Posts tagged Jerry Kill
Posts tagged Jerry Kill
Photo credit: Jesse Johnson / US Presswire
When last place might not matter: Here’s why college football’s National Signing Day’s rankings matter and where they might be wrong
1. On Jan. 25, a high school senior named Nate Andrews from Fairhope, Ala., decided to attend Florida State University, where he would also play Division I football. Previously, he verbally committed to Minnesota, but as teenagers are wont to do, he changed his mind. Andrews hadn’t put ink to paper and even if he had, that might not have mattered. One teenage recruit this year tattooed the Auburn logo on his forearm, before ultimately deciding to rescind his commitment to attend Alabama.
It happens. According to the Andrews’s high school football coach, Andrews decided to pick Tallahassee because it was a bit closer to home and he also struck up a good relationship with FSU’s defensive coordinator, who had previously coached defensive backs at Alabama. Good enough reasons – not to mention that Florida State has a more prestigious football program than Minnesota. The change was met with frustration from the Twitter feeds and message boards relevant to Minnesota college football, but many expected Andrews to switch schools, particularly after he attracted some late interest from Alabama.
Two themes emerged from Florida State and Minnesota fans though. Gopher fans bemoaned the idea that their coach couldn’t bring in talented recruits; Florida State fans cried that their coach was bringing in too many untalented recruits. Mr. Andrews was, at the exact same time, seen as either the one who got away or the one who shouldn’t have been invited.
College football recruiting can be kind of stupid at times.
2. Meanwhile, as Mr. Andrews made his collegiate decision, another teenager named Reggie Spearman debated what school would be best for his future. In August, the linebacker prospect picked Illinois, but as he continued to visit other schools, he wasn’t so sure anymore about attending school in Champaign, Ill. Schools started swarming. Iowa offered him a scholarship, as did Minnesota, Purdue, Syracuse, Indiana and seven other schools.
When asked about his recruitment, Spearman once said, “I’m still committed to Illinois but Iowa really opened up things and I am really just undecided.” He visited a few of the schools, each place jockeying position on Rivals’s recruiting pages.
When it came time to make a decision, Spearman took out a Syracuse hat, but then dropped it and picked up an Iowa Hawkeyes cap and put it on his head. Again, that’s pretty standard in recruiting. That isn’t the disgusting part. That came from Spearman’s Twitter feed, when he retweeted the messages he received from adult men trying to convince him to attend their favorite university.
A sampling of the messages he received after choosing Iowa (everything sic):
- “lmao this dude pathetic. you are a goddamn joke son.”
- “LOL..U picked 3 losers…good luck with that.”
- “HAHAHA.. Are you delusional? Good luck. You can’t even beat Iowa State.”
There are pages more of similar stuff, although most of it is congratulatory by now.
Keep in mind, Mr. Andrews and Mr. Spearman are three-star recruits; that is, they are not considered to be among the top tier, five-star players who command the most attention. That’s when the crazy gets turned up to 11. Five-star defensive end recruit Chris Jones of Houston received death threats from fans of Ole Miss and Mississippi State when he was rumored to be picking between the schools.
Again, grown men are harassing 17 and 18-year-olds over the Internet about what college the teens should attend – to the point where they are threatening bodily harm. If reading that doesn’t give make your eyebrows and nose scrunch together – and it should – try this. Take the phrase “17-year-old boy” out of the above sentence and place “17-year-old girl” in its place.
Several writers – Spencer Hall and Adam Kramer, for example — have written about the inherent creepiness of college football recruiting, but it’s worth repeating. SB Nation’s Black Heart Gold Pants even labels all recruiting posts “Caring Is Creepy.”
Again, 17- and 18-year-olds are being hounded by grown men who they have never met in person or even talked to on the phone. They are being repeatedly told that they should attend STATE U and when these teens decide a school that isn’t Johnny Crazyperson’s favorite, the crazies let their freak flag fly.
I bristle when people compare professional sports to slavery, but I’ve much more troubled when I overhear people brashly yelling about college football recruiting like this: “Yeah, we got that boy coming to town! Locked him up!” This insanity is not evidence of how competitive college football is. It’s evidence of how many crazy people like college football.
College football recruiting is nearly always creepy.
Photo credit: Joseph Tobianski / AnnArbor.com
Jerry Kill has landed his first running back for next year’s recruiting class, as Rivals’s Gopher Illustrated has reported that Michigan running back Berkely Edwards has committed to the maroon and gold. What can we expect from him?
Edwards, the younger brother of former Michigan Wolverine and NFL receiver Braylon, rates as a three-star prospect according to both Rivals and Scout. The experts from Rivals, ESPN and Scout have scouted Edwards to be on the high end of three stars; Edwards’s scout grade of 77 ranks on the high end of ESPN’s “good prospects” range.
