle in space on defense and angles and speed and those kind of things, and we have got to do a better with our angles. So we'll go out and work on them. You'd better understand your speed and you'd better understand their speed and you'd better understand the angles of football.
You know, you take away, like the game of football, we have a couple big plays and they have about eight or ten and that's the difference in the game. Fumble, running for touchdown and we stop them on the muffed fumble and we don't get it. If we get that and whatever and then he catches it and fumbles it, it's our ball, things may change. We just haven't had that.
You know what, that's the way life. Is I've lived 50 years, you've lived a lot longer than I have, I imagine there's been a year or two in there that stuff just doesn't go your way. What do you do? You have to find a way to fight back. You don't give in and you go back to the principles and basics of life and you keep pushing forward.
Q. You talked last week about baby steps and how sometimes the fans may not see some things that are going on on the field but you can see them. Can you talk about maybe some things that you saw last week that you didn't see a couple of weeks ago?
COACH KILL: I think -- there's no question, we played better than we did against Purdue. I mean, as a fan, I've got family that came for the first time and I know what my brother thought and other people thought, and so forth.
But like I said I know what I think and I'll get to watch the film. I would tell you, there's no question, that, you know, that like Zac Epping, he plays offensive line for us and he's a redshirt freshman. He played very, very well.
Up front on the offensive line, you know, four of the five really played really, really well. And against a defense that -- a good defense. Really controlled the line of scrimmage. Now if you're a fan, you probably didn't see that. We didn't have a lot of minus yardage. We had a ton of it -- in the first five games we had more minus yardage here than the three years I was at northern. So we had a lot of minus yards. But we did a good job up front.
Our wide receivers blocked better and were much more aggressive. We didn't catch the ball in crucial situations when we needed to. We didn't maybe make some decisions at quarterback that put us in a tough time to where our offensive line didn't look as good and running back wise.
We didn't have good vision at running back. We had some creases up there, and I see Ray up there, being an ex-offensive lineman, sometimes those guys run in the middle of your back and you would like to tell them, hey, move over, there's a crease in here. We didn't see; our vision at running back wasn't really good. We had some creases up in there.
I thought the biggest thing was -- that offensive line was pretty fairly young and we played a lot of people in there. I thought that was better. A guy that stood out that really played much better was Keanon, Keanon Cooper. And the reason, he's been playing with a big cast on and they cut that thing down and he's healing up. And he had 12 tackles and ran around pretty good. I thought that was a good thing. I thought Aaron Hill did some good things which was positive. He's been injured. You know, Botticelli and Perry and the defensive line, I've seen them grow up a little bit on Saturday and.
Then you know we had some older guys, Collin McGarry, tight end-wise, I watched Ohio State and Wisconsin block the defensive end from Nebraska, their tight end and I would tell you, Collin McGarry did just as good a job as they did if not better. He is really playing good football. If I said somebody that's playing the most consistent football on our offensive team, Collin McGarry. Never says is a word, just goes and plays. He's done a heck of a job and been pleased with him.
McKnight caught a couple nice balls, made some good plays. I'm really impressed with Devin Crawford-Tufts, we've played him and he's made some good catches. He's got a good body and he's going to be a good player.
We are getting some good things out of some other players. Derrick Wells, Cedric Thompson, Brock Vereen, they are all underclassmen kids in the secondary, they are learning the hard way somewhat, but they are getting some playing time.
And then the guy that's really helped us is Kim Royston. He understands, I mean, you know, he's been at Wisconsin, he transferred here, and he's got a good perspective of where we are at. He's kind of like -- he's been great to me. And through this transition, he's like -- and he's having to coach a lot of those young guys on the run, try to help them out. And Kim played very well. He had a big hit there in the game and he's giving us everything, that kid has given us everything he's got. He's been playing this game for six years and had some injuries and things. He's been solid and holding us in there. There is some good things going. I think that our discipline, you know, I think that from the classroom, all of those kind of things, I'm frustrated with, you know.
