The carousel that the position of offensive coordinator of the Rutgers football team has been for most of the past decade has made its latest stop.
Jerry Kill was officially announced as the offensive coordinator of the Scarlet Knights Monday during in a teleconference. The former Minnesota head coach is the eighth offensive playcaller in as many years for the Knights.
Kill is expected to pen a 3-year deal worth 1.8 millions dollars, according to sources — 600,000 the first year, with an increase of 25,000 each of the following two seasons. It's the highest salary for an assistant coach in program history.
It’s more than the 500,000 dollars former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano made in his first year on the Banks in 2000. Drew Mehringer, the man Kill is succeeding, made 400,000 dollars in his first and only year in Piscataway.
"I'd like to thank our administration, (University President) Dr. (Robert) Barchi and (Director of Athletics) Pat Hobbs, for their support in making this hire possible," said head coach Chris Ash. "I think it demonstrates the university's commitment to building a program and getting the best people that we possibly can bring into this program with a guy like Coach Kill.”
Kill’s name was floated around the most in the week it took for head coach Chris Ash to find a replacement for Mehringer, who left to reunite with Tom Herman in Texas as his wide receivers coach and pass-game coordinator.
With his name came a number of concerns among the fanbase, none more prevelant than the health issues that forced him into retirement just over a year ago. An epileptic, Kill has suffered from seizures since receiving a diagnosis in 2005, including multiple incidents occurring mid-game.
He retired midway through the 2015 season as a result of complications from the disorder. It was the second time in his four-year stint in Minneapolis that Kill had to miss the latter portion of the season due to his health — he had taken a leave of absence seven games into the 2013 season. Sandwiched in between the two campaigns was a 2014 season in which he led Minnesota to a Citrus Bowl appearance following an 8-4 regular season record, earning Big Ten Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year award as a result.
Kill cited the fact he took on too many responsibilities in his time in Minneapolis as a reason for his health failing him. Having gone through three Athletic Directors and having to “raise money for a new project,” he said he spread himself “way, way, way too far,” leading to the deterioration of his health.
“Going through at the time when I was at Minnesota, it was a very difficult situation, difficult time,” Kill said via teleconference. “But in coaching, you never have a chance to get things under control because you can’t take time off to go do that and I needed some time to get it situated and see the right people.”
Away from the sidelines for the first time in over 20 years, Kill spent his time attending to his health. He said he’s lost 25 pounds on a ketogenic diet recommended for those with epilepsy and has taken less medication than he had before.
He credits much of his success to his time spent at Kansas State, where he was the Associate Athletic Director for Administration over the past six months.
"I’m a lot smarter than i was a year go, but more importantly, I've been seizure-free for a long time," Kill said. "This is the best I’ve felt in over 12 years."
A lot of his time in Manhattan was spent on the practice field watching Bill Snyder coach the Wildcats to an 8-4 record and a spot in the Advocare Texas Bowl. He’ll stay at his post with the school through their bowl appearance on Dec. 28th, just as Ash did with Ohio State before joining the Knights’ full-time last season.
Kill’s itch for coaching grew with each 12 to 13 hour day spent around the game, but while he had a number of other offers to return to the sidelines, he didn’t accept any until Ash came knocking last week.
“Life’s about having a good fit and I said I wasn’t going to get back in coaching unless it was a perfect fit and the perfect situation and Rutgers is perfect for (his wife) Rebecca and I,” Kill said. “The great thing about coaches is they usually have good instincts about people and as i was going through my visit with Chris, i knew in a very short time that this guy is sharp, this guy knows how to do this.”
The other major concern that arose with Kill’s nomination was his age.
Ash has consistently preached that continuity within his coaching staff is key to building a program, so changing the revolving door at offensive coordinator is a top priority. Going from the youngest coordinator in Division I football — Mehringer was 28 when he took the job last season — to a 55-year old seasoned veteran with health problems seems to be a move in the opposite direction to most.
But in a sport where many young coaches use smaller programs as a stepping stone to positions in more traditional powerhouse programs just as Mehringer did, Kill’s experience and age points towards him avoiding the one-and-done route.
Having a coach who would stick was one of the main critieria Ash had in the search to fill the vacancy and it’s a mold Kill seems to fit into.
“In my situation .. i just wanna concentrate on football,” Kill said. “There’s a lot different between being an assistant coach and a head coach and that’s why the head coach deserves every dime he gets. From my perspective, it’s a perfect situation for me. ... I’ve had my run (at being a head coach) so to speak and i just enjoy the fact that i get to be a ball coach again. I don’t have to do all that other stuff.”
Whether or not Kill breaks the trend of leasing offensive coordinators every year at Rutgers is yet to be seen. His health issues flaring up again, a more appealing situation opening up elsewhere or an unforeseen circumstance popping up is all it takes to make it 9 offensive playcallers in as many years in Piscataway.
While all of that remains unknown, there is one thing Ash knew for certain.
“Coach Kill is an absolute ball coach. He doesn’t have a lot of other hobbies, likes and interests. It’s all about coaching ball and developing the players and that’s the same with me,” Ash said. “I think without a doubt, without a doubt he’s in a great spot mentally, physically and he’s going to do a great job for us.”
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