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UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 6, 2013
COACH KILL:¬† I think first of all, I want to ‑‑ you know, as you go through a recruiting process, it's always challenging and you're trying get players who are a good fit for our university, and you know, there's a lot of people that I can thank and first of all and foremost is our university has done a great job and when we brought kids on campus from admissions to academics to all the people involved in the university, our administration and the president have been very supportive in the recruiting process and we're very appreciative of that.
It takes ‑‑ you know, when you're recruiting young people, their impression when they come to your university is very important and how the state perceives it.¬† So I also appreciate everybody's support in the state in helping us through this process.
It's been lengthy.¬† Our coaches have done an outstanding job.¬† I appreciate their hard work and all the people that are surrounded with our football program because there's many to get things done in the recruiting.
As we look, as we speak now we're already into the junior class and doing things.¬† It never ‑‑ somebody asked me, hey, coach, what did you do today after you got that?¬† We're recruiting as we speak.¬† So it just doesn't stop.
But as far as our recruiting class goes and I think probably the best thing so do is I'll answer any questions, and I think you go in and you look at specific needs that you need to make your football program better.
You know, a year ago we sat here and we lost seven defensive backs, scholarship defensive backs and I mean that's a lot of defensive backs and we had to replace those kids.¬† And sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don't.¬† I told you, they're all paper tigers until they come through academics and go play but we were fortunate to hit the jackpot in the secondary.¬† Our kids did a really good job.
We have to do that in this class at linebacker, and we recruited, on our board we had about eight or nine linebackers, this is our target, this is who we're going to go after.¬† We're very fortunate that we were able to get five of those young men.¬† You know, we lost a couple guys late in the pursuit.¬† We lost a kid to LSU.¬† We lost a kid to South Carolina.¬† But we were actually right in the race on a couple of those kids.
A couple of these, De'Vondre Campbell is a young man I didn't know if he would commit today or not.¬† We had him committed, but I wasn't sure.¬† So we had to go up to the last day on a couple of them.¬† But our line backing core I really feel good about addressing that need.¬† I felt we needed some ball catchers at receiver and guys that are sure handed, could catch the ball and could run well, help that area.
You know, from a defensive line standpoint you never can recruit enough defensive line men, and I think we did a good job there.¬† We need to address our kicking and specialist situation.¬† We got a kicker/punter combination, it's according to who you listen to, you know, the best, second best.¬† I don't know.¬† He's good.¬† And so we feel like we've helped ourselves there.
And you know, from an offensive line standpoint, we got a large group of kids that are coming back, but you know, we're very fortunate getting Alex Mayes.¬† He's a young man that kind of sums up our class through a long time of recruiting and a long building relationship, had the determination yesterday not to stay at home and go to Baylor University or go to Oklahoma University at the last second, and he hung in there and that really has to do with Coach Limegrover and the relationship we built with that family and getting in that home and doing your job.
So it was a challenging recruiting class because we had to recruit against a lot of good people, and we were fortunate enough to, for the most part, be successful, and as I told some of our administration, today I could have came in here and three or four things could have went the other way and they didn't.¬† They went our way.¬† And that's a good thing for us.
So again, until we get them here, they go through the transition, we'll see how it all turns out.
I would tell you last year's recruiting class has turned out pretty good because I think we played 11, 12 freshmen in the bowl game plus the ones we got redshirted are going to play in our program we feel pretty good about.¬† So hopefully this class will continue to move that along.
We did bring four kids in at semester, a couple of high school youngsters, Chris Streveler is already here working out with our program and I can only tell you because I've been gone on the road that our strength coaches and our people are tremendously excited about his ability.¬† He can really run.¬† And he's a good athlete, a student of the game.¬† And I think that's tremendous.¬† He can play quarterback but he's also athletic enough to play receiver.¬† We had him in camp.¬† That's one we knew exactly what we're getting.
Damien Wilson we needed a Big Mike linebacker and certainly in the Big Ten, and Damien's I think they've got him at 245.¬† He's probably about 255 actually and we need to get him down a little bit.¬† But he's a very, very, again, athletic, gifted kid that can really run and was defensive player of the year, national junior college defensive player of the year.¬† So he has some ability.
Somebody that's not mentioned in here I wanted to make sure‑‑ he's not a signee for this year.¬† He was last year.¬† We brought him in at semester is Jordon Hinojosa, defensive tackle.¬† And Jordon's doing a good job in the off season, and he's gotten started here and doing a good job.
