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UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 4, 2015
JERRY KILL: Excited to be here, and I told them that I'd spend a little bit more time with you all in this particular situation, and then during the season I'll have to move a little quicker. But I appreciate everybody coming out. We're looking forward to the season. It's around the corner, of course, and we're actually doing some stuff. We've got to do all our live skill and all that stuff before we start on Friday.
But we're excited about the season just like you are. You never know what you've got until you go to work, so we're looking forward to getting out there.
But our kids have worked very hard, and a lot of that has to do with who we're playing in the first game. They've worked hard, and I know they're anxious. I will tell you the group that we took up to TC and then Mitch Leidner and Briean Boddy did a heck of a job up at the Big Ten meetings representing the state of Minnesota. I had a great time with them. We really, really had a good time.
With that, I'll answer any questions that you have.
Q. What was the genesis of that TCU game? How did that occur and get on the schedule?
JERRY KILL: Ask Norwood. Well, seriously, I mean, it's a deal where that's before I had anything to do with control of schedule, because when I got the job and so forth, I didn't have any control of it, and I basically Coach Patterson, you can talk to him. He knew nothing about it. I knew nothing about it. All of a sudden you hear something, and he goes, hey, are we going to play each other. I go, no. He goes, I don't want to play. He goes, I heard rumors. I go, ain't no rumors, I said, we're not playing.
And then all of a sudden I get a phone call that we're going to play the game. I'm low man on the totem pole, so we'll go play the game.
You know what it is, we're all competitive people, and we played them last year, didn't play them very good, but at the same time that might have been the wake up call that we'd better get going. Our schedule is very difficult. Everybody knows that. Our kids know that. Our coaches know that.
But we've got a good football team, too. We've got to get a few holes plugged, but we're looking forward to it.
Q. Your team has improved every year. What is the one area you want this team to improve in this year?
JERRY KILL: Well, I think we'll be better on defense. I think this will be our best defensive unit. I think if you talk to Coach Claeys he will tell you that. Our kicking game is good right now. What it will come down to in my opinion, we're going to be able to run the football, but our deal is we've got to do our center and two guards have got to have some lead in their tail end. I don't know how you phrase that in the paper, but they've got to be physically strong, because we've had trouble in pass protection getting moved back in the quarterback's face, and when you get back and you get pressure up front in the quarterback's face, there's nobody going to be able to throw the ball. We've given up too much push, okay.
Then the next thing is we lose Max Williams, you don't replace him by one guy, you replace him with a multiple group of guys. Our receivers have got to be able to go make some plays for the quarterback. There's nothing perfect. Watching the National Football League, quarterbacks throw into double coverage, guys catch the ball, boy I'll tell you what, what a great read that was. Well, it was a great read because they had a guy that could go up there and get the football. That's why it was a good read. So we need some guys to go get the football.
And then Mitch has got to be like this all the time. He's such a great competitor, he'll get up here and something goes wrong, he gets so frustrated, can't do that. That's why Adam Weber has come in to help that matter. He went to Manning's camp and that helped him. He was a different kid when he came back from Manning's camp. He was down there with some of the best. He was down there with TCU's quarterback, and I think he performed well. That's the feedback that I've gotten.
So life is about confidence, and David Cobb got confidence, and boom, there he went. Hopefully all the work he's put in will help our preparation towards then.
And then all them quarterbacks have worked hard. I mean, Chris Streveler has worked hard. He's probably the second fastest guy on our team. I mean, he can run. We feel good; those guys have improved a bunch. Now we want to see it in camp.
But again, the most important thing I want to improve is I want those centers to guards, hold in there and not get any push back so he can have a pocket to throw it in. We've done a pretty good job; we handled the D ends pretty good at Missouri. They got to us once. But the push back in, you've got to be able to set there and be able to throw it.
I'm sure you've been to Vikings camp. They don't want Teddy Bridgewater getting hit and certainly pushed up the middle. We've got to get stronger up the middle. We moved Campion in there for a reason.
Q. Do you think the continuity you've had at the O line will help make that jump, just the fact that you have the same guys coming back, that they can take that leap quicker?
JERRY KILL: Strength. Strength and physical size. That's why we moved Campion in there. He's 200 or excuse me, 325 pounds. Jon Christenson, I mean, is getting him back is critical; Connor Mayes, 320 pounds, guys that can't get pushed back. I want to be stronger, more physical up front, and if we're going to throw the ball better, we all want to take it onto the quarterback's deal, we've got to protect him better and give him a chance to throw it. Put on the film; I mean, the Michigan game he threw one to Max, made a heck of a catch; he's on his back.
