Former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill will be the next offensive coordinator at Rutgers, according to a source with direct knowledge of the hire. Kill has agreed to join the staff and the details of his contract are being finalized. An announcement is expected soon.
Kill, 55, spent the 2016 season as an associate athletic director at Kansas State. Prior to that, he was a successful head coach for more than two decades, including stops at Minnesota, Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois. Kill was the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2014 and led the Gophers to a 29–29 record in five seasons with them.
Kill’s career as a head coach ended suddenly in October of 2015. He’d battled epilepsy for more than a decade, including suffering multiple seizures that occurred on the sideline during games. When Kill endured two seizures leading up to Minnesota’s game against Michigan last year, he decided to step down.
Kill’s history of health issues was a concern to Rutgers officials, but a source indicated that Kill allayed those fears. “After a year away he is in great shape and feels as good as he has in years,” a Rutgers source said.
In an interview with the Wichita Eagle in November, Kill said he’d lost 25 pounds thanks to a low-carb diet and had greatly improved his health. “I would say I feel about 90 percent better than I did a year ago,” he told the paper. “I would probably still be coaching had I felt this good then. But I have changed a lot. I went from two and a half hours of sleep for 12 years to six hours of sleep now. That is a huge deal.”
Kill’s words struck a much different tone than just over a year earlier. “This is not the way I wanted to go out,” he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune then. “But you all know about the struggles, and I did my best to change. But some of those struggles have returned, and I don’t want to cheat the game.”
Kill will replace offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer, who left Rutgers for Texas last week to re-join mentor and close friend Tom Herman. Improving the Rutgers offense will be a huge task for Kill, as Rutgers finished last in the Big Ten in virtually every offensive category in 2016—scoring offense, total offense, passing offense and passing efficiency. The Scarlet Knights struggled to find a functional quarterback and lost by a combined 224–0 to Big Ten powers Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State.
That margin, against Rutgers’s divisional rivals, shows just how far Rutgers has to go.
In Kill, Rutgers is getting a coach who has proven he can win in difficult circumstances. Since becoming the head coach at Saginaw Valley State in 1994, Kill built a reputation for building winning programs. He did the same at Emporia State and had strong runs at both Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois. Kill led Southern Illinois to the FCS semifinals in 2007 and led Northern Illinois to a 10–3 season in 2010. Kill left behind a strong program at Minnesota, as his replacement, Tracy Claeys, went 8–4 this season with the players Kill and his staff recruited.