And then I think there's ‑‑ and then Hank Ekpe is the brother of the other Ekpe, and he's on the same track as the other one is because Hank I've seen today and he's smiling about ear to ear and he's already put on 12 pounds since he's been here.¬† And if you remember, his brother came in at 250 and he's about 2 ‑‑ actually, Scott came in at 245 and he's 285 now.¬† So they are growing young men.¬† Hank's going to ‑‑ he's a defensive end.¬† He's got great length.¬† He's 6'4, 6'5, one of those guys that can come off the edge and is going to get bigger and stronger and faster and again family bloodline is there.
I think the one thing I can tell you about this class, 90 percent of it, there's some type of connection between the coaches, the coaching staff or a connection with Minnesota.¬† Even if it's an out‑of‑state kid, it's somebody that may have family here or something here.¬† It's helped us in that process.¬† You know, so there's a lot of Minnesota people out there and there's a lot of related Minnesota people out there throughout the country.¬† So the relationships certainly helped us in some of this recruiting process.¬† So with that I'll take any questions at this particular time.
Q.¬† Is there a recruit you are most excited for on this list?
COACH KILL:¬† You know, I was asked that question earlier.¬† I think to be honest with you, with the whole class I'm excited with.¬† To take one or the other, there's some athletically gifted kids in this class.¬† All the way down the board there is ‑‑ you know, there's some guys that have the opportunity to be pretty special players, and for me to just point out one, I don't know if I could do it justice because there's several of them.
Q.¬† Are you disappointed this one Minnesota kid it was not a great year but just to come away with one?
COACH KILL:¬† Well, I think the situation ‑‑ you know, last year ‑‑ you'd have to correct me because I don't know exactly but I think we signed 12, 14.¬† That's happened ‑‑ anywhere you go in college football, I mean when I was at Illinois some years we were able to get, you know, 15, 16.¬† Next year maybe it was two.¬† You know, it's according to what the needs are.¬† Some years there is in Florida.¬† Florida is a big state, but sometimes there's not as many in Florida on a particular year.¬† So it's just according to the year and what the situation is.
And so we're ‑‑ you know, again, I can't talk a lot about it, but we're out in front of things, and I knew last year in Minnesota was going to be a good situation for us, so we got after it.¬† So we'll continue to recruit Minnesota hard.¬† That's our job.¬† And would I like ‑‑ do I want to see the young man that's leaving here, he's a great kid, James Onwualu, going to Notre Dame; do we want that, no.¬† We got out there and recruited our tail end off and it didn't happen, and I wish him luck and those kind of things.¬† But that's just part of the process.¬† I think we did a great job a year ago, a great job.
This year we probably needed to do a better job.¬† And we got out there and competed, and the high school coaches will tell you that.¬† We got a great relationship with the high school coaches.¬† I talk to them all the time.¬† I always tell them, hey, if they're not doing something right, Coach Nelson, if we're not doing something right, let us know what we're doing and so forth.¬† So I think we ‑‑ again, it just happens to be one of those years, and certainly Coach Stolski, all those guys have been a big part of helping us take our program forward and been very supportive of what we're doing, and we gotta continue to push forward and do a good job.¬† It just happens to be this year am I disappointed that we just got one kid, you bet.¬† I mean I wish we could have landed a couple more in there.¬† But we didn't.¬† So we move forward.
At the same time we got a young man that's, you know, defensive end from Beaver Dams from over in Wisconsin.¬† You know, it's kind of a unique relationship.¬† We're recruiting him, and he knows somebody here in our academic family.¬† He's 6'6 and 240 pounds.¬† The great thing about most these kids, again, it's important, we had Owen in camp.¬† And we're probably the only camp he went to.¬† And we got to see what he can do.¬† I think he had a 10‑foot broad jump and ran 4.65 and he's 6'6 and 240 pounds.¬† Nobody else really knew that because we're the only camp he went to.¬† There's four or five kids in here that, you know, didn't go ‑‑ what I call they didn't go camping.¬† They didn't go to combines.¬† They didn't go do all that stuff.¬† A couple of them just did it here.¬† So nobody really knew.¬† So sometimes that's how we got a couple of those kids last year, you know, in the secondary.
Antonio Johnson, there's nowhere you could go in his deal and find a 40 time or anything like that, but we knew what he could do.¬† So sometimes you gotta find a way to get those things done.
Q.¬† You got three kids from Florida, three kids from Georgia.¬† What were the connections there?
COACH KILL:¬† I would tell you Florida Coach Miller has been here a long time.¬† He was here back 15, 20 years ago and he has a tremendous reputation.¬† And also Coach Reeves.¬† And Coach Reeves recruited Florida for me when I was at Southern and Northern Illinois.¬† So we have two people that are good recruiters and do a great job.¬† And plus, it's easy to attract some of those young men right now because we have a lot of young men that played clear back with Coach Miller that are still here in the community in Minnesota that have never left.¬† There's a lot of people that come here and go to school from the South that never leave here.¬† And we were able to sell that a little bit.¬† So I'd say that.