So it's a team effort when it comes to throwing the ball. We've got to throw the ball better. We've got to throw the ball better, and we threw it pretty good. If you had told me we were going to throw for 240 yards in a bowl game and we'd lose I'd have had a heart attack. I would have never thought that. But again, there's some things that turnovers and a couple things in the kicking game.
That's a long answer to the question, but that's the truth.
Q. Can you give us an overview of what the wide receivers are looking like?
JERRY KILL: Well, it's hard because I'm not out there, and through spring. What we have to do in my opinion, we've repped a ton of guys, all right. We've got to take that group and we've got to close it down early in camp, and we've got to develop timing with the quarterback and the receivers. You know, I know that according to Mitch that Wolitarsky has leaned up, lost weight, and is back where he needs to be, and he needs to stay healthy.
KJ Maye had even a better year. As we go back through film, KJ Maye had a pretty good year last year, and he has stepped up his game, so we need him to continue to grow in that.
Of course then we've got we need Duke Anyanwu healthy, Brandon Lingen at tight end healthy. We've got some tight ends still in there, but if you go down the group of guys Melvin Holland according to Mitch has had a great summer, just going on what Mitch and KJ say. Desmond Gant is an unbelievable talent, has got to continue to work on his hands, okay. Isaiah Gentry is a special, special athlete. Coach is going to push him in camp a little bit. He's got to work a little harder. But we've got to push him because he can do some things for us.
And then we've got two or three rookies coming in that there's a kid from California that's walked on, his last name is Mayer, and he's been impressive to those guys. He really comes out of a high powered program. He's a guy.
And then let's see here, and then Still, our last round draft pick there in the draft from Texas, now, he's a livewire now. He lacks no confidence. They say that he's had a heck of a deal. He'll go up and get a ball, and he talks a little bit. The freshman group, there are some athletes in that. But again, they're freshmen; we'll see how they handle when you start with the deal.
But there's a good group of those that have been doing some things, and Streveler has been playing a little bit of wide receiver, so we'll see what happens.
Q. Do you have someone to replace Cobb or is it too early to tell?
JERRY KILL: I think it's too early to tell, but I think we'll play probably three backs early, and with those three backs early, we'll take the one that gives us the most. One may be a third down back, but Rodrick had a great spring. I mean, when we played him in the spring game, he just went, touchdown, and then we pulled him. But he's leaned up, and he's lost about 12, 13 pounds, and he's a tough, tough guy. We've got to remember, he had a big run against Nebraska, popped and got a big run in the bowl game. He can play, he just happened to be behind David Cobb.
Then we've got some good looking freshmen coming in, but Berkley is up to 200 pounds. He's not a peanut anymore, he's not a buck 75 guy. I'm anxious to see how those guys do, but we need some explosion plays on offense. We need some guys that we throw it and they go the distance. We need some explosive plays. But hopefully we'll get those.
Q. You mentioned Streveler is the second fastest. Who would be the fastest guy?
JERRY KILL: Oh, I shouldn't say he's the second fastest guy. He's in the top five, okay. The fastest guy on our team is Jalen Myrick. I mean, he can flat run. He can go. I mean, I think they had him running 23 miles an hour or something like that. He can run. He can really run. So can Berkley can really run. But that part of it, we've increased our speed a little bit, and we ain't got anybody running 10.1 like TCU's wide receiver, but
Q. What do you know about the TCU quarterback?
JERRY KILL: Good player. Going to be up for the Heisman I understand, be a top guy running for the Heisman.
Q. What's your thought about the quarterback picture when you talk about Chris taking some snaps at wide receiver?
JERRY KILL: I don't know. I didn't say he's taking any snaps. I said they've been playing he's been out with Mitch throwing the ball around. We may practice him a little bit there to see what he does, but that doesn't mean we're going to play him at wide receiver. I just want to make that clear. Don't put a sad face on, I'm just being honest with you. I mean, I'm not just going to go out there the first day, and he's not going to be standing out there.
But I'm just saying, could he be used at that? Yeah, he could be, but I haven't seen him. I'm just going on what I've been told. And I told him to he's a good athlete, and I said, while you're working, do some things at receiver. So we'll see.
