Before the season I thought the Gophers would win three to five games. Others who got caught up in the optimism of a new coaching staff predicted five to seven wins.
The Gophers finished the season on Saturday at 3-9, defeating Illinois in a surprise 27-10 win. Minnesota won two of its last five games with wins over Iowa and the Illini. The Iowa victory came a week after an improved second half performance during a loss to Nebraska. “I think the second half from Nebraska on, it’s been a different group of kids,” coach Jerry Kill said last week.
What happened to the Gophers was players bought in more to what the coaches were teaching. Kill said change came about both because of technical changes and the players believing they could win.
Predicting “we’ll be better next year,” Kill said the gradual transformation of his program is what he expected. “I think that where we’re at right now is pretty much where you usually are when you take over a football program. You really don’t know what you have or where you’re at or how the school works. It takes you a full year to go through it, how the Big Ten is, the level of play and how far you’re away and those kind of things.”
Kill writes notes about how to improve his team during the season. Those notes will help him assess his program and plan for the next off-season.
“You win in the off-season,” Kill said. “You win in the weight room. You win in spring ball. Our kids—if you remember when I talked with you during that time—I said, hey, haven’t bought in, we hadn’t worked hard enough. We hadn’t—so all of a sudden it’s kicked in now a little bit, but it’s too late (for a better record).”
Kill expects the Gophers to become a winning program but he’s far from that goal now. Minnesota finished 2-6 in the Big Ten and last in the Legends Division. The 2-6, 3-9 overall records and other numbers document how this Gophers team compared with others in the Big Ten and major college football. The Gophers were 112th nationally in scoring offense, and last in the Big Ten going into Saturday’s game. Minnesota was 102nd in scoring defense and again last in the conference.
Quarterback MarQueis Gray will be a senior next season. He rushed for 966 yards, a new school record for a quarterback. His passing still needs work, but he gained a lot of experience in running, scrambling, passing, play calling and leadership in his first season as a starter.
Gray is one of only a few superior personnel assets among the Gophers. Minnesota has developing and promising players but few that have already proven they are superior Big Ten players.
Kill and his staff—not distracted by preparations for a bowl game—will be watching potential recruits during a lot of film study in the days ahead. The 2012 recruiting class will be the first that Kill and company had 12 months to work on. With all the personnel needs Minnesota has, the coach said “we can’t afford to miss in recruiting right now.”
That means checking and reassessing multiple times. “You triple check, quadruple check,” Kill said. “You talk to the (prospect’s) coach… can you guarantee me? You have to really do your homework. And we’ll make mistakes, too. Everybody does. But you don’t know until they get on the field. You really don’t.”
Kill didn’t specify how many scholarships he has to work with but intends to bring in 35 new players. He doesn’t have that many scholarships to give but plans to reward some of the 35 players with a scholarship sometime beyond February 2012. He also hopes to have about eight of the new players enrolled in school prior to spring practice.Comments Welcome