And then Coach Anderson ‑‑ we decided ‑‑ you know, you look in recruiting and we knew we were going to have some ‑‑ you know, we needed to make up for some lack of depth in some areas, and we looked at ‑‑ Georgia is a two‑hour plane flight and it's a Delta hub.¬† Those are little things you gotta do in recruiting.¬† And it's an easy flight.¬† So we said, hey, let's take a look at that.¬† And then we were fortunate, you know, again, there's a tie with Jalen Myrick to the twin cities.¬† And then there's a tie with done Yvonne Jones with Coach Anderson, and that goes back to Coach Anderson's childhood when he was in Chicago.
And so ‑‑ and then we end up at the end of the day finding a kid that hadn't gone to any camps, anything of that nature in Daletavious McGhee that really he was a hidden gem because you had to go down and watch him practice to know what he could do and those kind of things.¬† So I'd have to credit Coach Anderson.¬† And we're going to get ‑‑ we'll probably ‑‑ the way things are in recruiting right now and the new rules that are going to come down here in the next ‑‑ I guess starting in August, we'll probably put two people in Georgia because the other part of it, the mothers that came up and visited and were here in the twin cities, it's a natural fit, you know, with the travel back and forth.¬† And there's a lot of business ‑‑ you know, when I travel back and forth to Atlanta, those planes were crowded.¬† I mean very crowded with Minnesota people working in Atlanta, Atlanta people working in Minnesota.¬† And so you look for those connections.
And I tell you, in recruiting, what helped us more than anything is we sold our university, the Fortune 500 companies, the opportunity after football.¬† We got several business school people.¬† We sold our university and what our state had to offer young men past four years.¬† I told them, you know, we want you to be a first round draft choice when you get out of here, but if you're going to be, you gotta start at the very beginning and get off to a good start.¬† And if you're a first round draft choice in academics, you can pretty much name your ticket getting your degree from here because we have the Twin Cities and opportunities right here academically for the rest of your life.¬† And if it's football that you're gifted in, you can continue to do that, but the opportunity here with the amount of alums we have around the country, those are the things we sold.
And let me tell you, I think that our coaches would tell you, Coach Kill, I was in every single home except for one, because it was too late, and spoke with a lot of mothers and fathers, and you know, that's a big difference to those people when it comes to recruiting because their youngster is coming down the road here a ways.¬† So they've gotta feel comfortable.¬† So those ties and relationships are important.
Q.¬† You finally got a punter that can punt?
COACH KILL:¬† Well, we've certainly worked at it, and we're still working at it.¬† I can't comment.¬† J. T. is sitting in here.¬† We will continue to recruit.¬† But the kid that we have committed is a young man that was in the Under Armour game.¬† He's a big time ‑‑ and plus, he's big enough if you give him a hard time, he might get after you because he's about 6'6 and about 245, somewhere in there, so you're going to have to be nice to him; and if you're nice to him, he'll punt the ball well.¬† But he's got extremely ‑‑ he's got a big‑time leg.
You know, I think in high school, I don't think ‑‑ he kicked off the tee on kickoffs, and I think they had one return in high school.¬† He kicked it between the uprights most of the time.¬† So he's got a huge leg, huge leg, big‑time leg.¬† So we're looking forward.¬† Again, that was a critical error that we needed to address.
Q.¬† You got the flag bearer of the Minnesota class, what do you like about Chris Wipson?
COACH KILL:¬† Again, he's not the identifier because we've got other guys coming from Minnesota, but as far as ‑‑ he's just ‑‑ Chris Wipson is exactly what we want as a football player.¬† He comes out of a great program.¬† We got Ben Lauer out of there a year ago, who Ben ‑‑ I think Ben weighs 310 pounds right now.¬† So that tells you how much he's grown and matured.
But Chris Wipson is a young man that I look back‑‑ you look back at the history of Wayzata and the linebackers they have and when coach tells me he's just like that and then you watch the film, that's what we want here at the U.¬† We don't want him going somewhere else, where it's happened before.
So we feel like we're getting a young man‑‑ he's smart and intelligent.¬† He came off knee surgery, but he's been doing good off that.¬† I think he's a ‑‑ he's smart.¬† I think he can run our defense and those kind of things.¬† So I think it's a great situation for us, and a great situation for him.¬† It's great timing.¬† If you're a linebacker coming into our program right now it's great timing.¬† But I like everything about him.¬† He's my type of ‑‑ he's my type of guy.¬† That's the best way I can put it.
Q.¬† Their defense went in the tank.¬† I watched every one of their games because my grandson was on the team.¬† When he got hurt, their defense went in the tank.
