One could rephrase this headline to a successful head coach someday, and I think Defensive Coordinator Tracy Claeys will leave Minnesota after this season to be a head coach somewhere.
Claeys didn’t get the credit he deserved for how he kept the Gophers afloat last season. With Kill stepping down temporarily due to health issues, Claeys took charge and he succeeded in a brutal Big 10 schedule with a team that was in shambles.
I thought the season was going to be a wash and that the Gophers would struggle to win even one Big 10 game without their head coach calling the plays from the sideline. Instead, Claeys led the team to a .500 conference record, succeeding everyone’s expectations.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Marcus R. Fuller mentioned that Claeys actually turned down some coaching interviews to stay with the Gophers in 2014-2015, but if Minnesota wins a lot of games next season and has the defense to thank, Claeys will move on to coach somewhere else.
Kill’s recurring health struggles could also mean more head coaching experience for Claeys next season. Kill called the plays from the booth during his absence from the sidelines but Claeys was responsible for keeping the Gophers morale and play on the field positive. He did just that.
We can only hope that Kill is able to coach the team on the sidelines every game next season, but if he can’t, I have faith in Claeys to run the team.
When he led the Gophers to a victory against Nebraska, I begin to realize how important a guy like Claeys is to the Gophers. He really bought into Kill’s play hard, think positive system and the players rally around him just like they do with Kill.
Claeys may not quite land a job within a power conference but all good coaches start small, like Kill with Northern Illinois.
Someday Claeys will become a big time coach, but right now Gopher nation should be glad to have him as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.