The timeline for Jerry Kill's return to Minnesota remains unclear, even to the coaches who must run the team in his absence. Those who know Kill best expect him to return to the sideline in time for Saturday's game at Michigan.
"I'll be shocked if he's not there," defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said at Tuesday's news conference. "We have to prepare like he's not going to be, but I expect him to be there."
Kill is at the Mayo Clinic, undergoing further testing and evaluation for his seizure problem. Claeys said he visited with Kill and his family and that they're comfortable with the progress that's happening. He said it's mostly a matter of figuring out the right medication for Kill.
In the meantime, Claeys is running the team, with input from offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover. If Kill does not make it to Ann Arbor, Claeys and Limegrover will remain in their normal spots in the press box.
"The reason is I don't want to change everybody," Claeys said. "If I go down to the field, then somebody's got to come up to the box who isn't used to it. I like to have my Diet Coke and sit down with my papers in front of me and try to think one play ahead.
"With the communication and headphones nowadays, I can talk to everybody on the boundary and that type of deal, so that's not an issue. I just think it's the wrong thing to do to go down on the field and change what everybody else is doing. I don't want to disrupt that way."
Assistant head coach/linebackers coach Bill Miller would be the point man on the field who would deal with officials, while tight ends coach Rob Reeves would take over on the sideline when Miller needs to work with the defense. Claeys said it would be easy to communicate with Limegrover since the two would be sitting next to each other in the box. He'd let Limegrover decide when or if it was time to change quarterbacks.
It's not an easy time for the Gophers, who are 1-3 and now heading on the road against a team they've had little success against in recent history. The Kill situation has to weigh on the players' minds. Claeys said they're trying to make it as small a distraction as possible. To that end, he is closing practice to the media this week except for stretching.
"The kids have been fine,' Claeys said. "Are they concerned? Sure, they're concerned. We're all concerned.
"We're a tight family. We all get along, and we don't like the situation. But we understand it, and we'll do our job. I am not worried about kids being prepared and playing well. We'll make sure we get that done."