COACH KILL:¬† Well, the thing about Chris is he's got the intangibles that when you look at a quarterback or linebacker, you want leadership and he's a great leader.¬† And he doesn't have to do it by yelling and screaming at people.¬† It's just a natural thing with him.¬† And sometimes really good leaders are really good players because to lead you gotta have respect.¬† So I don't think there's any question ‑‑ you know, and we had Chris in camp.¬† We had Chris in camp.¬† He played well in camp; ran well, moved well.¬† There's a big‑time advantage‑‑ you know, again, I can't discuss junior recruiting, but when you get them here in camp or you can go where they have spring ball and you can watch them, and then you go in and talk to the academic counselors and the people they work with, you can get a good idea ‑‑ and then you go in their home and you visit with them in their home, you get a good idea if they're going to fit here or what they can do athletically.
And let me tell you, probably the biggest thing that helped me out more than anything is we went and played in the bowl game and our kids played hard.¬† For me personally when I walked off the field, even though we lost the game I said, hey, we're starting to get this done because I mean we fought back and we played physical football for the first time since I've been here, really got after it.
From there I took a couple days, got back here, was fortunate enough, I was invited by the university I previously coached at, Northern Illinois, to go to the Orange Bowl.¬† The best thing I could do is go to the Orange Bowl and watch that and watch what Florida State was playing with and what Northern Illinois was playing with, and then as far as a recruiting standpoint, I had a pretty good idea of what we better play with.
Then I look at our class and I look at those long arms and I look at speed and that takes care of a lot of issues.¬† And so I think we've got length and speed in the class, which is important.¬† And then we had ‑‑ we gotta do some things catching the football.
But on top of that our kids here that came back from the bowl game, and we'd been on the road, they've done an outstanding job right now.¬† I think they're hungry, which is a good thing.
Q.¬† Given all the guys you have coming in to fill the vacancies as linebacker, do you see that position as the biggest unknown for your defense heading into next season?
COACH KILL:¬† I think there's other people there.¬† I think there's other people there that we played, again, so many freshmen, against Texas Tech that we played ‑‑ we had Antonio was playing in the box because of what they were doing, and shoot, he plated pretty good.
I think that from a linebacker standpoint, you know, with Hill coming back and Lamonte is going to develop and James Manuel.¬† We got some ‑‑ we got good players, and we red‑shirted a couple freshmen.¬† We're excited, but this just adds to the depth.
There is nothing better than competition.¬† When I first got here two years ago, you had to beg somebody to go out there and do some stuff on their own.¬† You know, you oughta get going.¬† When I came back off the road the other day and I walked through the office and I looked out and there's people all over the place.¬† I'm going, oh, okay.
And that's what happened at Northern.¬† They finally took ownership.¬† It's their team.¬† You know, quarterbacks finally take ownership, hey, we gotta go to work here.¬† You know, in the weight room they gotta take ownership.¬† And so I just think it's part of the process.
And then competition solves a lot of issues in depth and so forth, and that's why we didn't take just five freshmen linebackers.¬† It couldn't have worked out any better.¬† We take a junior college kid that's proven.¬† De'Vondre, you have to understand, De'Vondre is a three‑year player, which is good for us, and you know, he was committed to Tennessee, and then decommitted because they switched coaches, and then it was Texas, K State and us.¬† And again, the relationship, I think we all built a great relationship with De'Vondre, at the end of the day he just couldn't tell us no at the end of the day.
And he's a three‑year guy, and then we got three freshmen.¬† So I think we got a great group of guys there to work with and build our linebacker foundation, because again, you know, I think secondary we've done some good things.¬† We added two very, very good secondary players.¬† You know, again, you look at ‑‑ you talk about speed and I talk about that quite a bit, is Jalen runs 10.6 in 100 meters at 5'10, 200 pounds.¬† That's electronic time.
Berkley Edwards, who's got a blood line as thick as it can get, is 10.6, 10.7. ¬†He's one of Top 10, 12 sprinters in the country.¬† Those things we need.¬† And he's a great fit for us at running back because we got some big backs, but we'd like to have one just to hand it off and it's over.¬† Goodnight.¬† And he can do that because he's got that kind of speed.
You know, I like our speed in this group, and you know, but again, I like the group, but again, how is the maturity, how are they going to come in.¬† Like I've told them all is that what you do from the day on signing day‑‑ everybody gets excited on signing day.¬† Everybody's got the best class in America.¬† There's never been a good coach say he didn't have a good class, but there isn't anybody that knows until they come and start summer school and go through that grind of what kind of class you're going to have.¬† You just don't know and how they're going to be able to transform that to the college world.
