Gopher football fans are a battered lot, and deserve more than they've had to deal with. Over the course of my life, there has been nothing but mediocrity at every turn, from Joe Salem, Jim Wacker, to the brief glimmer of hope (and mega NCAA recruiting violations) of Lou Holtz, John Gutekunst, Glen 'hey, we'll never be better than average so shut up and enjoy it' Mason, and Timmy with his outlandish promises and dadgum chili. I mean Criminey, that is just an epic list of crap, isn't it?
Boys and girls, there is a new sheriff in town. And he doesn't accept mediocrity, nor does he pull punches and piss on your backs while trying to tell you it's raining.
The Gophers opened spring practice yesterday, and Kill, in his low key demeanor (off the field, anyway), isn't talking Rose Bowl, he's talking about his kids going to class, getting in shape, paying attention to detail. And hustling. Something he likes to call 'the Minnesota Way', and it's part of a new culture of accountability he is instilling that he found sorely lacking when he took over. Normally, the college coaching fraternity is a fairly close knit group, except for maybe Timmy and Bret Bielema. You never know when you'll run into that guy again, and if the guy you're replacing might not someday be on the same staff you are, so it's rare to find a coach like Kill go on record and pretty much trash without trashing his predecessor.
I have goosebumps writing this, I swear I do. I've never...ever...ever...been excited about Minnesota football.
Until now. And not about how the program is in shambles. Well, it WAS in shambles, but Mr Fix it is here. That's why I'm excited.
There will be no more slacking, no more laziness, and no more false bravado coming from the University of Minnesota football coach. However, accountability and standards will not be compromised, which is something his predecessor had a hard time figuring out.
Oh, and coach Kill has a doghouse, and for the Love Of All That Is Good And Holy, you do not want to be in it. Marcus Fuller of the Pioneer Press explains:
Kill made an example of cornerback Michael Carter for an undisclosed reason, making him sit out practice to do a strenuous workout while wearing a shirt that said, "I let my teammates down" and "Minnesota Lophers."
What was that 'strenuous workout?' Phil Miller, Star Tribune, please explain:
Once practice began, Carter commenced a long day of pulling a long, thick rope, like a ship-anchor rope, attached to a sled burdened down with heavy weights. As soon as he pulled it to him from roughly 30 yards away, he had to get on his hands and knees and push it back.
I went through some pretty tough military training in my career, to include special ops qualification, and I never had to do anything like that. Holy and crap.
But there was also a carrot with the stick.
(Kill) also sprinted up to players to reward great effort by patting them on the backside, telling them, "Good job."
"If I wasn't pleased with them, I would have told them," Kill said. "I'd like to go a little faster as we go, but it was OK today. I wasn't disappointed. I thought they tried to do what we asked them to do."
His first practice was likened to military basic training, with yelling and in your face instruction. For the uninitiated, basic training has one purpose: to strip away every vestige of what you used to do and what you used to think, and indoctrinate you into a new way of thinking, and to get every other member of your platoon to get on the same page as you are, and you on theirs. It's early, but it seems to be working. Said running back Duane Bennett to Miller after the first day of
basic training at Parris Island practice at the Nagurski training complex:
"A lot of people may think of it as discipline, but it's really about learning. When they get in your face, really identify what your mistake is, no matter how big or small, it reiterates what you need to do," Bennett said.
"But at the same time, they pull you aside and let you know you're in good hands, that you're learning. It's not a good thing you made a mistake, but it's good that you've made it now so we can correct it."
That is the silver bullet takeaway right there, boys and girls. Kill doesn't yell just to hear himself talk, his assistants are on the exact same page he is, and by God, he is going to make Gopher football relevant.
It's like someone has taken a pressure washer to the Brewster era and removed every last vestige.
Keep it up coach. People are taking notice, from here to Iowa City over to Madison.