Big 10 Football: 7 Reasons Jerry Kill Will Turn the Minnesota Gophers Around
It's been years since the Gophers' last entertaining season, and they've fallen to cellar dweller status in the Big 10.
Glen Mason led Minnesota to a string of bowl wins from 2002-2004, but since then it's been straight downhill.
The bleeding has finally been stopped with the firing of Tim Brewster though, and new coach Jerry Kill brings a lot of hope to the table.
There's Nowhere to Go But Up
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Whether Jerry Kill lives up to expectations, exceeds them, or even falls short, he can't make things worse.
The Gophers have gone 15-30 under Tim Brewster and haven't had a winning season since 2005, when they only clawed their way to a 7-5 finish and a Music City Bowl loss.
It's not like he needs to completely overhaul a talentless roster either, the Gophers aren't half bad. They even took back the Floyd of Rosedale trophy by upsetting No. 24 Iowa 27-24 to end the year.
The talent isn't very well distributed, with seemingly half of it at the linebacker position, but there's enough there to make some noise as soon as next year.
The Prestige Is Still There
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The Gophers may be in the middle of a bit of a dry spell, but their Big 10 status is always waiting to give them a boost back up to at least national noteworthiness.
Since the Big 10 is one of the premier conferences in college football, Minnesota will have the opportunity to take on some of the nation's finest programs.
The more chances they get against top teams, the more likely they are to pull of upsets and gain national attention. With national attention will come good recruits, and with good recruits, success becomes easier to achieve. All it takes is one good year to spark a perennial powerhouse.
The Gophers themselves may have fallen off of the face of the college football planet in the last five years, but they are still a historically storied squad. In ESPN's prestige rankings, the Gophers finished 33rd out of 119.
Their colorful past gives the school a sense of history and accomplishment that can lead some recruits to try to follow in past heroes' footsteps. No matter how bad Minnesota has been of late, their six national titles will never be erased.
It won't hurt either that the Big 10 divided into two divisions: Leaders and Legends. The Gophers find themselves on the easier side of the fence in the Legends division, escaping the Buckeyes and Penn State.
Granted, they will still play Wisconsin every year , skipping the other two giants more often occasion won't hurt.
Jerry Kill Can Actually Coach
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Jerry Kill has enjoyed some success as a BCS coach, but this will be his first shot at a big-time school. He might be the best man to solve the main problem with the Gophers over the past several years which has been a lack of discipline.
Glen Mason was a showboater, and Tim Brewster promised great things without making his team work to earn them.
With Kill, though, there is a new no-nonsense attitude that the players are buying into. As a result, they are really working as hard as they can to be great this year.
Kill seems almost soft-spoken, but if you really look at his interview responses, it's easy to tell that he's a coach with his head on straight.
He knows not to just declare that the Gophers will receive a Rose Bowl bid and wait for it to fall in his lap like a certain somebody. He'll coach the players up and let their play do the talking.
MarQueis Gray Is a Stud
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Adam Weber was a record-breaking, four year starter at quarterback who was arguably the best player on the team the last two years.
Still, MarQueis Gray was actually the better option to lead the Gophers, but he was passed over because of Weber's seniority.
Weber had more consistent accuracy, but Gray has much better escape ability and quickness, which is actually saying a lot.
Weber has finally graduated, so the highly anticipated debut of MarQueis Gray will finally come in September. While Gray wouldn't have been a perfect fit in Tim Brewster's offense, ESPN analyst Adam Rittenberg wisely pointed out that Gray very well may thrive in Kill's scheme.
He should have the freedom to scramble and still get plenty of passing opportunities. Either way, he'll be a threat to score whenever he has the ball.
MarQueis was a four-star recruit coming out of high school ranked as high as No. 3 in dual threat QB ratings. Gray is such a phenomenal athlete that he was one of the best receivers on the team last year.
Despite playing outside his natural position, he still posted 42 catches for 587 yards with 5 scores. Any player who is willing to do whatever it takes to contribute is a special talent.
The University Has His Back
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The University of Minnesota recently put up over a million dollars to renovate the weight room and practice field. This isn't the type of investment that a school makes for kicks and giggles, so they really must believe in Jerry Kill's potential.
The weight room equipment is being replaced and the practice field is getting a much-needed resurfacing. All of this will only make it easier for Kill and the coaching staff to recruit good players to bolster the depth chart.
Even though TCF Bank Stadium wasn't exactly constructed for Jerry's new regime, Gopher fans will flock to see the new era of football in hopes of improvement.
The stadium has received mixed reviews, but the atmosphere is apparently amazing and Minnesota's 12th man could become a huge factor in the upcoming years if Kill finds any measure of success.
U of M Has a Potentially Huge Fan Base
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Jerry Kill will assuredly field a better football team than Brewster ever did, and fans will come out in full force to see them at home. After fans had already learned that Brewster's Gophers weren't as good as he said they'd be, they still attended home games in huge numbers.
In 2009, Gophers fans ranked 11th in the nation in average stadium capacity percentage. The average attendance over the season was 50,805 people (101.6% capacity), and that was during disappointing 6-7 season. Still, they won 4 games with the help of their 12th man, imagine how useful that type of home field advantage will be for Kill and his improved Gopher squad.
It should be noted that 2009 was the year TCF Bank Stadium first opened, so the novelty of the new stadium definitely helped those numbers. 2010 attendance numbers definitely dipped, but it was also a very depressing 3-9 season. Once Kill's new look Gophers start the season those same huge attendance numbers should reappear and help the new Gopher era start off well.
Outdoor Football Could Redefine the Program
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When the Metrodome roof collapsed and the Vikings were forced to play at TCF Bank stadium, the athletes from both teams weren't happy about it. After the game though, their tone was different.
Outdoor football can define a team if coaches carefully recruit and mold their players for it. The advantage an outdoor team has in a cold atmosphere, especially against teams from warm climates, should never be under appreciated.
Jerry Kill is a very smart coach and he'll realize this potential and try to tap into it. Imagine how the season opener against USC will go if it's cold out; Minnesota will have an edge since they are used to the weather.
Granted, the talent difference will still favor the Trojans this year, over time the Gophers will improve their roster and they will truly have the outdoor advantage since their talent will be comparable to other programs.
Like the Vikings of the Metropolitan Stadium era, the Gophers could own outdoor football and make it a big part of their identity.