I was looking at deal from 2006 to 2009, the top 200 players in the country 47 percent of them didn't play.¬† That's from 2006 to 2009, the top ‑‑ so you don't know at the end of the day how they're going to adjust to college life.¬† It's different.¬† It's just like somebody being a great player at college and going to the NFL.¬† There's only so many of those people that can handle the National Football League.¬† That's why they're special.¬† It's hard.¬† So the higher you go up, the more difficult it is to be successful.
Q.¬† In terms of competition, last year you got Nelson and Minor.¬† This year you got Streveler early.¬† How did you commit Jones knowing that you already got other young QBs?
COACH KILL:¬† Well, Coach Anderson is a good recruiter, I guess, but the thing about ‑‑ the thing about Donovahn Jones is is that Arkansas‑‑ Coach Shannon, who's a good man, came down, Arkansas offered him‑‑ they wanted him to play defense.¬† You know, Wisconsin got in late.¬† He wanted to play offense, and he's a great basketball player.¬† And he's smart.¬† And you know, our deal with that is is the same thing I've done since I've been here.
You know, you look at the two kids we recruited here last year, they're both playing tight end, and with these two kids when we recruited Streveler, he came in and he played quarterback in camp and he played receiver and he did them both very good.¬† He was good enough he could have gave us time at receiver this year.¬† He's just an athletic, gifted kid.¬† I think he had a 36, 37‑inch vertical jump, ran 4.5, something like that.¬† And that's the same way Donovahn is.
But Donovahn would like to start out at quarterback.¬† And he's fine.¬† You know what, hey, it's just like anything else.¬† You watch the guy at the 49ers, nobody predicted he was going to be starting in the Super Bowl.¬† Neither did Harbaugh.¬† It just happened to work out that way.
You just don't know what's going to happen.¬† You recruit athletes, guys that can make plays, and if he wins the job at quarterback, okay.¬† If not, you know he can go play wide receiver.¬† It's no different than Duke coming here and he's at Blane and he's a quarterback and he's now 255.¬† You know, and he was 205, 210 at one time.¬† But guys hit that growth spurt.¬† You don't know what's going to happen.
I'll recruit as many as athletic quarterbacks as I can get, and if they're tailor made, you'll know, just like with Donovahn he comes in, you'll know, you'll know early in camp if, hey, this guy is special at this position or whatever.
But we can't go wrong with either one of those kids, because again, they can do a lot of things.¬† They're not one‑dimensional.¬† Some guys are just quarterbacks and they can't do anything else, and we couldn't afford to do that in this class.¬† We had to recruit athletes.¬† So we're excited about both of them.
Q.¬† You lose the guessing game in these ranking classes, but how do you respond to those that say that your class is lagging in terms of competition in the Big Ten this year?
COACH KILL:¬† I can't ‑‑ I guess the only thing I can say is that I don't know what ‑‑ you know, all I know is I was out on the road recruiting, and I know who was recruiting them.¬† And I know who offered them, and I know ‑‑ you know, and we were able to, you know, more so than a year ago be able to compete with some people we couldn't get in the front door with.¬† So I can't respond to that.
The other thing is all I can do, I know Jerry DiNardo was out on our deal during camp last year, and he said, man, you guys had a heck of a class.¬† So I can't ‑‑ I don't know who ranks them.¬† I don't know who puts stars behind my ‑‑ I know this, at Northern Illinois, the kids that played in the Orange Bowl, I think we're the last‑ranked class every year we're there, but those kids played in the Orange Bowl.
So I mean, you know, if anybody had an arts and science to it, you know, I think Tom Lemming studies it a lot, and Tom Lemming said, hey, Michigan, Ohio State had great classes and everybody else is pretty much the same.¬† And that's probably a pretty true statement.
I imagine you look at Ohio State's class and Michigan and then you look at everybody else, I think everybody else ‑‑ if you go to the Southeast Conference, Alabama and LSU, and I don't know what Ole Miss is doing.¬† But there's three or four of them that can say, hey.¬† But then everybody else is the same.¬† I mean that's how it is.¬† And then you gradually try to catch up.
At the end of the day, been doing it a long time, we feel good about how we're doing it.¬† We're doing it first class.¬† We're doing it the right way, and I think we're getting people that fit into what we do.¬† We came in, and you know, I look for us ‑‑ we need to ‑‑ we came off a bowl season just like we did when I was at another school and we need to improve next year, and I expect us to improve, and our kids expect us to improve and we just need to keep going that direction.
Q.¬† Despite the poor recruiting coordinator you had?
COACH KILL:¬† With Billy?¬† Billy did a good job.
Q.¬† Coach, in getting De'Vondre, to get him away from Kansas State, was Coach Miller's relationship to Hutchinson, was that key in that?