For perspective, rare, amazing prospects rank 100-90, and 89-80 is for outstanding prospects. Issac Hayes, Jamel Harbison and Andre McDonald all ranked 80 last year, while KJ Maye received a 76.
The high school senior currently measures 5-foot-9, 190 pounds and reportedly received a scholarship offer from California, among several other non-automatic qualifier schools. Iowa had been rumored to be interested in him, but apparently decided that they didn’t want to seal the young man’s fate in crushing knee injuries, questionable drug-related arrests and the general wrath of the Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God. (Iowa reportedly recently pulled its offer.)
In talking on Twitter with GopherIllustrated’s Matt O’Connell and The Daily Gopher’s MV, Edwards’s speed should get him on the field during his freshman season, as should the fact that the Gophers aren’t exactly talent rich at the position.
Donnell Kirkwood wrapped up a productive 2012 campaign, one that admittedly overshot my meager expectations for him. But while Kirkwood’s 4.26 yards per carry and 848 yards were a pleasant surprise, the play of James Gillum was a complete letdown. After totaling 14 carries in the season opener against UNLV, Gillum only had a carry in three other games, and never toted the rock more than five times when he did.
True freshman Rodrick Williams, Jr, “Nugget,” was a nice surprise, too, but at 5-foot, 11-inches and 228 pounds, he’s meant to run into people more than run away from them.
Enter Edwards, the speed back that can hopefully add another weapon to the Gopher offense. After watching some of his 2012 game film, the hope is that he can replicate what Chad Spann did for Kill and Co. at Northern Illinois.
Kirkwood, Williams and Gillum are not to blame for the team’s offensive struggles, though. The offensive line again battled injuries last year and the passing game was awful. Nationally, the Gophers ranked 108th out of 124 teams in passing yards per game. On third down, the Gophers’ quarterbacks had the third-worst completion percentage.
When teams can manhandle your patchwork offensive line — filled with the second and third names on the depth chart – and can also all but ignore your passing game, there isn’t much to suggest that your running backs are going to have a huge amount of success. If Edwards is successful running the ball in 2013, a large reason will be an offensive line receiving large contributions from upperclassmen for the first time in two years. If injuries continue to press younger linemen into duty earlier than desired, we can expect more of the same struggles up front.
While Edwards certainly shouldn’t be expected to be a program changer, he certainly brings a level of speed that the Gophers backfield has lacked during the last two years. Rivals ranks him as an all-around back, one who can play on third down and catch some passes out of the backfield. An ability to catch passes hasn’t figured much into the Kill-Limegrover system for running backs though, at least dating back to 2008. The highest reception total in five years for a running back in the Kill-Limegrover offense was 11, by Kyle Skarb in 2009. In 2012, Donnell Kirkwood led running backs with seven catches; in most screen plays, KJ Maye was used instead. He caught 11 passes on the year.
But again, Edwards’s speed is something that the program simply hasn’t had in several years and with relatively little running back depth of value currently on the roster, we should expect Edwards to figure squarely into the Gophers’ plans when the team begins fall camp.
Photo credit: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune. Lines from VegasInsider.com, broadcast information is courtesy of AwfulAnnouncing.com. Home team is in ALL CAPS. Originally posted at FringeBowlTeamBlog.com
Minnesota (-3) over ILLINOIS // 2:30 p.m., BTN, Eric Collins, Derek Rackley, Jon Jansen.
In a Little Brown Jug game that was poorly played by both teams, only dismal offensive execution and staggeringly foolish coaching decisions on the part of the Gophers ensured that the Jug would remain a “traveling” college football trophy in name only.
This week, Coach Jerry Kill and his team do not have the luxury of low expectations, of fans shrugging off a loss with “well, they were supposed to lose anyway” apathy that comes with playing conference powerhouses like Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
Illinois is awful this year.
That ineptitude is good for the Gophers, but it also means that they can’t decide to get cute with fake field goals and punts that have been about as surprising to opponents as ringing someone’s doorbell on Halloween. The Gophers can’t get away with giving up 40-yard touchdowns on third down or failing to muster points from drives that start in opponent territory. Above all, Minnesota has a chance to wrap their hands upon bowl eligibility; and this Saturday, they are favored to do so.
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12. Ben Perry | DE | Sophomore (RS) | 6'5” 241 lbs. G TK SOLO TFL SK 12 15 6 2.5 1.0
When a team unveils new jerseys, the stars are obviously going to be those modeling the new threads. If the Twins were to show off new uniforms, they wouldn’t trot out Matt Capps. Well, the Twins probably would trot out Capps, because they’ve pretty much shown an inability to un-invite him from everything including spring training, high leverage pitching situations and the bullpen as a whole. They are willing to trot him out for everything. OK, bad example, but the point still resonates. A team isn’t going to bring out a journeyman back-up to drum up goodwill at what is essentially an expansive dog and pony show.
