Created:Tuesday, September 14, 2010 2:33 p.m.CDT
Updated:Tuesday, September 14, 2010 2:58 p.m.CDT

Huskies optimistic Kill will return Saturday

Northern Illinois defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys speaks to reporters at an NIU press conference Tuesday at the Yordon Center. Claeys would assume the Huskies' head coaching position for Saturday's game at Illinois if Jerry Kill, who is currently hospitalized at Northwestern Memorial, is unable to make the trip to Champaign. (Rob Winner –

DeKALB – Northern Illinois football coach Jerry Kill remains in fair condition at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, but those around the program believe the Huskies coach will be in Memorial Stadium for Saturday's game against Illinois in Champaign.

"I can't speculate if he'll be with us on Saturday, but if anybody knows Coach Kill, trying to keep him off the sidelines on Saturday is going to be a tough job," NIU athletic director Jeff Compher said at a Tuesday press conference.

Kill, 49, was admitted to Kishwaukee Community Hospital in DeKalb on Sunday morning after suffering from dehydration before being transferred to Northwestern Memorial on Monday to confer with his personal physician and undergo further evaluation. Kill had an surgery on Sept. 3 for unspecified reasons. Compher said Kill's family wished to keep his medical condition private but reiterated that it is not related to Kill's battle with kidney cancer in 2005.

NIU defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys would assume the head coaching position if Kill is unable to attend the game. Though Claeys said Tuesday that he "would be shocked" if Kill didn't make the trip to Champaign "based on what we know now."

But Compher made clear that Kill's No. 1 priority should be recovery.

"I want him to do what his doctors advise him to do," Compher said. "I want to support him and his family with that and let him know that one game doesn't make a season whether he's with us or not. But we need to get him well and be back and have him feeling better."

Compher said he's kept in "constant contact" with Kill's wife, Rebecca, and that he will visit Kill today in Chicago.

"His spirits are pretty high," Compher said. "He's up and moving around and talking and letting people know what he thinks about being in the hospital."

If he coaches Saturday, Kill could coach from the sidelines or from a press box booth.

"Whatever he feels most comfortable with. He's the boss," Claeys said. "If he's there on Saturday, which I expect him to be, he'll have whichever seat he wants to have."

Added NIU offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover: "It's therapy for him. It gets him back going."

The NIU players learned of Kill's hospitalization Sunday afternoon during a regularly scheduled team meeting prior to a one-hour practice.

Claeys said the team performed well even though they were concerned about their coach.

"I don't expect any distraction at all," Claeys said. "It won't be used as an excuse or anything like that. We're going to go about our business."

At Tuesday's news conference, NIU players Jake Coffman, Chandler Harnish and Alex Kube all agreed that they believe Kill will return to the team before Saturday's kickoff.

"If he's there, that's just going to be another boost," Kube said. "But if he's not there, I know he's done everything he had to do with his coaching staff to get us ready to play. So we'll be fine."

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