COACH KILL:¬† I grew up 20 minutes from there.¬† Give me some credit now.¬† Holy cow, it's only 20 minutes from Cheney, Kansas.¬† I think the big thing is is his mother.¬† I think the best point is is this:¬† Everybody does it differently is Coach Kill and Coach Miller went to see mom and not everybody went and did that.¬† So you know, it all goes back, I think you get in the home, you got a chance and went to see mom and dad, and I think at the end of the day that helped us more than anything is that we were in the house and we got a chance to be in the house.
And we certainly know the coach has known the junior college there for years.¬† I was raised there, and I think all those things help you, but also Coach Schneider owns that area, too.¬† And he was committed to K State actually.¬† So we did flip him.¬† And I imagine they're not very happy, but it's fortunate for us, and now, again, it's on paper now.¬† Now we gotta go to work.
Q.¬† Bringing Miller in he was just as effective when he was here, he was a great player on the staff, and one thing you've done is use what you got.¬† Previous coaches wasn't taking advantage of that.
COACH KILL:¬† We got a lot to ‑‑ I got a whole two pages full of stuff when the one thing you're giving Billy, when I go into a home, to give you an example, I say, hey, we're going against ‑‑ and we lost the defensive back to Florida State.¬† We were in there.¬† He committed to us and all that, but I went in the home and I was able to say here's why you should come to our school instead of go to Florida State, and I put Billy on the computer, and all the things we can put up there is awful good.¬† The thing we couldn't beat is two or three hours from home.
But at the end of the day our school was tremendously better and where we're at is a tremendous location.¬† I think the toughest thing for us to sell ‑‑ once we get a young person on campus, we have a great chance of getting them.¬† But the tougher thing for us is like if you're at Michigan State in the summertime, Ohio, those kids in that area can drive two hours and go to camp.¬† At Minnesota it's no different than Illinois kid, it's a five, six‑hour drive.¬† It's hard for us to get them into camp because of our location, so we have to overcome our location.¬† And you can't bring them on official visits in the summer.
So it makes ‑‑ sometimes those kids commit before they ever see Minnesota, and so then we have to ‑‑ you got so many visits to bring them up and you gotta get them turned from all that flash they've seen in the summer to get them up here.¬† So you have to work at it.¬† You have to work at it.
And then once you get the kids, you have to develop them.¬† We still have to develop them in the weight room, and right now our strength coaches are doing a tremendous job.¬† If you look at the freshmen kids we recruited and what they look like right now and you go out and see them, and you're welcome to go do that, it's an amazing change body structure wise.¬† And that's how we're going to have to do it.¬† We're going to have to do it the hard way.¬† We're kind of like the Ravens.¬† We're going to have to do the hard way.¬† It ain't going to be easy for us.¬† We're going to have to do things the hard way.¬† We did the things hard way at Northern Illinois.¬† We'd come out of there and they'd say, hey, Coach, we're doing it the hard way.¬† That's who we are.¬† That's the way we were at Southern Illinois.¬† That's the way we're going to have to be at Minnesota.¬† We're going to have to do it the hard way.¬† It's not going to be easy.¬† No excuses.¬† Put your hard hat, lunch pail in and you gotta go to work.¬† We got our work people.
And I feel like our kids are starting to understand that in the culture that we're trying to build here at the U.¬† And all I can tell you is from the insides of ‑‑ from academics to the weight room I see a different ‑‑ you know, and I think the best thing that ever happened to us since I've been here, and we'll find out next year, I may be wrong, but I think the best thing that ever happened was going to the bowl game and playing Texas Tech, playing who they were, and they were physical and talking and fighting and scratching.¬† And our kids said, hunh‑uh, we're going to get in there and get after it.¬† And I think it's the first time I've seen our football team since I've been here fight back and say, hey, we're going to play.¬† We've come to play.¬† So I'm excited about that because we got a lot of those kids back.¬† They got their nose bloodied a little bit and they decided they're going to bloody some people's nose.¬† And we just have to develop that mentality a little bit here.
Q.¬† How is your class academically?
COACH KILL:¬† This class here, academically?¬† I feel good about it.¬† I feel good about it.¬† It's just like anything.¬† There is nobody ‑‑ they could have a 4.0, and if they don't finish up their last semester, they could be academically ineligible.¬† I've had guys that are 3.4, they get excited about getting their scholarship and they forget to go to school the last semester of high school.¬† So you have that.
But as far as class wise and where we're at is that I feel ‑‑ I feel pretty good about it.¬† I really do.¬† And you know, but until they finish up in high school, you can always get surprised on something.¬† But I feel pretty good and pretty comfortable where we're at with the class.¬† And there's always a few that need work.