Q. Is this your best secondary?
JERRY KILL: Yeah, yeah, it is. It's a tremendously mature group. Well, the good thing about that, I challenged our wide receivers, I said, hey, these guys are defensive backs now, Briean Boddy has got those guys out there, and Eric Murray, they're in there every day, and man, it's a tight group. They're filming it, they're working it, and I told KJ, hey, you guys get your butt kicked, the wide receivers got to be that way. You've got to get out of the gate there and you've got to hold those guys accountable. I said, I don't think you can do it. I just don't think you guys got it. Boy, so that makes them mad, right? So all of a sudden they're gathering their little group. So it's been a challenge. It'll be interesting when we go one on ones, there will be a lot of talking and having fun. So it's good competition.
But we've got to stay healthy in the secondary, but I think three of the four get drafted. I don't know which three of the four, but those corners will.
Q. A few years ago, was that something when you guys sat down and looked at the long term plan, was that one of the groups that you really focused on that was going to be able to make that turn into a really solid unit by year five?
JERRY KILL: We focused everything on defense when I got the job, because Minnesota my understanding is struggled on defense, and we won on defense everywhere we've been, then we move the offense along. But we recruited on defense for a purpose, and so we feel like we've built a pretty good defense, and now I think offensively I mean, we're moving forward, and our guys we recruited in the secondary, my goodness, you talk about athletic, out there in the mornings, you're talking about a guy that let me think here a minute. I kind of lost my Craig James was a great hurdler in the state of Illinois, but the guy that beat him was Antonio Shenault in the state. So Antonio is a tremendous athlete.
We recruited good in the secondary, too. The kid from Webb City, Missouri, is a kid that I mean, he's fast. He's really fast, too. We've got some guys back there that I feel good about, and in the future, and recruiting is going good in the future and that deal, too. Feel good about that.
The other thing that I haven't mentioned is Jeff Jones. Nobody asked me that question but I figured I was going to get it. Jeff will be starting out at wide receiver, and he can also do things in the backfield if needed. He's talented enough to do both, but we'll see how all that goes. We'll see where all that happens. He's done good in the class, now we've got to see what his work habits are going to be.
Q. Some awfully nice things have been said and written about you in this program so far. How do you approach or manage expectations as this program goes along like this?
JERRY KILL: I don't know if anybody has said nice to me. They must have problems, because I'm not known for being nice. But no, I appreciate that. You know what, the expectations of the program and everything like that, you know, I'm not one that to me, we've gotten better every year and everybody goes, what do you want to do this year, and I want to be better. You don't think about it, but I believe, unless I've been corrected wrong, is that two years in a row we've been one game away from being in the Big Ten Championship game; is that correct?
Nobody really talks about that, one game. And it's Wisconsin. They've been painting our butt. We had our opportunities last year. Got to win the border games if you're going to be a Big Ten champion and you want to play in that game. You've got to win the border games. Our expectations we've got to get another brick, and that's the brick.
We've got to get that done, and then the facility. There's nobody making any bones about it. We're still walking recruits in the hallway and still doing a pretty good job recruiting. We get a new facility out there, we'll really be able to recruit. Does that make sense? That's a big brick. That's a big brick. We walk them from the hallway right into our indoor facility that it rains in front of, and that's impressive.
But we've still been able to recruit. You know why? Because hey, you've got what you got, you can't cry about it. I don't give our coaches any excuses. We lose one to somebody over a facility, I say, well, I guess you didn't build enough of a relationship with him. How can we lose that guy? We've been the longest coaching staff in the country. We're not going to be moving everywhere, so they come here and they'll see the same damned coach for a while.
And then on the borders they all want jobs because Iowa, driving me crazy; Wisconsin. And I'm walking around the deal and they've got a Wisconsin shirt on, or here in the Twin Cities, just makes me mad, I'll tell you. I told them that, too.
I told somebody that had a Nebraska shirt on, I was walking the river the other night and he had that Nebraska shirt on, and I go, hey, what's that, and the kid is in a wheelchair. I go, what's that? Nebraska. I said, you know who I am? Yeah, I think so. I said, well, who am I? He says, Coach Kill. I said, I'm from the University of Minnesota. You've got that Nebraska thing on. He goes, Coach, I like you. And I said, well, you need to come by and get a shirt, but I'll take a picture with you. So I took a picture with him, liked the kid and everything.
But anyway, there ought to be a ban. The Governor is always banning. We need to ban any other shirts but the University of Minnesota and the Vikings. That's it. The secretary likes the Packers. We're in Minnesota, aren't we? Right? All right. I'm off that soapbox.
