Jul 26, 2013; Bourbonnais, IL, USA; Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman watches during training camp at Olivet Nazarene University. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Gophers impress at Big Ten Media Days

The 2013 University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football season is a month away and the traditional Big Ten Media Days took place in Chicago over the past week.

Coming off a 6-7 campaign in 2012, head coach Jerry Kill and his team are looking to repeat on at least a .500 record and become bowl eligible this upcoming season. With the assistance of Ra’Shede Hageman, Donnell Kirkwood, and Brock Vereen, coach Kill and the guys took on the media and impressed in the limelight of Chicago.

Jul 24, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Gophers head coach Jerry Kill speaks during the Big Ten media day at the Chicago Hilton. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Standard question and answer periods accompanied with radio and television interviews made for a busy few days in the Windy City. The Minnesota delegation looked sharp and all published media pieces including the group, kept the Gophers on the positive heading into the season.

Minnesota doesn’t receive the national hype that other Big Ten schools get, so it is easy for the program to fly under the radar. It also means that the media as a whole isn’t rushing to get the hard hitting answers from those associated with the Golden Gophers.

One observation from the week came from Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star:

You know what was painful Thursday morning during the early stages of the round-table interview part of Big Ten Media Days? It was watching Jerry Kill, the third-year Minnesota coach, sitting alone with no reporters around him. Eventually, some showed up, thankfully. It doesn’t help Kill’s cause that the Gophers’ nonconference schedule has UNLV, New Mexico State, Western Illinois and San Jose State.

Hageman continues to get rave reviews about his “freak” athletic ability and if everything goes well in his senior campaign he should be a first or second round NFL draftee. He was also asked by a Nebraska TV station about the young Nebraska Cornhusker fan that scored a touchdown during the Nebraska Spring Game and recently earned an ESPY Award.

“The Nebraska coach let him do that, that was cool. I give him kudos for that, just the fact that somebody like that actually experienced something like that I mean that’s all I know to give him cool points for that,” said Hageman.

Kirkwood, a redshirt junior running back, continues to improve in his time at Minnesota and led the Gophers on the ground last season. In an interview with the Associated Press, “I like where I’m at,” he said. “I’m still learning every day. There are things I’ve worked on in the off season especially to make defenders miss in open spaces … As long as I become a productive back, that’s all I can ask for.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Vereen will help captain a young and improving defensive core that will rely on a strong front-four and some talent in the defensive back system. His attitude and ability to keep team morale up may be just as important when things get rough during tough conference play.

All being said, the Big Ten Media Days do not usually bring out groundbreaking information, but it is important for Minnesota to continue to promote the idea of advancing the program and getting better as a unit. Now it will be interesting if Kill and his cohorts come out swinging in the beginning of the season like we’ve been promised.

One thing is for sure, Goldy still stands out as the top mascot in the conference after Media Days and nobody can take that away from us.

Big Ten Mascots - 2013 Media Days GIF

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