FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – On Wednesday morning, Minnesota football lost its head coach, Jerry Kill, to an inevitable struggle with retirement. With a history of epilepsy, Kill announced that he would no longer continue his tango of coaching under duress from seizures and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys would serve in his place.
As many across the Big Ten landscape reacted to the sudden news of Kill’s retirement after five years at the Golden Gophers’ helm, Woodbury (Minn.) East Ridge 3-star defensive tackle JoJo Garcia decommitted from Minnesota.
Others, however, are still unsure on how to traverse the recruiting process in light of Kill’s retirement. 3-star safety Elijah Daniels, who committed to Minnesota in June, falls into that category.
“When I committed, I talked to coach Kill and he’s a down to Earth guy and I liked him as soon as he called me,” Daniels told Today’s U. “When I got there on my unofficial, me and my brother and him clicked. He’s a great coach and he turns around every single program he’s been involved with.
“When I heard the news this morning, it kind of shocked me. I was excited to play for him and I didn’t know how to really react to it. It kind of took me a few seconds to fully digest it all and think of it. He’s a great coach, but I understood his health is number one over everything. You’ve got to be healthy. If that’s what’s best for him and the doctors requested it for him or he decided that, then I guess that’s what he’s got to do. I really wish the best for him. I wasn’t even thinking about the football part of it. I was just thinking, hoping for the best.”
In 2013, Kill was forced to temporarily leave his position mid-season due to health concerns, but the longtime Minnesota coach was able to resume his post shortly after. Daniels spoke about his reaction to receiving an offer from Minnesota and detailed what about the Gophers’ program, which was run by Kill, led him to verbally commit this summer.
“When I first got the offer to Minnesota, I was very impressed and I was attracted,” Daniels said. “I had always heard of Minnesota, but I had never paid attention to Minnesota. When I saw it, they have a lot of Florida kids that play in the back end. They have an experienced group of defensive backs. It is a good place. They put a lot of defensive backs in the league. Coach Claeys is a good coach and coach Kill is a great coach. I want to go somewhere that is competitive and can get me to the next level.”
With Kill’s retirement coming so recently, Daniels is not certain where that puts his future on the recruiting trail. Daniels said he is “unsure” if he will take visits to other programs or not.
“I’m not sure right now,” Daniels said. “Everything is moving so fast, so I don’t know. I’m going to take my visit this weekend and see how things go. I’m just going to sit, wait and think things out.”
This upcoming weekend, Daniels will be visiting Minnesota, traveling up from his home state of Florida, and the 5’11”, 187-pound safety previewed his trip to campus.
“Basically, just seeing how the college life and to experience the college life,” Daniels said. “I met the coaches and I met some of the players, but the campus was empty and stuff like that. So seeing now different students, the diversity of the students and how the teachers teach the football players. I want to see how the fans make you feel during Minnesota games. They play Michigan on ESPN at 7 o’clock p.m. and it should be exciting. My and my brother are going up together. I’m looking for a school that puts me in the best position to be successful. I’m just really excited.”
In addition to Daniels and his brother, Minnesota will play host to Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan team. The Wolverines enter the matchup ranked No. 15 in the country, whereas Minnesota (4-3) is unranked and coming off a loss to Nebraska. Daniels is still optimistic that the Gophers will ultimately be victorious in the battle for the Little Brown Jug.
“I’m not sure,” Daniels said on his prediction. “Minnesota has been kind of in a drought, but sometimes they look like they didn’t come to play. They play Michigan, that’s a pretty big rivalry game. They will be fired up. I like the Gophers, but you never know what is going to happen. I think they’ll come out with the win.”
Daniels, who possesses a versatile skill set, believes he may play strong safety for Minnesota at the next level, though he admits that is not certain at this point. Daniels is ranked as the No. 47 in the country according to 247Sports.com.