It’s not often you hear of teams adding to the coaching staff during September, but that’s exactly what happened on Monday when the Virginia Tech Hokies announced the hiring of Jerry Kill as a special assistant to head coach Justin Fuente.
A former head coach at Southern Illinois and Minnesota, Kill was forced to step away from coaching in 2015 while at Minnesota due to health problems. After he left the Golden Gophers, Kill returned to Southern Illinois where he was currently the school’s athletic director. Kill signed a two-year agreement with Virginia Tech for $175,000 per year.
If I would have checked my email an hour ago, I would have reported sooner that Jerry Kill's got a two-year letter of appointment with the #Hokies at $175,000 per year.— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) September 16, 2019
Kill’s first head-coaching gig came at Saginaw Valley State back in 1994, where he spent five years, accumulating a record of 38-14. His teams led NCAA Division II in rushing two times during his tenure. From there, Kill went to Emporia State where he spent two seasons with a record of 11.
He received his first big break in 2001 when he was named head coach at Southern Illinois. He spent seven seasons there, turning the football program around before taking the same position at Northern Illinois. He would spend three seasons with Northern Illinois before being named head coach at Minnesota.
Kill had success with the Gophers. Unfortunately, recurring health problems forced him away on more than one occasion with Minnesota. He finally stepped away from the game in 2015 midway through the season with a 4-3 record. After some time off, Kill took the position of offensive coordinator at Rutgers in 2017 where he spent one year before stepping aside once again.
According to Fuente, he invited Kill to fall camp in August and asked him to give his honest assessment of the program. They talked about a role then but apparently the role and money had to be approved until he could join the Hokies in an official capacity.
Fans should not pay attention to the timing. This has been in the works since before the season. This has nothing to do with Fuente’s job security or Bud Foster’s impending retirement. All in all, this is a smart move by Fuente. Kill will not be able to work with the players but he can travel to games, watch practice, etc. He can be a good sounding board for Fuente as he tries to get the Hokies turned around. Kill could also help Fuente in finding Foster’s replacement for next year, which will be a make-or-break hire for Fuente.
Kill also has experience and success rebuilding programs and while the Hokies aren’t your traditional rebuild, we all know there’s lots of work to be done. Kill can also help the Hokies improve a moribund running game. We know of the numerous issues in the running game and perhaps Kill can help Fuente figure some things out.
An interesting connection here is TCU coach Gary Patterson. Fuente made his name in the coaching ranks as the co-offensive coordinator for Patterson from 2009-2011 after two years as running backs coach for the Horned Frogs. Patterson is best of friends with Kill so perhaps Fuente reached out to his old boss and mentor for help and he suggested Kill.
Regardless of why Kill is here, this is a good move for Virginia Tech as the Hokies look to get things turned around this season and beyond.