Now that spring practices are completed Jerry Kill has a better assessment of his 2015 team. The head coach told Sports Headliners the talent is present for his fifth Gophers squad to be his best.
“I think we’ll have a better football team but we also play better people (opponents) next year,” Kill said.
A significant difference in the 2015 schedule compared with last season is playing at Colorado State in a nonconference game. The Rams were 10-3 last season and return junior wide receiver Rashard Higgins, only the second player in school history to be named a first team All-American. Last year the Gophers had one difficult nonconference opponent but this season face two with the Rams and TCU, a team already in conversations about winning the national championship.
Big Ten opponents will be the same as last season except the Gophers are playing teams at home they faced on the road in 2014 and vice versa. The schedule includes a trip to Columbus against defending national champion Ohio State.
Kill’s first four teams had overall and Big Ten Conference records of 3-9 and 2-6, 6-7 and 2-6, 8-5 and 4-4, and 8-5 and 5-3. No question the talent on the roster is better than a couple of years ago but Kill isn’t satisfied with his depth.
“Unless you’re Ohio State, you’re always fighting for depth,” Kill said. “They’re three-deep in Big Ten players and we’re not at that point, and it’s hard for us to get to that point.”
For Kill and his assistants to recruit even better players and acquire more depth, the athletic department must build the much discussed Football Development Center. It’s anticipated the center will transform the image of Gophers’ football practice and support facilities from the worst in the Big Ten to among the best.
“The people (including rival coaches) out there understand how tough this (coaching) job is and there’s a lot of things that have to happen here for us to continue to get the great athlete,” Kill said. “We’ve worked our (tails) off with what we’ve had, what we’ve done. It’s kind of amazing some of the players we’ve gotten. (They) disregarded all the stuff—eating in the hallway and all those kind of things to where we are right now.”
Most major college football powers have modern dining and nutrition facilities but the Gophers eat at temporary tables in the lobby of the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex. The top of the indoor practice facility is so low punters sometimes knock pieces of the ceiling loose. Built in 1985, the facility was once known as the Taj Mahal Holtz—nicknamed after legendary Gophers coach Lou Holtz—and was a trendsetter in college football at that time.
“Now they call it the dungeon and health hazard,” Kill said.
A new football center is part of the University of Minnesota’s master facilities plan for athletics that also includes construction of the Student-Athlete Center for Excellence, and new Basketball Development Center, plus renovation of existing facilities. The plan is being privately financed but a loan from the University may be used to make the project a reality sooner than otherwise possible. Reportedly $70 million of the first phase goal of $150 million has already been secured from private sources. A total of $120 million—or 80 percent of $150 million—is necessary to start construction.
An athletic department spokesman stated awhile ago the Gophers hope to break ground this year on the master facilities plan and won’t do so in piecemeal fashion. That means the football facility won’t begin as a single endeavor.
Kill said progress is being made toward breaking ground, including soil samples examined. He expects groundbreaking for the football center to happen in August.
“I’ve been pushing for four years,” Kill said. “My job is to keep pushing. You talk about the alums, all that. I told them I’d get stuff done. I don’t even want to say we won’t get it, because we will. There’s no question it makes a difference in recruiting. …”
Hockey Notes & More
The Wild’s website lists 10 players on the roster of 25 forwards and defensemen who are 25 years old or younger, with defenseman Matt Dumba the youngest at 20.
Forward Nino Niederreiter, 22, scored an empty net goal in the third period on Monday night as the Wild won 3-0 over the Blues and took a 2-1 playoff series lead. Jason Pominville and Zach Parise scored the team’s other goals while goalie Devan Dubnyk made 17 saves to earn his first playoff shutout ever. In the series Dubnyk has a 2-1 record with 1.67 GAA and .922 save percentage.
Despite playing against a physical Blues team, the Wild had no penalties on Monday night—tying a franchise playoff record and a first for a postseason game at home.
Going into tonight’s Game Four, the Wild is 6-1 at Xcel Energy in playoff games dating back to last season. The only loss was in overtime to the Blackhawks last year.
The Wild will host a pre-game party from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight outside Gate 2 at Xcel Energy Center. Game tickets aren’t required to attend. The game begins at 8:30 p.m.
StubHub.com lists ticket prices ranging in cost from $170.72 to $880.92 for tonight’s game.
Minneapolis native and University of Minnesota law school graduate Tom Stillman is part of the Blues’ ownership group. Stillman is chairman and governor of the team.
Kevin Dorsey, who might start for the Gophers as a freshman next fall, was announced last Thursday as Player of the Year and first team selection on USA Today’s Maryland all-state basketball squad.
Tyus Jones signed autographs and posed for photos at Bloomington Kennedy High School where his brother Tre Jones played in an AAU Tournament last weekend. Tre, a ninth grader at Apple Valley High School, has experienced a growth spurt since last year and is now about the same height, 6-feet, as Tyus who declared for the NBA Draft last week as a college freshman at Duke.