Q. To have a successful season is there something you need to have? Is it the Rose Bowl?
JERRY KILL: Just be better. Just be better than we were last year, and if we're better than we were last year, I guess we'd be in the Big Ten Championship game. That's what we need to do, one brick at a time. But if we're going to be better, then we're going to have to get there. We'll do it the hard way now. The commissioner is talking about the scheduling here on out needs to be tougher, Big Ten I don't know if you've been following that. We got the lead on that. We're the lead dogs on tough schedule because we get through that schedule we'll have a lot of respect.
That schedule, we're going to have to win some close games. That's why the kicker and the punter and all that stuff is important, because you're going to be loaded with close games and injuries. We've got to stay healthy. Maybe the toughest game we have is at Colorado State.
Q. With the raised expectations and respect this program has, how are you going to keep your kids hungry that they don't start believing that they're no longer the underdog?
JERRY KILL: Well, I think going into media day, all that stuff, we went in there and Jim Harbaugh, you know, Michigan, they're going to win it all, and our kids see that, and Ohio State, and we're not in the they come back, they talk to our teammates. I've got nice deal standing down in my locker room that I shared with somebody that said something about us. We've had somebody say that we'll never have the players that the University of Nebraska has. Isn't that kind of what it was? Until the end of time. That we'll never had the players. And that's from one of the guys I don't think we'll ever get overconfident.
Q. How much did that game with Wisconsin last year, because of the way it played out, the winner going to the Big Ten Championship game, the atmosphere was there, they celebrated after, what did that do for your team in terms of seeing it up close, how close they were?
JERRY KILL: Well, I think it did a lot, and I think they're getting tired of it. I mean, you know, everybody in our state is getting tired of it. The number one question I get in the state when I go out and talk is we've got three trophies but where is the axe. It's not, hey, Coach, so happy to have three trophies; it's where's the axe. Where's the axe? We've got to get that done. Sooner or later I always keep saying, sooner or later it's got to happen. I'd like it to be sooner.
Q. You talked about Berkley and Rodrick, but people don't know too much about Rodney Smith yet. What can he bring to the table?
JERRY KILL: Rodney is a good football player. Rodney can block. He's physical. He doesn't make mental errors. He's got a lot of this in him. He's going to be an exciting player. Good special teams player. I really like him. I always have, it's just nobody ever talks about him. I think we've got two good backs from Georgia, him and the Brooks kid. I mean, the Brooks kid, boy, he looks good. He'll look good in his uniform, boy, I can tell you that. And we just got Femi Cole here. He's a Canadian. He just arrived here Sunday, and he's come in.
That puts those kids from Canada same with basketball, they get here late, and that's hard for those kids. But athletically gifted.
Q. Is Rodney's ascension kind of in practice, has that helped Jeff Jones move to receiver a little more?
JERRY KILL: Well, I think with Jeff, we've still got to understand he's a freshman. He's still learning. But with that being said, if we get in trouble, we know what we can do, and that's why we did what we did in the spring. But I think with where we're at, the most important thing we do, let's put it this way, is we'd better get the best 11 players on the damned field, whoever they are. Or the best 14 or 15. We've got to get the best players on the field. That's the biggest test we've got, to try to get ready in a three week period of time or four week period of time to get ready for TCU.
But our season is more than TCU; we're preparing for the whole season. But we've got to get our best players on the field. If one of them is a tight end, they can go play defensive end like Gaelin did, then we've got to get the best players on the field, and I think we've made a few mistakes along the way because we had to make some quick decisions. So we've got to do a better job. I just got out of a staff meeting this morning about that.
Q. This is kind of a fun one, but you guys have the Leidners and the Ekpes, Connor and Alex, and the Huffs. What's it like having that many pairs of brothers on your team, and what does it say that a lot of those cases you got the first kid in and the second guy, the younger brother, wanted to come and join?
JERRY KILL: Well, I think that tells me the older brother felt good about what was happening here. Our best recruiters right now are our players. I can't talk about it, but you all read about it. Our best recruiters are our players. You get somebody out of state and they come up, and then you get somebody I mean, it's just our players are best Gaelin Elmore, shoot, he's a great recruiter. When they come on campus, Gaelin Elmore just does a heck of a job with them. He might be our best recruiter. Glasscock may be in trouble.
