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Turner GillHead Football Coach
College: North Texas ('90)
Start Date: 12/14/2011
During his first year as head coach, Turner Gill continued Liberty's recent championship runs, guiding the Flames to a share of the Big South Conference title, the program's fifth conference championship in the last six seasons.
Gill was hired as the program's eighth head coach on Dec. 14, 2011. He quickly faced several daunting tasks, including the replacement of an All-American quarterback-wide receiver duo and one of the most challenging non-conference schedules in program history.
During his first four games at Liberty, Gill, a former Nebraska standout quarterback and head coach at Buffalo and Kansas, faced an ACC foe in Wake Forest, and three-consecutive nationally ranked FCS opponents (No. 24 Norfolk State, No. 14/12 Montana and No. 16/13 Lehigh).
The challenges of the first month of the season and the experience of Gill's past helped prepare the Flames for the last two months of the year. Liberty closed out its first year under Gill's guidance by winning six of its last seven games, starting with a Homecoming thriller where the Flames scored 32 of the game's last 39 points to rally for Gill's first win on Liberty Mountain (Nov. 10, 2012 – W/ 42-35 vs. Gardner-Webb).
The remainder of the season was spotlighted by two late games in November, victories that secured the Flames championship season.
In their last home game of the season, the Flames created five turnovers and stopped one of the most potent FCS offenses in the country to post a 28-14 win over No. 6/8 Stony Brook (Nov. 10, 2012). The win marked the first time Liberty had defeated a Top 10 team in program history.
The following week, the Flames made the trip over the Blue Ridge Mountains and used a pair of rushing touchdowns during the fourth quarter to defeat the VMI Keydets, 33-14 (Nov. 17, 2012). The win earned Liberty a share of the Big South's title, marking the third time Gill had led a team to a conference crown (Buffalo in 2007 and 2008).
Gill finished his first year at Liberty with a 6-5 record, his second-highest win total in seven years as a head coach (highest was an 8-6 record at Buffalo in 2008).
Liberty completed its 10th season of Big South football with a 5-1 record, Gill's third time leading a team to five conference wins in a campaign. Gill also led Buffalo to five-win seasons in 2007 and 2008, both seasons with a 5-3 conference mark in the Mid-American Conference.
At season's end, 13 of Gill's players earned All-Big South honors, while his redshirt freshman quarterback started a career that caught national attention.
Josh Woodrum, thrust into the starting lineup three games into the year due to an injury, was aided from Gill's instruction, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist as a quarterback at Nebraska in 1983.
Woodrum posted the second-best numbers as a freshman quarterback in program history (1,966 passing yards, 11 TDs). He also finished the year No. 13 in the final voting for the Jerry Rice Award, given annually to the top FCS freshman player in the country.
As a team, Gill's Flames finished the 2012 season ranked No. 15 in the country in total defense, allowing 314.73 total offensive yards per game to opponents. On the other side of the line of scrimmage, the Flames averaged more than 400 total offensive yards per game.
Gill came to Liberty after serving two years as head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks. During his time in Lawrence, Kan., Gill coached 10 players who earned All-Big 12 honors, including 2011 All-Big 12 second-team all-conference offensive lineman Jeremiah Hatch and nine players who garnered All-Big 12 honorable-mention accolades.
Gill's two-year coaching stint at Kansas was spotlighted by a victory over No. 15 Georgia Tech, 28-25, his first Jayhawks win in 2010, and a 52-45 victory over Colorado, where he rallied Kansas for a fourth-quarter comeback after being down 45-17.
Gill received his first head coaching position in 2006, when he took over a struggling Buffalo Bulls program. After posting a 2-10 record during his inaugural season, Gill guided the Bulls to a 5-7 record in 2007, the program's best mark in more than a decade, when they had finished 8-3 in 1996 while competing at the FCS level (then called I-AA football).
Gill was honored for his turnaround efforts in 2007 when he was named Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year, following the Bulls' 5-3 record in conference play. Buffalo finished the season 4-2 in the MAC East Division, earning the Bulls a share of the conference regular-season title in just his second season at the helm of the program.
Gill continued the upward trend in 2008, leading Buffalo to an 8-6 overall record and the MAC championship following a 42-24 victory over Ball State in the conference title game. The victory earned the Bulls the program's first-ever postseason bowl game appearance, where Buffalo lost to Connecticut in the International Bowl.
The 2008 season saw Gill earn MAC Coach of the Year honors by The Sporting News and he was a finalist for the Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year award. With Gill at the helm of the Bulls' high-powered offense, Buffalo set a program record by scoring 424 points in 2008, which ranked No. 34 nationally in scoring offense.
Gill's longest coaching tenure has been at his alma mater, where he served as an assistant coach from 1992 to 2004. He served as the Cornhuskers' quarterbacks coach from 1992 to 2003 and wide receivers coach during his final year with the program.
During his decade-plus coaching stint in Lincoln, Neb., Gill was part of a coaching staff that guided Nebraska to 13-straight bowl appearances and three national championships (1994, 1995 and 1997).
Gill instructed two All-America quarterbacks at Nebraska in Tommy Frazier (1995) and Eric Couch (2001). Couch became the third player in the storied history of the Cornhusker program to win the Heisman Trophy, also doing so in 2001.
Gill was honored himself in 2002 when he was a finalist for the Frank Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top assistant coach.
Prior to his full-time coaching days at Nebraska, Gill also served as a graduate assistant at North Texas (1989), Nebraska (1990) and Southern Methodist (1991). Gill also served one year as the Green Bay Packers' Director of Player Development in 2005, before leaving the professional ranks to return to the collegiate level to take over the Buffalo program in 2006.
During his playing career at Nebraska (1980-83), Gill guided the Cornhuskers to a 28-2 record and an unblemished 20-0 record in conference play. He led Nebraska to three-straight Orange Bowl appearances, spotlighted by a win over LSU on Jan. 1, 1983.
Gill was a three-time Big Eight all-conference selection, earned second-team All-America honors and was a Heisman Award finalist, where he finished fourth in the voting in 1983.
Gill was honored as the quarterback selection to the Big Eight Conference All-Decade Team (1980-89) and has been inducted' into both the Nebraska Football and Orange Bowl Halls of Fame.
Gill also played collegiate baseball for one season at Nebraska and earned All-Big Eight honors at shortstop. Following his collegiate career, Gill played two seasons in the Canadian Football League with Montreal (1984-85) and three years as a baseball player in the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers minor league systems (1986-88).
Gill completed his bachelor's degree in behavior analysis at North Texas in 1990. The Fort Worth, Texas, native and his wife, Gayle, have two daughters – Jordan and Margaux.