Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 8/2/12
MINNEAPOLIS As University of Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill and a few of his players addressed the media Thursday in preparation for fall camp, the "B" word crept into the conversation from time to time.Yes, this Gophers team that has finished 3-9 each of the past two seasons believes it can reach a bowl game in 2012."Anything short of that is a disappointment," said junior safety Brock Vereen. "We want to be great. We're working to be great."A three-win season is far from great, but the Gophers remain optimistic as they enter Kill's second season as head coach. The players have raved about offseason workouts, crediting the strength and conditioning coaches for helping them get bigger and stronger in the winter and summer months. Perhaps more important, however, is that these players are about to embark on their second year under Kill's regime. Last year's team had to learn a new system with new coaches and coordinators after Kill replaced Tim Brewster following a disappointing season in 2010. Now, Kill and his staff have been in place for more than a year, allowing for the players and coaches to grow accustomed to one another."When they came in (last year), they didn't know what to expect from us, we didn't know what to expect from them. It was exciting, but we were curious," senior linebacker Mike Rallis said Thursday. "We didn't know what to expect. We've all gotten comfortable with each other both ways. We're expecting a lot more from ourselves this year."The Gophers' fall camp officially opens Saturday with the team's first practice, less than a full month from its first game Aug. 30 at UNLV. This time last year, Kill was tasked with helping Minnesota's football program get back on track after several years of disappointment. But he was patient in his approach, routinely saying the program needed to be rebuilt on concrete, not sand. A year later, Kill said that goal hasn't changed."I think that we sold a strong vision a year ago of kind of where we wanted to go in the program," he said Thursday. "I don't think we've come off that. I think that probably the most important thing, I think, as a head coach or assistant coaches, our strength coaches, we've got the continuity. We didn't lose any of that continuity, so the vision stayed the same. I think we're just all much more comfortable with each other. The players, the coaches, and what we're trying to accomplish is much better."Minnesota ended the 2011 season on a high note, beating Illinois, 27-7, at TCF Bank Stadium. It was one of just two Big Ten victories the Gophers also beat Iowa earlier in the year and was a rare bright spot in a season filled with growing pains. That win brought the Gophers' victory total to three, halfway to being bowl eligible. Eventually, Minnesota will need to reach a bowl game to show signs that Kill's vision and the team's work in the offseason are paying off.The Gophers believe that could happen sooner rather than later."For one, ending the season the way we did, I felt like if we had more games after that, we would have been able to go to a bowl game. But unfortunately the season is only 12 games," senior quarterback MarQueis Gray said. "Now that we're gearing to start up, I feel like we're capable of making a bowl game. I know our team is confident in their playing ability, and we're going to see once we open up camp (Saturday)."Much of the Gophers' successes will rest of the right arm and legs of Gray, who is entering his second season as Minnesota's starting quarterback. He spent his first two seasons at wide receiver but moved to quarterback for the 2011 season. Gray spent plenty of time this summer building chemistry with his wide receivers during offseason workouts.This is a young squad with only 16 seniors 10 of whom are on scholarship on the 105-man roster. Last year's team was young, too, and it also had the disadvantage of having to learn a new system and adjust to a new coaching staff."There were so many ups and downs last year," Vereen said. "Sometimes going into the locker room, you didn't know which Gophers you were going to get on Saturday. This offseason, talking to Coach Kill, everybody has a great feeling. Everybody's optimistic and we're ready to go."That optimism has the Gophers players saying the "B" word. Kill wouldn't quite go as far as to guarantee a trip to a bowl game, but he did use another "B" word when asked for what would make this year a success. "We've got to move the program forward and continue to get better," Kill said. "As long as we continue to make strides to get better and continue to build a foundation of the program and move it forward, that is what we're here to do. Again, nothing is a quick fix. It takes time. I'm cautiously optimistic of the way our kids are working. "It's kind of like anything, you talk about all the things here, but it's what you do when you go play. I'm looking forward to watching our kids play and prove that they're better."Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Report: Le'Veon Bell recently completed DUI probation

Report: Yankees close to trading Aroldis Chapman

WATCH: Dontrelle Willis' great reaction to Giancarlo Stanton home run

Reports: Sale cut up throwback uniforms with knife in protest

WNBA withdraws fines for teams that protested gun violence


Ezekiel Elliott: ‘Evil NEVER prevails’

Orioles, Padres reportedly talking trades of Melvin Upton, Cashner

Report: Islanders looking at locations to build new arena

Top five takeaways from this year's NBA Summer League

NCAA rules that hanging out with Drake is violation

WATCH: Justin Bieber arm wrestle Sixers center Joel Embiid

Lou Holtz regrets making immigration 'joke' at RNC

Report: Royals didn't invite Johnny Cueto to White House visit

Solo not taking any chances with Zika virus while in Rio

Rays reportedly demanding Profar in pitching deal with Rangers

Facebook doesn’t know the difference between Liverpool and Arsenal

Report: Teams asked about Wade Davis, asking price very high

Aussie Rules Football player accidentally kicks, breaks own leg

Former Arkansas football assistant trolls Bobby Petrino on social media

Could Clayton Kershaw's injury hinder trade talks?

Spurs strike a new deal with NBA stalwart Manu Ginobli

George makes return to Team USA following leg injury

Why the Clippers shouldn't break up their big three

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

WATCH: NBA jersey sponsors that need to happen

Expansion draft playing heavy hand in the current NHL offseason

WATCH: Pop & Timmy have a guys' night out

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker