By Jim Bastian
Journal Sports Writer
NEW ULM - Of the dozens of questions that University of Minnesota head football coach Jerry Kill was asked here in New Ulm on Friday during the 2013 Gopher Chalk Talk stop at Turner Hall, one stands out the most.
When are the Gophers going to play in the Rose Bowl.
"First of all, people have to understand that that has not happened in 47 years," said Kill. "The second thing is that we have not had a winning season in the Big Ten Conference in the last 10 years. So for anyone to predict how close we are (to a Rose Bowl) that person would not be real honest. Right now we are taking one day at a time and trying to build a program. All that I can say is our track record speaks for itself.
"I left Northern Illinois and we were 11-3 and the players that we recruited played in the Orange Bowl this year," Kill said. "It is going to take some time but I think that from where we were at a year ago, we need a huge investment from our players, our adminstration and our state. You do not change 47 years of history over night. It is going to take some time."
Kill believes that his team can make positive strides coming off last year's 6-7 record and appearance in the Mieneke Car Care Bowl.
"We played hard in the bowl game but did not win," he said about the 34-31 loss to Texas Tech. "We had a good experience - our kids played hard and probably played a more physical game than we had in the past. We want to build on that and we have in the off-season. Now we need to see what the fall brings. Right now is a critical time. Our kids are finishing up school, have some time off before going back to work. We expect to be better but a lot of that has to do with the investment that the kids make this summer."
Kill brings in his second recruiting class and he feels it is a very good class.
"But you cannot evaluate that class until they play," he said. "Our first [recruiting] class is pretty good because a lot of them had to play as freshmen. We are still a young team, we will probably start only one or two seniors on offense and maybe two or three on defense. Our kids have worked hard and I think that our program is progressing."
Kill thinks that this year's edition of the Gophers has several areas of strength - areas that are not glamorous to the average fan - but are important to the success of a team.
"We are stronger in the defensive secondary and the defensive line," Kill said. "And we are better in the offensive line than we were a year ago."
He also said that he sees improvement in the running game but has some question marks about a big-play receiver. He knows that keeping Minnesota kids in Minnesota is important in building a strong program, which he has made a priority.
"I think that people do not understand that since I have been here two years, we have put 24 Minnesota kids on scholarship," he said. "Now not all of that you see in the paper because we have recruited some walk-ons and scholarship them as they develop in the program. We had an empty two classes I can't tell you why - but we had to fill them."
FISCHER LEADS ST. CLOUD TO WIN: New Ulm's Kyle Fischer struck out 10 to lead St. Cloud State to a 2-1 win over Southern Arkansas in the NCAA D-II Central Regional Tournament in Mankato. Fischer improved to 11-2 on the season. Garret Fischer went 2-for-4 for St. Cloud State.
GOLD UNIFORM HANDOUTS: Players for New Ulm Legion Gold will have their uniforms handed out at 7 p.m. this Wednesday, at the New Ulm Legion Clubrooms.
KNUJ NIGHT: Tonight will be "KNUJ Night" at Johnson Park when the New Ulm Brewers host Stark in a 5 p.m. game. Prizes courtesy of KNUJ and the New Ulm Baseball Association will be drawn for.