One guy I haven't mentioned that is a tight end that turned down the University of Miami to come here, Nate Wozniak.¬† He'll be the biggest tight end you've seen.¬† I thought Matt Spaeth, I always looked and said, boy, I want to have one that looks like Matt Spaeth.¬† Well, I can't wait to see Matt because I want to get this kid next to him because I think we might have found a guy that's ‑‑ I think Nate's at least 6'9 and 260 and can bend.¬† Again, excited about ‑‑ and he's a great student, comes from a great high school program.¬† And I think they gave you a bunch of lists of stuff, you can kind of look over that, but it gives you some backgrounds.¬† A lot of these kids have come from very good programs and that's important, too.¬† People that know how to win.
Q. ¬†The best kicker you've ever seen.
COACH KILL:¬† Except that dude for the Raiders.¬† He's a big kid now.¬† He's big.¬† That's what I said, if Sid gives him trouble, Sid might be in trouble on this one.¬† He is.¬† He's a big kid.¬† And I'd say he's on his visit he's every bit of 6'5 and 250, but it's lean.¬† You know, it's one of those things, we know a guy that's in that kicking arena and all that that goes through all that stuff.¬† The big thing I want him to be able to do is this.¬† We got some guys in our team right now that will compete, but I don't want to ever have to see a dang kickoff ever returned again.¬† I want him to kick it out of the end zone, period, and he's got the leg to do that, and I also want him to be able to punt the football.¬† I think he has the capabilities of doing that.¬† But again, we'll see once he gets here.
Q.¬† Are you keeping him at tight end?
COACH KILL:¬† He's a tight end.¬† He's a tight end body.¬† I was in his high school just a week ago kind of thinking you've probably thought and a lot of other people.¬† I trust the guy that was recruiting him at Miami, so I knew he was a pretty good player, but when he went in the weight room, he's cut up now.¬† He's not like a skinny, frail.¬† He's ripped.¬† I mean the kid's 6'9, bench over 300 pounds right now.¬† You gotta have something to you.¬† And he can bend.¬† You already heard I don't like those guys that bend in the back.¬† I want him to bend, bend at the darn hips and knees.
But he comes from a great program now.¬† So he's got a head start on some things.¬† He really does.¬† And he can be a miss‑match problem with somebody as he learns and things go on.
Q.¬† You've brought in kids after signing day before.¬† Are you done this year?
COACH KILL:¬† I'm never done.¬† That's a great question.¬† Some of the best players I ever coached ‑‑ there was a kid when I was at Pittsburgh State, Division II, two best players, a kid named Ronald Moore who played in the league for five or six years for the Cardinals, had great success, he pulled up with his dad in the summertime, walk‑on player.¬† Of course, we scholarshipped him in about two days because he's a great player.¬† To me you never quit recruiting.
There's somebody, there's somebody on here.¬† It's just like Chad Fahning, I think he's got a tremendous up side.¬† You keep recruiting.¬† We rewarded some kids already.¬† We'll continue to reward kids in our program.¬† That word's kind of gotten out with the coaches, and we're not going to stop recruiting.¬† I can tell you that.¬† We'll continue to recruit, and we'll recruit juniors, and that's the name of the game.¬† We've gotta continue to do that to build our program.¬† So being honest with you, no, we're not ‑‑ and even in this class we're not done.¬† I can answer that that way.¬† Correct?¬† J. T. is back there thumbs up or thumbs down.
Q.¬† Got a Twitter question from Marquis Gray.¬† He wants to know if he can play another season but not go to camp.
COACH KILL:¬† I'll take Marquis any day of the week.¬† I can tell you that.¬† He's a good kid.¬† Oh, I can't say that?¬† He's not eligible.¬† I got my man back there taking care of me.¬† You laugh about that.¬† Saban has about three of them following him around to make sure he does everything right.
Q.¬† You said proximity kind of hurts you with guys out of state.¬† Do you feel proximity hurts you in state being most of the guys you recruit are from within 30 minutes of campus?
COACH KILL:¬† You know, when we won the National Championship when I was at Pittsburgh State, our quarterback was a local kid.¬† I think it's just ‑‑ it's hard to recruit, you look at Oklahoma State.¬† Oklahoma State I think last year had one kid from Oklahoma and 25 of them from Texas because they can't beat Oklahoma in recruiting.
I think that it's always hard to recruit, you know, your hometown sometimes because some of those kids want to leave.¬† And they want to go experience something different and you can't blame them for that.¬† But at the same time, you know, we've talked about and we got ‑‑ we've got a whole slew of them that came in last year.¬† You cut their arms right here, some of them's daddies played here.¬† It's Minnesota all the way.¬† They're dying to be here.¬† You gotta have those kids.¬† And you get a pretty good take on that in the recruiting when you first offer.