When the Gophers went through those motions earlier this year, quarterback MarQueis Gray was obviously front and center. Ed Olson, leader of the offensive line, was there. Troy Stoudermire, who had recently been awarded a fifth-year of eligibility, was another one of the players, as well were other defensive leaders and seniors Keanon Cooper and Mike Rallis. Senior receiver Brandon Green and senior tight end John Rabe rounded out the group.
Oh, and on the far right, stood sophomore defensive end Ben Perry.
Feel free to tell me that I’m reading too much into Perry’s inclusion – by all means, I likely am – but Coach Jerry Kill could have gone with senior D.L. Wilhite to keep the upperclassmen theme going, he could have tabbed Michael Amaefula if he wanted a more heralded, young defensive end.
But he picked Perry.
I think there’s something to that, or at least something beyond “Well, Ben was in town at the time, a couple of the d-line guys were sick and then the equipment guys misspelled ‘Amaefula,’ so Ben was up there.”
Perry and his fellow freshman defensive end Amaefula emerged from fall practice last year at the top of the depth chart, thereby earning the chance to be thrown directly into the fire of Division I college football. Perry played through a wrist injury and improved as the year continued, as did the defensive line as a whole. Some faint praise exists in that though, because the line had an awful start to the season. During a three game stretch against New Mexico State, Miami (Ohio) and North Dakota State, the Gophers registered one sack for a loss of four yards.
Perry ended the season with only one sack, so there’s obviously room to improve, and as things stand, it seems that the Gophers coaching staff is expecting him to do just that. Again, he was pushed into Big Ten play before he was completely ready and should gain another 10 to 15 pounds of muscle.
While Kill didn’t recruit Perry to Minnesota, Perry seemingly fits the profile of what Kill and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys like to do at defensive end – rush the passer. A two-star recruit out of Texas, Perry resembles the build of six-foot, five-inches tall Jake Coffman, six-foot, three-inches tall Sean Progar and six-foot, four-inches tall Stephen Neal, defensive ends who played for Kill and Claeys at Northern Illinois. It’s worth noting that Kill’s good friend and coaching mentor Gary Patterson also routinely employs tall, speedy defensive ends; Patterson famously moved high school running backs Jerry Hughes and Tommy Blake over to defensive end.
Since Willie VanDeSteeg totaled 10.5 sacks in 2008, the Gophers haven’t had a defensive lineman tally more than three sacks in a season. (There is an exception among linebackers; the late Gary Tinsley had four sacks last year.) Perry has been tabbed as a pass rushing specialist, now he will need to deliver. At 241 pounds, he’s going to be undersized in run coverage, giving up some 60 pounds to most Big Ten offensive linemen.
Much is being expected of defensive tackles Ra’Shede Hageman and junior college transfer Roland Johnson, but there’s little room for ineptitude among the group. Run defense will be an issue for the Gophers in 2012 and if Perry is earning his spot, he will need to prove it through his pass rush, while he gradually learns the art of identifying the run.
13. Dan Orseske | P | Junior (RS) | 6'3” 205 lbs G PT YDS AVG IN20YD 12 57 2,111 37.0 12
Don’t x-out the window! Listen to me first.
I know, it’s hard to get too hyped-up about a punter, especially on a team with glaring questions on defense and offense. (For example, Minnesota’s top returning players at running back and wide receiver totaled 229 yards and 190 yards last year, respectively.) But if the Gophers are going to succeed, they need to be a team that minimizes mistakes and takes advantage of field position. Yes, that’s much more boring than relying on spectacular 65-yard touchdown runs from the likes of Denard Robinson or Braxton Miller.
But plainly stated, the Gophers simply aren’t good enough to overcome punts like this:
Orseske has a powerful leg, but for whatever reason, he’s been inconsistent to the point of being ineffective. After a 9-yard punt – with the wind – he was benched against Northwestern. That came a week after the above 4-yarder, which he downed himself.
Here’s the Cliff Notes of Orseske’s career: He had a few good kicks as a freshman, but then came down with mononucleosis and was redshirted. In 2010, then-coach Tim Brewster and his staff changed Orseske’s kicking form to a rugby style. If you watched a game, you noticed the difference, not only as Orseske took a few steps to the left and then kicked, but also in the lack of distance the kicks sailed.
It wasn’t something the kicker had done previously, which showed.
Call it a microcosm of Brewster’s coaching strategy, but the Gophers ranked 120th, dead last in Division I football, in punting average that year.
Before last season, Coach Jerry Kill talked to the Star-Tribune about Orseske needing more confidence and needing to provide him with better coaching. Gone, for example, were the rugby-style punts. Still, there was virtually no improvement in 2011 as Orseske’s average punt improved by less than a yard. Once again, the punter was learning different footwork, but it’s hard to blame all of his struggles on coaching turnover.
