Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has taken over three football programs since 2001 and has brought all three to see winning records by his third season. That stat is why Kill has people talking about his ability to resurrect programs and rebuild teams in a short period of time.
At Southern and Northern Illinois and now Minnesota, none of the three schools had more than three wins the season prior to his hiring, yet Kill has still managed to turn each around.
Kill says there isn't a secret formula to his success, but that he and his staff follow a pretty similar process no matter where they are. A big part of that process is recruiting and evaluating the right prospects.
"I think the big thing is we recruit to what we need and what we believe in. We want length and speed period," he said. "We always feel like we can build them up in the weight room, but if they can't run then we don't want them. We want people that are going to work and we do a lot of background checks."
He and his staff first focus on academics, the weight room and changing the culture when it comes to the current team, but finding the right guys to help rebuild the program is important.
Kill and most of his staff have been together at all three stops, so the process of evaluating prospects has become easier. They have also met and built relationships with quite a few people along the way. From high school to junior college coaches, Kill and his staff utilize every resource they can to ensure the recruit is a right fit.
"We go to a lot of people that we've known for awhile, people that we trust in recruiting because you make less mistakes that way," he said. "I grew up in the state of Kansas, so I grew up in junior college football. I have a lot of guys I grew up with who are in the coaching profession that I trust, so they tell me if a guy is a player or if he's a good fit for me."
Kill says it's important to find the right guys and not panic when first hired by a program. He believes it's better to be down a few scholarships than it is to take a recruit just to fill a spot.
If that prospect doesn't fit with the culture, it will end up setting the team back further than if they didn't fill the spot in the first place. That philosophy requires a certain amount of patience and discipline, but Kill has been able to stick to it.
In an industry of immediate results, Kill also knows he can't make many mistakes. Within recruiting, coaches need to act fast or they will miss out on certain opportunities and potential impact players.
Selling a losing program isn't easy and Kill has always made it a priority to make sure the product is something worth selling. Through changing the culture he has the people he wants, but upgrading the brick and mortar is also an important factor.
"When you're recruiting at this level, a big part of it is that it's an arms race in the facilities. You can't have average facilities and if you want to be the best you have to push to get that done," he said. "As a coach, when you take over a program it will wear you out because not only are you trying to coach football, you're trying to sell your program and you're also trying to get facilities built to make it better. You can't wait five years or you're fired, so you have to push them early in the game to get it done and that's not always easy."
Minnesota announced in 2013 that it would be undergoing a $190 million upgrade in athletic facilities, so Kill and his staff will certainly reap the benefits from the improvements.
With a 6-2 record, Kill has Minnesota on its way to a second winning season in a row. Their work isn't done yet, but Kill recognizes the strides they have made within the program.
"Winning solves a lot of problems. I don't think there's any question the more high quality recruits you can get, the more wins you have," he said. "You do your best job recruiting when you're not winning because that's the toughest time. You have to be a great evaluator and some teams select [prospects] and some teams recruit. We have to recruit."