Our players are our best recruiters because they're going to tell it like it is. The coach is going to stretch it. You sit down with a player and they're sitting around talking and they're recruiting, they'll say, well, tell me about Coach Kill. Well, he's a dandy now, but he's going to shoot you straight, and you do what he tells you to do, and he'll die for you. If you work hard and you do what you're supposed to do, he'll die for you. You want to goof around and not do what you're supposed to do, that's not a good thing, so if you're going to come to school here, you'd better know how to work. So they're honest with them, and that's good, because we don't want somebody that don't want to come in that's where our culture has gotten.
We can have a guy on a visit in the secondary, and Eric Murray will go, uh uh, nope, not going to fit in. Eric Murray has become a very good leader. You never hear him say anything. When he says something, everybody listens. He got after some guys this summer, and that's why I think it's different. Those seniors want to win, and you're only as good as your seniors, and we've had people, young people, not working, they have been in their tail end. We haven't had that.
And those freshmen you know, they don't care. Like I said, we have no more freshmen. Just like Duke said, I learned that from Coach K, I listened to him in press conferences, I watch basketball and things like that; he said, we don't talk about them being freshmen. They're one and done a lot, but they can't talk to them about it. The more you talk to them about freshmen, the more they play like freshmen.
They're guys that they've got to be ready to play, and they've got to be able to take a tail end chewing from their players.
A couple things you might be interested in is today, as far as we've got some speakers coming in to talk to our kids about different things. We're fortunate, Bart Scott who played for me is going to be in here talking to our players.
Probably the most interesting, and I don't know the exact date, is Buzz I've got a basketball coach coming in. Buzz Williams is going to come in, and I'm excited about that. I've gotten to know Buzz. He's been a great help for me, and you know what, I didn't even I hadn't ever met him. When I had a situation, he just reached out to me. He was sending me books; he was sending me calendars; he was sending me everything.
So my wife and I are in Louisville last year, in the National Championship game, and I get a call from Buzz Williams, saying, hey, Coach, we're playing Louisville, and he said, I'm down in my room, I just want to meet you. So he comes down, we meet, he comes in the room, here we go. And he's asking me all kinds of questions about football, how we game plan, how we work, how we do things, and then we just kind of we're a lot alike in a lot of ways, so I said, this would be a good guy to come in here and talk to us.
I'm excited about having him come in, and we've got a couple former players, but I thought you'd be interested in that. I'll let you know as it gets closer when he comes in. It'll be good.
Q. With Smith, what did you see in him in high school, and were you surprised that even more schools weren't after him?
JERRY KILL: Well, that's kind of been the way most of our situations have gone, but Brian Anderson recruits down there, and we've actually got two coaches now recruiting in Georgia. But just his dad was an athletic director, so we knew he was come from a disciplined home, and then he's a heck of a football player. We watched film, we evaluate, just like guys in the NFL do, and he passed the we seen him sprint, all that stuff. We've got a lot of evaluations and liked what we seen, and he's a Big Ten back.
We're doing the same right now. I'm in here this morning and we're preparing for the season, but I had to look at a couple players because recruiting right now is as busy as it ever is. It's crazy. Keeps moving up.
Q. You talked about the continuity of the coaching stuff being something that helped you in recruiting. Would you be shocked if any of your staff left?
JERRY KILL: Well, you never know. We've had guys offered head coaching jobs. I've got two ex head coaches on my staff. I think that most of them look at what I do and most of them don't want to be a head coach. They like coaching, and so there's a difference between the head coach and assistant coach. When I pass away or whatever and I've got a second life, I'm being a position coach, and I'm going to enjoy it, because the head coach has to answer to all the problems.
But to answer your question, it's just like everything. I'm like anybody, I've got a list here, list here, list there of what I'd do if that happens. And if we can get somebody to better their situation, better their life, power to them. Coach Miller left, went to Florida State. He's being paid a whole lot more money than we were paying him here, so what are you going to say. Plus he's coached at every place in Florida, and it'll help him in his retirement fund.
Q. You talked about Streveler and him working out. How is Demry Croft looking? Have you heard this summer?
JERRY KILL: You know, our guys again, our guys, he's really done well. He's a guy that played receiver but we're not doing that. I think he could be he's smooth, he doesn't say a whole lot, he doesn't get excited a whole lot. He sounds like Teddy Bridgewater. I hope he's that good. But he's tall and he's very athletic.
I know Coach Claeys would like to have him over on defense, so any time he does that, that means he's a pretty good athlete. I informed Coach Claeys that will not happen.
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