He kicked into the wind a few times with disastrous results; he had several games with punts that didn’t pass 10 yards. There was a six-yard punt against Illinois (along with three kicks between 20 and 30 yards that day) and against the wind in Michigan, he had a 14-yard kick and a 7-yard kick. The Michigan game showed the punter’s inconsistency, too, as he started the game with a 64-yarder along with four other punts that game of more than 40 yards.
Whether Orseske’s problem is technical or mental is unclear, but he can absolutely boot the football when the planets align. He boomed a kick 68 yards against Iowa last year and had six punts of 50 yards or more in 2011.
Still, if he continues to struggle, look of rsenior David Schwerman and redshirt freshman Peter Mortell to push him out of a starting position.
If the Gophers are going to reach bowl eligibility, they are going to have to overachieve, they are going to have to win some games they shouldn’t and they are going to have to play mistake-free, ball control football. Giving the defense strong field position will be a large part of that and if the Gophers will be successful this year, Orseske will need to minimize his single-digit punts and deliver more consistently.
I recently spent a good 45 minutes looking at the updated numerical roster of the Minnesota Gopher football team. I actually got excited about a photo of Paul Bunyan’s Axe being held by a pixelated video game version of the Gophers. I briefly listened to someone talk about “2013 recruiting cycles” before snapping out of it.
Yes, we’re in the dead period between spring and fall practice.
To bridge the gap to when college football starts again, I’ve broken down the the Gophers’ 15 most important players in 2012. This completely subjective list was created with the following criteria in mind: If player “X” either fulfills his potential or suffers an injury and cannot contribute, how much would that impact the team? Certain players might be more skilled than others listed, the “15 for 2012” mixes talent, position importance and team depth into one ranking. Lastly, I stamped my non-objective bias into it, producing, voila! The Gophers’ 15 Most Important Players in 2012. Or “15 for 2012.”
Each day I’ll update another player, on the countdown from No. 15 to No. 1. We start with freshman (redshirt) center John Christenson.
15. Jon Christenson | OL | Freshman (RS) | 6'4” 290 lbs. Redshirted - Did not record any statistics. Photo credit: Chris Polydoroff, Pioneer Press
This may be high for a player who might not even end up earning a starting job. However, this is based on what Jon Christenson represents: The creation and maintenance of a strong walk-on program at the University of Minnesota.
A walk-on from Minnetonka, Christenson figures to battle Zach Mottla and potentially Zac Epping for the team’s starting center spot this year. Working against Christenson is his relative youth, he’s only a redshirt freshman, whereas Mottla –- also a former walk-on — has two more years of experience and served as the backup center last year. Epping could push both at center, but he likely figures more into the team’s plans at right guard.
Christenson’s name likely causes a drawn out, “Whoooo?” from most casual fans, and that’s expected. A workout warrior who has apparently bulked up on Strength and Condition Coach Eric Klein’s offseason program, Christenson came to campus weighing about 265 pounds and has since bulked up another 30 pounds or so. (This came from Fringe Bowl Team’s own fearless leader MV on a podcast earlier this year.)
Christenson has drawn raves from the coaching staff, too. Coach Jerry Kill has continually raved about him on WCCO-AM’s “Sports Huddle with Sid and Dave.” On Nov. 20, 2011, Kill said he was “excited” about Christenson. On Feb. 19, Kill said Christenson he was “pushing people (around) and is athletic” and on March 25 Kill mentioned he will help this year.
Whether Christenson becomes the starter this fall or figures into more of a backup role, his emergence is important because if Minnesota ever re-enters the national consciousness as something other than a once storied program that now loses in spectacular fashion, they are going to need the help of a strong walk-on program. Call it stealing from the old Nebraska model (which Wisconsin also replicated).
In 2011, the Badgers started four solid contributors who were formerly walk-ons: fullback Bradie Ewing, left tackle Ricky Wagner, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and defensive tackleEthan Hemer.
There are several positions, like offensive line, tight end, fullback/h-back, kicker, punter and linebacker where walk-ons can not only contribute but play extensively large roles. I write later about Mike Rallis in the 15 for 2012, a former walk-on who will start at linebacker again this year. Although opportunities to play locally under a scholarship have grown in recent years with four schools in the Dakotas moving up to the Football Championship Subdivision ranks, Minnesota will need to recruit players with potential who slip through the cracks of traditional recruiting. As much as they will need to land hometown recruits and develop them into big-time talents (think Eric Decker or Matt Spaeth), the coaching staff will need to find solid contributors who can grow along with the program, like former walk-ons Marcus and Mike Sherels.
A theme that runs through these player capsules is that Minnesota will need to overachieve to become successful again. The team will need overachievers who are ready to build themselves into high impact players.
Who is a better example of an overachiever than a walk-on who becomes a full-time contributor? Here’s guessing that Jon Christenson becomes a bit more of a household name to Gopher fans this fall.
(Photo credit: Brace Hemmelgarn Photography)
Although 2011 starters Troy Stoudermire (pictured above) and Brock Vereen return to the Gophers’ defensive backfield, those cornerbacks are the only players offering much experience in what should be a completely re-tooled defensive secondary this season. Here’s a look at which newcomers are poised to make an impact for the Golden Gophers.
During an early season game against New Mexico State last season, BTN announcer Wayne Larrivee described the bulk of the Gophers defensive backfield: “Troy Stoudermire was playing receiver (last year), Kim Royston hasn’t played football in two years and Shady Salamon was a running back.”
Jokes aside, the description was completely accurate.
Falling in line with that theme, it wasn’t pretty much of the season, especially after Stoudermire, the No. 1 cornerback, was lost for most of the year with a wrist injury. A thin defensive secondary quickly showed its lack of depth.
Early in the year, with Stoudermire still playing, Robert Woods had a USC record 17 catches for 177 yards and three touchdowns as the Gophers tried to give him a soft cushion to prevent the deep pass. Matt Barkley passed for 304 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, completing 76 percent of his passes.
Barkley ended up one of the year’s most celebrated quarterbacks, but the gaudy stats weren’t limited to those often on ESPN.
New Gopher football jerseys, designed by Kasson, Minn., native, are a nod to glory, tradition of decades past (Ed. note: I freelanced this article for the Post-Bulletin, where it can be read here. Or just read below. Photo credit: Michele Jokinen / Post-Bulletin. For some videos and other photos of the jerseys, check out this link on the official Gophers football site.)
If Jerry Kill wants to rebuild the Minnesota Golden Gophers football program one brick at a time, he now has the jerseys to do it.
The Gopher program unveiled new uniforms Friday night at TCF Bank Stadium, with Nike delivering a new inlayed brick pattern within the numerals of the white and yellow jerseys. The maroon jersey, with yellow numbers, does not include the brick pattern. It caps off what those involved with the design have called a blue-collar, grab-your-lunchpail theme.
“It’s a blue collar, one brick at a time mentality,” University of Minnesota Director of Football Equipment Kyle Gergely said. “We want to bring the tradition back from ‘The Brick House.’
Drawing on that history was Minnesota native Josh Iverson, who grew up in Kasson.
Iverson is now a graphic designer for Nike and has been involved with several high-profile uniform redesigns, including those at Texas Christian, West Virginia and Ohio State universities. He was also involved with the design team that created the Naval Academy’s jerseys for the Army-Navy rivalry game this year.
When it came to Minnesota, Iverson said many conversations eventually came to old Memorial Stadium, aka “The Brick House.”
“I remember my dad saying, ‘I remember the Gophers playing at ‘The Brick House,’ and Kyle’s guys brought me around to see that,” said Iverson, who has been with Nike for more than six years. “The big idea was to pay tribute to the past and kind of the golden age of Gopher football.”
The grueling work of rebuilding the University of Minnesota’s football program will have to take place on the field, but program officials hope the team’s new jerseys can at least begin the process of resurrecting Minnesota’s prestigious football tradition from decades long past.
Drawing upon a history that includes six claimed national championships — but none since 1960 — the nod is most literal on the maroon numerals of the gold and white jerseys.
The wink to former glory goes deeper than inspiration from the Memorial Stadium bricks, though.
Decades ago, a young man walked past deteriorating Memorial Stadium on the University campus, where the Golden Gophers had played football before bolting for the then state-of-the-art Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The stadium held the lasting memories of championship teams long past; the man spotted a manageable gate climb, looked around to make sure he was alone and jumped it.
He walked inside “The Brick House” and checked it out for himself, a story he would later tell his son, Kasson native and current Nike Football Graphic Designer Josh Iverson.
“I remember him telling me how cool it was,” Iverson said.
Late last year, Nike tabbed Iverson to take the lead in designing the Gophers new uniforms. Flying back to Minnesota from Oregon, Gophers staff members handed him several old photos, held a few meetings with him and even took Iverson on a tour of campus. Iverson learned about former coach Murray Warmath and his blue-collar work ethic, as well as how current head coach Jerry Kill hopes to bring that same mentality back to the program.
The nexus of those ideas came when the tour reached McNamara Alumni Center, as Iverson stared up at the original entrance of Memorial Stadium, the home of those teams he had been researching, the spot his father had told him about several years ago.
“I started with Coach Warmath and his personality and also with Coach Kill and his intensity and blue-collar work ethic. I just wanted to it to feel right for Minnesota and communicate the values that Minnesota has,” Iverson said of the jersey design. “The working hard, brick-by-brick (sentiment), Coach Kill really seemed to like that.”
Athletic department employees handed Iverson several different historic items for him to peruse, but he was drawn to a photo from the Gophers’ 1940 National Championship team. He spotted a No. 4 in the photo, which he used to create an entire font, using the characteristics of the block Minnesota “M,” angular with little curvature. The result is the text on the new helmet’s back bumper, now sketched with the university’s Ski-U-Mah slogan.
The slogan is also scrawled on the back of jersey collar, as Iverson said, “the last thing a player sees before he puts his jersey on.”
The team released new helmets Dec. 19, which no longer carry a sparkling maroon paint job. The helmet now has a matte finish that upon closer inspection shows a bit of dark veining or pores like that of a brick.
Also gone from last year’s jerseys, which had been the design since 2008, is the Minnesota text across the front of the uniform.
Uniform redesigns have become a huge trend in college football, as programs look for anything that might prove an advantage in terms of recruiting and notoriety. For example, Nike outfitted the University of Oregon players in a different jersey and pants combination for each game, while Under Armour and Maryland made their players look strikingly close to a Baltimore-based Roller Derby team. Those modern designs weren’t really considered, though.
The U of M wasn’t looking to become the next Oregon or Maryland, Iverson and Gergely said.
“I don’t think we could pull off the ‘Oregon’ here,” Gergely said, referring to the Ducks’s varied uniform combinations, including six different helmets. “It’s what works for their program. This is a very tradition rich program. All of that off the wall stuff, I don’t know if it would work here.”
It had been rumored weeks ago that the Gophers would incorporate black into the new uniforms, with dozens of fans taking to the Internet to levy their criticism. While adding a black accent was originally about by U of M staff, it was nixed fairly quickly, ironically enough by someone who has ended up a regular target for those same hardcore fans – University of Minnesota Athletic Director Joel Maturi.
Maturi made the right call, said Gergely, after looking at the new design.
“We said, maybe let’s try a little bit of black trim, but (Maturi) really wanted to keep it traditional. He said, ‘Let’s keep this traditional, with our main colors, with no black in them,’” Gergely said. “We all wanted a clean, traditional and contemporary look and it turned out great.”
Instead, the helmet has a both black facemask and back bumper.
Nike officials said that Minnesota will not have a Pro Combat jersey design this year, but that they would be open to the idea in the future if U of M football staff expressed interest.
Reached by phone in Korea while on assignment, Iverson said he jumped at the chance to design the Gophers’ uniforms.
“I’ll put it this way, we couldn’t keep him away from it, even if we tried,” said Todd Van Horne, Nike creative director for football and basketball, who headed up the Gophers’ redesign project.
As Iverson spoke about what inspired Minnesota’s new design, Van Horne said incorporating that type of history and culture is what makes each project unique. He also joked that Iverson’s brick theme may have come from one of his jobs prior to Nike, masonry.
“Like Todd said, I grew up doing construction. I never thought I’d be designing any uniforms for Nike, let alone working for Nike,” Iverson said. “It’s a dream job.”
(Photo credit: Marlin Levison / Star Tribune) The following column was originally posted on Fringe Bowl Team blog. You read it in entirety there, or below by clicking “Read More.”
Reader Patrick sends in the following question: “Can we all agree Jerry Kill’s first season has been complete flop?”
Alright, a reader didn’t e-mail that. It came from Patrick Reusse on Twitter* after I asked him about his running criticism of Jerry Kill, particularly that the new coach was small time and, of all things, that he has a country drawl.
* - Well, maybe he’s a reader, but I doubt it. I remain grounded that few people care to read Gopher football insight spliced with quotes from “Apocolypse Now.” Anyway, I’ve worked in newspapers for a little bit more than five years. It’s not that long of a period, but long enough where I’ve had the great opportunity to ask tough questions to some incredibly brilliant people – governors, U.S. Senators, congresswomen who’ve become presidential contenders, famous athletes, even Desmond Tutu. After all of those people, I don’t think my dad has ever been as surprised as when on Thursday I said, “Reusse replied to me on Twitter a couple of times.”
My dad’s reply, “Why is he on there responding to people like you?”
Yes, to answer your next question: my dad is a regular viewer of “The Sports Show.”
Reusse is a bit of a lightning rod among some Gopher fans, who complain that he takes his criticism too far. Does he sometimes? Depends who you ask. But to say he doesn’t know what he is talking about or that he isn’t an encyclopedia of Gopher football would be criminal. In his defense, honestly, how else do you describe a team that was outscored 103-3 in the first halves of its first three conference games? I don’t always agree with his takes — particularly his idea to create a rivalry with Indiana, especially after he remarked that fans have too low of expectations in another column — but I’ve yet to read anything that is particularly unfair in his Star Tribune or ESPN1500 columns. Above all, I don’t think he’s a Skip Bayless lightning rod just shouting for the sake of hurting people’s ears. When he’s on, he’s the best sports columnist in the Twin Cities and it’s not even close.