And like I said, there was just more of that type of kid a year ago.¬† And you know, but it's not easy.¬† Again, if a kid wants to get away and experience something different, you're not going to beat that.¬† But at the same time, if we can continue to build our program and it's important, and football's important and we stay positive as coaches in our administration, we keep moving forward, that will eventually, you know, shake out.¬† And I can't really say in the two years I've had a chance to be here, I think we've kept most of the players in the state of Minnesota that are Big Ten players.¬† We lost a couple, you know, but the ones we really truly got after, I think we've done okay.¬† I think we've done okay.
Now, next year, and you know, we'll have to see what we can do next year and the next year.¬† But we're certainly working at it, and I'm a competitive guy.¬† I like to see nobody ever leave.¬† But in reality that's not ever going to happen.¬† It's just part of it.
So I think ‑‑ and I think every program fights that.¬† Why did Alabama let that defensive back, you know, and I was recruiting him.¬† He committed to us, you know, but he went to Florida State, and Auburn's recruiting him, and I'm sure the people of Alabama what the heck is that kid doing.¬† There's a tie‑in to Florida State because of the coaching change.¬† That kid would have been here if there wouldn't have been a coaching change.¬† That's how critical this coaching thing is.
You know, in college football, so you understand a little bit about how recruiting goes, there's only four staffs in the country that have been together two years or more that hadn't had a coaching change.¬† Four of them are in the Big Ten.¬† And ours is the longest tenured staff in the country because Missouri used to be and they've lost people.¬† And Virginia Tech has lost people.¬† And recruits follow‑‑ you know, and I think our coaches will tell you.¬† Coach Kill, this is the hardest as a head coach that I've gone in 32 years.¬† I mean I have competed, hard.¬† Because I know I have to.
But I think ‑‑ and getting very involved when I can call and I'm using that call because right now there's such a trend to losing coaches, the recruits go with the coaches.¬† They don't go with the schools.¬† And then you also got that third party out there that's telling them what to do and where to go.
You deal with this less and less and less which is I don't think the best way, less and less the people deal with the head coach as they deal with somebody else, you know.¬† And it's easy ‑‑ and like I said, some of the reasons we had the opportunities to get some of these kids, because of relationships with people that we've worked with before.
COACH KILL:¬† No, not at all.¬† Not at all.¬† Not at all.¬† Again, I came from ‑‑ I don't know ‑‑ somebody would have to tell me the population in Kansas versus Minnesota.¬† There would be some years ‑‑ I mean I grew up in Kansas.¬† Some years you'd have four or five Division I players and the next year you'd have 15.¬† You know, it's just ‑‑ you know, smaller ‑‑ smaller states.¬† Same with Wisconsin.¬† Wisconsin didn't have very many last year.¬† This year they had more.¬† I mean it just goes ‑‑ has nothing to do with ‑‑ it's just part of it sometimes and natures of classes and things coming up.
We have great high school football and we got great coaching in this state.¬† There is no doubt about that.¬† And they've been supportive, and again, as a head coach I take full responsibility for everything is that, you know, there's a couple that got away that I'd have liked to had, and we got after it, just didn't get it done.¬† So I mean I'm responsible for that and I gotta do a better job, but overall I think we've hung in there pretty good over the last two years.
And again, I'm smart enough to know, we talk about it; I got bosses sitting in here.¬† If these recruiting classes aren't good and we don't continue to improve, there will be somebody else sitting here answering those questions.¬† So we're making sure ‑‑ we can't make a lot of mistakes in recruiting.¬† I can't roll the dice on too many things because of APR and a lot of other things that we're dealing with.
So I've gotta make sure if all of a sudden half this class is gone ‑‑ if you take 30 kids in football and you got 16 of them left at the end of the day when they are seniors, you're going to win.¬† You got by with over 50 percent.¬† Hopefully we'll hold more than that, that's a Barry Switzer rule back in the day because there's going to be natural, you know, things happen.¬† Kids get burnt out.¬† Something happens.
And I think last year we hit on more than that, because we played a lot of them.¬† So I think we had a really good class last year.¬† We'll see how this one develops.¬† We're excited about this class because of the length and speed, but again, it's all gotta get here.¬† They gotta do all the right things academically.¬† They've gotta have a great summer and then they've gotta get on the field and prove that we made the right decisions or the wrong decisions.
Q.¬† Did you send out any national letter of intents to kids that didn't sign and come back?
COACH KILL:¬† I think one.¬† I think one.¬† And you know, we'll see what happens.¬† But I think one.¬† I think that's right.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports