After all the speculation, it turns out it was Jerry Kill all along. It was first reported by 247 Sports - The Chop Nation that Rutgers and head coach Chris Ash have chosen Kill to be the 8th offensive coordinator for the program in as many years.
Soon after, Ryan Dunleavy of NJ Advance Media also reported that Kill was expected to be hired soon.
Dunleavy’s exact wording was “considered imminent but pending the finalization of details.” He also indicated that Kill was the only candidate to interview with Ash.
On Thursday night, I wrote here about a report that Kill interviewed on campus with Ash on Thursday. I then wrote here about a conflicting report that Kill didn’t in fact interview with Ash. In my second article, I pondered the possibility that the second tweet could have been a misdirection in a failed attempt to temper speculation. That now seems to be the case, as Kill could be officially announced as early as tomorrow.
Kill was most recently the head coach at Minnesota, where he was named the 2014 Big Ten Coach of the Year. He resigned last season due to health issues related to epilepsy. This will obviously be discussed at the press conference, if and when Kill is hired. Obviously, he must be in good health to be willing and able to take on a full-time position.
This is certainly an interesting hire by Ash and in stark contrast to his initial one with 28 year old Drew Mehringer last December. However, credit Ash for taking a different approach after Mehringer was unsuccessful in his lone season as the offensive coordinator. Hiring Kill is not a perfect solution, but no candidate would have been. He is well respected and has operated a run heavy, spread offense for years. Although there is no direct connection with Kill, Ash is very tight with current N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren. That is who replaced Kill at Northern Illinois and he kept aspects of his offense in place with new coordinator Matt Canada, even after his departure. Canada was recently hired by LSU to be their OC. It seems likely Doeren spoke highly of Kill’s offensive philosophy and system to Ash before he made his decision.
One question that needs to be answered is who will be installed as the quarterbacks coach, as Mehringer held that dual role. Kill has never been a QB coach before and doesn’t have the same expertise with signal callers that former Rutgers OC Ralph Friedgen, who like Kill, was a head coach previously. There has been speculation that Rutgers was potentially adding a tenth coaching position in the spring. We will have to wait until the press conference to find out more. And remember, this is as good as done, based on the reports, but no official announcement has been made.
Overall, I think the biggest positive with this hire is his coaching experience is a big addition to the staff. His offensive system seems in line with what Ash wants to do and Kill had success with it at both Northern Illinois and Minnesota. The fact that he hasn’t handled play calling duties in over two decades is a concern. Will he be able to recruit effectively or will a potential QB coach focus in that area? It’s also fair to wonder if Kill plans to use this job as a stepping stone back into being a head coach, or at his age and with his health concerns, perhaps he won’t be committed to staying more than a couple of years. There are more questions than answers right now, so we need to respect the process and wait until it’s addressed.
Regardless, I think after this past season, having a former Big Ten coach of the year hired to run the offense, after it finished dead last of all FBS teams in 2016, makes it’s hard to be disappointed. I do think it’s a complex situation and there is no guarantee it works out. Ah, such is life, though. The bottom line is Kill can benefit this program in a lot of ways and offer a breadth of experience that was sorely missed last season. It can only help Ash in rebuilding Rutgers to have Kill by his side, while he is still learning on the job simultaneously. More to come as additional news surfaces.