Ann Arbor — The news of Minnesota coach Jerry Kill’s sudden retirement Wednesday morning because of health issues related to epilepsy seemingly caught the coaching world by surprise.
Kill held an emotional news conference shortly after the school announced his retirement. Michigan plays at Minnesota on Saturday night and Tracy Claeys, the associate head coach/defensive coordinator, will be interim head coach.
“I was shocked, really,” Michigan defensive backs coach Greg Jackson said Wednesday. “Sorry for Minnesota, but we will play Saturday.
“One thing we’re focused on is winning the football game and playing great defense. We let one slip against Michigan State, but it’s a great thing defensively to build on that.”
Tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said the news was “sad”.
“You never want to hear anything like that,” Harbaugh said. “You hope and pray he gets healthy and his family deals with everything all right, because that’s a serious thing.”
The Michigan coaches said they don’t expect Minnesota to be any different than the product Kill would have on the field Saturday. Harbaugh said year in, year out, the Gophers have not been a team that beats itself.
“No (they won’t be different and), I think that’s probably very indicative of who he is,” Harbaugh said. “Maybe the best credit to him is they would play like their hair’s on fire, regardless. I think that says a lot about who he is and how he coaches. You’re not going to show up and see a different team. I think that’s how he would want it, too, and that’s how those guys play.”
Jackson said Minnesota will be, as it always is, a run-first team, and the Wolverines’ defense, ranked No. 2 nationally against the run (64.7 yards per game), will be focused on taking that away.
“I think we’ll see the same thing from Minnesota,” Jackson said. “We’re going to see what they really are, they’re a running team. They’ve been behind a lot, so they’ve had to spread it out a little bit to try to catch up, but they’re a team that likes to run the football and they like to throw play passes off that. That’s one thing we have to be prepared for, we have to be prepared for those running backs.”