So while his question was rhetorical, let’s delve into it. Has Kill’s first season been a complete flop?*
* - Yes, I’m going to take a question from a 140-character medium and write a couple thousand words in response. I love the Internet.
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A day after the Minnesota Golden Gophers lost to Purdue, University of Minnesota Athletic Director and perennial student section patsy Joel Maturi gave Tim Brewster his walking papers, confirming a leaked report that the coach would be fired if the Gophers lost.
Speaking before assembled reporters on Oct. 17, 2010, Maturi tried to assure the scribes that he would find a big-time coach to lead the program back into respectability. He remarked that the new coach “wouldn’t be following Vince Lombardi” and said he had already asked Tony Dungy to take over the program. (The Super Bowl winning-coach and obvious favorite of Gopher fans who still believe in the Easter Bunny declined instantly.)
“The fact of the matter is President Bruininks knows, Joel Maturi knows, others know that football is the engine to every athletic program,” Maturi told the Associated Press. Yes, he even spoke in third-person. “I’ve asked Tubby Smith if he wanted to coach football, but he’s declined. … But we’re out here to find a Tubby Smith. We’re out here to find somebody that people can recognize, people have confidence in, and people are going to bring instant credibility and notoriety to the football program.”
There it was. A Tubby Smith-type hire. The man three and a half years removed from hiring a former tight ends coach with no major head coaching experience now touted his ability to find, and hire, a big name college football coach.
The Internet went nuts with rumors, some credible, some as laughable as Dungy. Many fans wanted Mike Leach, who even mentioned the job a few times. Still, as much as I like Leach, most were able to realize that he wasn’t a realistic choice for several reasons. Other names floated included Al Golden, Brady Hoke and Randy Edsall, along with outside shots like Phil Fullmer and Troy Calhoun. Mark Richt hadn’t even lost his job yet and fans were thinking the not-fired Georgia coach would come north. While those names spun around Twitter and Gopher Hole, I felt like Houston’s Kevin Sumlin should have been offered the job seconds after showing Brewster the door.
If those names weren’t already driving people to delusions of grandeur, shortly before the official announcement of a new hire was made some people started floating the idea that the Gophers would try to lure Boise State’s Chris Peterson to Dinkytown. I was one of the idiots hoping for that full-court heave to swish through the net, but even that seemed a bit far fetched.
Did Maturi set up his new coach to fail? Well, maybe. In respect of the strategy to use conservative expectations and then over-deliver, Maturi himself failed. Who was his football version of Tubby Smith? Jerry Kill.
I have to come clean, I was completely let down at first. When Kill’s name was announced. I was hoping for Sumlin and had worked myself into outside delusions of Peterson and Dan Mullen. My gut-shot negativity was met by many of the other Gopher fans. (All 10 of us.) But in two Tweets’ time, I conceded that Kill had put together some solid programs. I read more about him and thought he could be the guy to lead this program back toward fringe bowl respectability, at the least. Most of the other Gopher fans jumped on, too.
Kill helped things though at his first press conference by saying the right things and keeping expectations low – he didn’t, for example create a term like “Gopher Nation.” But really, what other choice did we have?
The Gophers had a new coach and the fans a new set of expectations. Any college football expert with a computer or a press pass was labeling the Gophers last in the Big Ten, with no more than four wins for Kill’s first year. Hoping that Brewster’s final year was the bottoming out, I figured the Gophers would improve from 2010. Practices seemed to be going well and MarQueis Gray was developing well with the new offense.
Then the USC game happened.
A game that Vegas oddsmakers tabbed to be separated by 20 points came down to the final minute, with the Gophers roughly 40 yards away from a chip-shot field goal and a huge upset. Yahoo’s Pat Forde (then with ESPN) had picked the Gophers to upset and if you remember, Gophers kicker Chris Hawthorne missed a 42-yard field goal earlier in the game. (He also had a 51-yard attempt blocked, but in all honestly, that block probably saved everyone from watching a ball fall short of the endzone.)
Suddenly, everyone was on the Kill bandwagon.
This is the danger with the close loss, the so-called moral victory. It makes people think that a team is better than it is. It gets people like Charlie Weis 10-year contract extensions. It allows people to have revisionist history, even when they are still caught in the moment.
The only important things that Gopher fans should have taken from the USC game was that USC was able to pass the ball at will to Robert Woods and that the defense couldn’t pressure Matt Barkley. Instead, we all looked at the schedule, penciled in three wins – New Mexico State, Miami (OH) and North Dakota State – and looked to the conference schedule optimistically.