It's daily work, you know when you're winning and you know when you've got the program turned around because you don't get these little notes on your desk every day. Once I get all that taken care of, I know we're going in the direction, but we have work to do in that area.
Again, we'll keep pushing forward. That's our jobs as coaches, and I will say that we have got some -- we have got some good kids that are really trying hard and they are really working hard and we have just got to continue to recruit more good kids that are going to work very hard and just keep going and then all of a sudden that cycle will hit and then you get going. You know, it's part of it.
Q. The video from last year, that win --
COACH KILL: Zero right now. We take Sunday and you have to give them time off, so Monday is off for them. So today will be Tuesday and we'll go to Iowa and do a lot of things going up to that game to get prepared.
We spent Sunday in here teaching off some of the positive things that happened and why are we are not successful. Sid said it, he was in our meeting and so forth, it's one of those things where you really get down to it is that, you know, there's good things out there and you get going. We kick ourselves in the tail end all the time.
Here is a good point, a turnaround that I can tell the kids. We run around and played with great enthusiasm, playing hard early in the game. And like I said, you get the first kickoff return, you drop the ball and then you get the ball on the ten and then you get out of a hole and then you punt the ball and shank the ball then they start -- you can't give the ball to Nebraska on the 40-yard line. And then they go down there, make a couple big plays and then you get a mistake, that part of it you just can't do and win games. Nobody can do that, overcome those situations.
Or when we are sitting there and we have an opportunity, we have fourth and two and our center snaps it on the wrong snap count and you know, then it just -- and then all of a sudden, you know, we are in the zone read, the ball pops off, he picks it up and runs for a touchdown. You just shake your head. Sometimes every once in awhile I would like to be sitting there and going, man, what the hell is that coach, he doesn't know what's going on there. And I'm telling you, it's frustrating.
But, you know what when you're winning and you've got things it going, those all go your way. I was there, it took us, we were at Southern Illinois, we went 1-10, and we went 4-8 and we were playing a home coming game, played Western Illinois when we had not beaten in ten years and we had a freshman quarterback take us 55 yards with no time-outs and we won on the last play of the game; changed our program. Whole thing. That will be the play that goes on in the history of that program, they still talk about it. It takes something like that along the way, and then you see the shift. So just got to keep working at it.
Q. Having several games here to look through your personnel and spring practice, are you any more inclined to look at junior college players in recruiting as you go into 2012?
COACH KILL: We'll use the same formula that we have used in the past and we'll recruit the best available players that fit the University of Minnesota whether they are a JC kid or a high school player. We have got a pretty good class going right now. We have got to hold them in there, but the bottom line is, is this.
Like I told our staff today in a meeting, I want a youngster that wants to play, and football is important to him, and so is his education. And I want a tough kid, because you're going to have to be tough, mentally tough, because this thing, you know, you're going to go through some tough times here and you'd better be able to deal with them. If you're not mentally tough probably shouldn't come here.
And we have got to make sure a youngster understands going to the University of Minnesota what it takes to get an education. And I said, everybody that's going to come through that door committed or what, is going to answer to me and I'm going to make sure that's what we want, and that's what they want to do.
Now that doesn't mean they are all perfect angels or anything of that nature. But it's got to be important to them. Let me tell you something, if football is important to you, and you want to play that game, and I'm one of them, you'll make sure you go to class and get an education, because you want to play. You know, you will. I've got my education through football. Football and that coach, where I want to school, helped me get an education. I found out why it was important. So I think that's important that we do that.
So, again, that's our responsibility to make sure that we do a good job in recruiting. If we don't do a good job in recruiting, I'm not going to be standing here. I won't make it through those years on contract. We have got to do a good job recruiting and getting the right people in. No different than anybody does. It don't take long, now. You have a couple bad recruiting classes and sometimes you can't recover, for a while, you just don't. So you have to be real careful in what you do.