Big Ten: Bobby Ross
Unlike his predecessor, Tim Brewster, Kill isn't one to make bold preseason predictions. He's trying to build a program "on concrete, not sand," and the process could take some time.
I checked in with the first-year Gophers coach Tuesday to get his thoughts on preseason prep.
What has been your top priority in camp?
Jerry Kill: The biggest thing is when you take over a new team, you go through spring ball, but they haven't been through two-a-day camp with you. They're not familiar with what you do and how you do things. So getting everybody into a routine and familiar with the way we approach things, it's been a challenge but the kids have handled it pretty well.
Do you feel like you're still starting over?
You've had quite a few open practices and scrimmages this month. What has the atmosphere been like?
JK: I remember asking Bobby Ross, back when I was coaching Saginaw Valley State and the Detroit Lions were having training camp and Coach Ross was in charge. They had the open practices. I asked him why he did that and he said because players will practice harder. I don't think there's any question about that. So we opened up our first two weeks, it's closed now, but we had 200 people at probably every practice at least. So it's a good atmosphere for the kids to practice. They don't want to be embarrassed when there's people around, so I thought it was a good deal.
You were pleased with MarQueis Gray coming out of the spring. How has he looked to you so far this camp?
JK: He's still going through the learning process, and he will for a while. He's never been in a game at quarterback. He has played some Wildcat or whatever, but he has never been a true quarterback in a game. There's learning going on every game, and it's certainly different from spring ball to two-a-day camp because we're getting closer to game day, and there's a lot more to do at that position. But he's working his tail end off to do something that's pretty darn near impossible, to go from a wide receiver to a quarterback.
He's worked hard at it, we're making progress. Will we be real complicated early in the year? We can't be. We've basically got four freshmen quarterbacks. So we'll have to simplify things. He's athletic enough to do some special things once we get him in the right position. He's what you look for in a quarterback and he's got the skill set to do it, but the other people around him have got to do a good job also.
How many young players do you anticipate playing, true freshmen and redshirt freshmen?
JK: Too many. It is what it is. We've got a situation where we've got one recruiting class that only has five players left. There's a reason things are open. We've got one senior running back [Duane Bennett] and four freshmen, whether they're redshirt or true freshmen. We've got one senior wide receiver [Da'Jon McKnight] and the rest are freshmen and a junior college player. Offensive line, we've got three seniors and the rest of them are freshmen and redshirt freshmen, a couple sophomores sprinkled in there. So it's a young football team.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Five Big Ten players have been added to the East team roster for the annual East-West Shrine Game, which takes place Jan. 17 in Houston (ESPN2, 4 p.m. ET). Other players could be added to the roster in the coming days, but here are the Big Ten players who are marked down to participate in the game.
- Alex Boone, tackle, Ohio State
- Kraig Urbik, guard, Wisconsin
- Otis Wiley, safety, Michigan State
- Tyrell Sutton, running back, Northwestern
- Kory Sheets, running back, Purdue