Minnesota’s Competitive Juices Flowing Under Jerry Kill’s Watch

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It takes a special kind of character in a head coach to produce wins on the football field at Minnesota. Just when you think the program has turned things around, it seems the Gophers go back into their holes in Big Ten play. But Jerry Kill is looking to have his program continue to move forward in his third year on the job, and he wants every one of his players competing at a higher level in 2013.

“I think competition is always good, and from the secondary to the offensive line, it’s not only competition for us as coaches, it’s building depth,” Kill said in a conference call with the media on Wednesday. “We need as much depth as you can have, because the bottom line is the good teams in the Big Ten [are] going to have some depth. And you have to grow older.”

Minnesota will still be relatively young in 2013, but this could be a year that sees some players blossom a bit at a few key positions. The question is if Kill will see enough of his players mature in 2013 in order for Minnesota take the next step toward the first winning season since 2008. Fortunately for Kill, his players are buying into the competitive atmosphere this spring, and when players buy into a coach’s messages, good things tend to happen.

Quarterback Philip Nelson is one of those Gophers buying into the philosophy, and he seems to welcome the competition for the starting job once again in 2013.

“With Coach Kill, there will always be a competition at every single position, and he’s going to play the best players who perform at practice,” Nelson told ESPN.com. “That’s nothing new to me. You saw that last year, with him making all those changes.”

Last year Kill had to make those changes on the fly, and they paid off as the season rolled along. Kill really had nothing to lose, and by going with his instincts, he was able to turn a season around. Minnesota started the year with a 4-0 record and quickly dropped three games. Kill’s roster management sent a message that he will play the best players that give the team the best chance to win. That theme is continuing this spring.

Minnesota ended the regular season with six wins to clinch bowl eligibility, sending the Gophers to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. Minnesota returned home with a loss to Texas Tech, but the experience is something that will help everyone at Minnesota pave a positive future.

Follow Kevin McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.

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