The expectations now were out of whack. At the very best case, 2010’s goal was six victories and a lower-tier bowl. The realistic expectations were beating New Mexico State, Miami (OH), the Bison and then some combination of Purdue, Iowa, Northwestern and Illinois.
Of course, the optimism was short-lived. That USC near-win led everyone into the first train wreck of the year, the New Mexico State loss, which went down again to the final minutes as Kill writhed on the sidelines in a seizure. The awful loss immediately went to the back of people’s minds, as most just wondered if Kill would be healthy.
Two weeks later, the Gophers would be outplayed and outmuscled by North Dakota State. Suddenly, this team was in zero-win territory. But it got worse, 58 points worse. I’m not going to rehash the losses in excruciating detail – the Michigan running diary and the Gophpocalypse Now column are available for that – you already know that the year got ugly, fast. The team committed stupid penalties – five on special teams against Michigan alone. It seemed as if the Gophers were the best team in the nation at moving before the snap.
This year had low points that made you seriously question spending time watching the Gophers on Saturdays. But just as the the Gophers were demolished by the Wolverines, embarrassed by the Boilermakers and dominated by the Cornhuskers, something happened.
Certain players started to get it. MarQueis Gray started to pick up the offense. Receivers started to make catches. Marcus Jones showed why Kill raved about him during spring practice. Offensive linemen – with injuries forcing a sort of a musical chairs playing rotation – stopped rolling over at the line of scrimmage. The Gophers started playing football successfully.
They beat Iowa in a surprise win. The following week, the Gophers punched Michigan State in the mouth and had the ball on the Spartans’ 45-yard-line before an interception left the Gophers a touchdown short against a team that will play for the Big Ten Conference title this Saturday. That growth and optimism was tempered by the next two weeks, losses to a gilt-edged Wisconsin team and a Northwestern squad that the Gophers outplayed.
The season ended on a strong win Saturday, as Kill’s team throughly outplayed a lifeless Fighting Illini squad that played as though they had somewhere else to be. (Saving their coach’s job was apparently not that appointment; Illini coach Ron Zook was fired today.)
* * * *
Was Kill’s year a complete flop? No. They held on to Floyd, which at least keeps one trophy in the case at the Gibson-Nagurski complex.
Although the start of the season should have been sponsored by both Waste Management and the Bic Lighter Company, the Gophers improved by the end of the season and were able to beat two teams they shouldn’t have. That was the biggest goal this year, for the team to show marked improvement since the beginning of the year.
Now, the critics will say that Kill’s record this year is the same as Brewster’s last year. I would argue that the two teams are different for various reasons, you know, especially players. I would also argue that fixing a four-in-a-half-year mistake isn’t going to happen overnight (some of these players have been through five different offenses).
Reusse has said that “Country Jer” isn’t the right guy for the job, that he wanted Sumlin instead. Hell, I agreed at the time of Kill’s hire — I would have loved it the Gophers had hired Sumlin. But what would have Sumlin done differently? Would he have made a big difference? What game can you point to that the Gophers lost because of coaching? You can’t. The reality is that Tim Brewster left a team without much depth, especially at offensive line and defensive back. You can’t coach what you literally don’t have.
We don’t know what we have yet with Kill (Reusse also said as much here). We won’t know likely until next year gets underway. Chasing the quick-fix dream led us to Brewster. Patience can be a dangerous thing to ask for when rebuilding a mistake-filled program, but that’s exactly what this program needs going into next year. Kill’s squad improved as the year went on and the team has solid players coming off of redshirt and coming into the program as freshmen.
Country or not, Kill has built two programs and established another. If someone is “country” because they aren’t grinning with blinding white teeth or parading around with a square of Rose Bowl turf while ranting about the temperature of chili, grab me a strand of hay and a pair of overalls. This year was going to be ugly regardless of the coach, but the Gophers made improvements as the year continued under Kill.
If we’re here next year talking about the Gophers finishing 3-9 again, then let’s talk about complete flops.
Elliot Mann has worked for several newspapers, including the Wichita Eagle in Kansas and the Rochester Post-Bulletin and Stillwater Gazette, both in Minnesota. He joined Fringe Bowl Team Blog as a columnist in 2011 and is a Minnesota native. Read his personal blog here, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliotmann or send him an e-mail here.
We are going through the worst place in the collegiate football world and we didn’t even know it.
Well, maybe we knew it. Maybe we just wanted to ignore it.
In preparation of this week’s Minnesota-Nebraska game, we at FBT give you our “Gophpocalypse Now” Homecoming awards, where we’ve taken several quotes from the seminal film “Apocalypse Now” and set them to an event or person that has become noteworthy during this apocalyptic 2011 Golden Gopher football season. If there’s one you think we missed, feel free to add it in the comments section.
You’ll notice that we’ve pretty much ignored any history of the Nebraska-Minnesota series and don’t really talk specifics about the game ahead. That’s by design.