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Jay Sawvel coaches the defensive backs and special teams. He has coached under Jerry Kill for more than a decade, beginning at Southern Illinois in 2001 and moving on to Northern Illinois in 2008.
Despite replacing both starting corners and facing four of the top 15 wide receivers in the nation, Sawvel's charges allowedonly 215.1 receiving yards per game to rank No. 35 in the nation. In addition, Minnesota made 10 interceptions this year, while only giving up 16 passing touchdowns.
In 2012, the Gophers ended the season ranked No. 12 in the nation in pass defense and No. 23 in pass efficiency, while recording 13 interceptions.
Sawvel helped lead NIU to a No. 14 national ranking in scoring defense in 2010. The Huskies also ranked No. 27 in total defense in 2010. Sawvel's defensive backs were an integral part of a Huskie defense that recorded 16 interceptions in 2010, to rank No. 27 in the nation. In each of Sawvel's first two seasons at Northern, the Huskies led the Mid-American Conference in total defense.
On special teams, the Huskies blocked 17 kicks in Sawvel's three seasons. The Gophers blocked one punt for a touchdown and returned two kickoffs for scores during the 2011 season. In 2012, Minnesota blocked a field goal in its bowl game and ranked fifth in the Big Ten in kickoff coverage (39.7 average).
In seven seasons at Southern Illinois, Sawvel's defensive backs helped hold opposing offenses to just 18.5 points per game. In 2007, the Salukis tallied 21 interceptions (fourth most in the nation) and the defensive backs accounted for nearly 53 percent of the team's total tackles. In 2004, SIU led the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 13.2 points per game. The Salukis intercepted 17 passes, while allowing just 12 passing touchdowns.
Special teams were strong at SIU under Sawvel, as well. The Salukis ranked No. 1 in the Gateway Conference and No. 7 in the nation in net punting, while leading the conference and ranking No. 6 in the country in kickoff returns. Sawvel coached two special teams All-Americans in 2007. Overall, Sawvel's units blocked multiple kicks in six of his seven years at SIU.
Prior to coaching at SIU, Sawvel coached at Ferris State in 1999 and 2000. FSU won the 1999 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title in 1999. Sawvel also has experience as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame and Eastern Kentucky.
On the field, Sawvel was a three-year letterwinner and an all-conference linebacker in 1993 at Division III power Mount Union. He holds a bachelor's degree from Mount Union and master's degrees from both Eastern Kentucky and Notre Dame.
Sawvel and his wife, Jeannine, have two daughters, Mackenzie and Miranda.
Coaching Experience 2011: Minnesota - Defensive Backs/Special Teams 2008-10: Northern Illinois - Defensive Backs/Special Teams 2001-07: Southern Illinois - Defensive Backs/Special Teams 1999-00: Ferris State - Defensive Backs/Special Teams 1996-99: Notre Dame - Graduate Assistant 1994-95: Eastern Kentucky - Graduate Assistant
Playing Experience Mount Union (Linebacker), 1989-93
College M.A., Notre Dame, 1997 M.A., Eastern Kentucky, 1995 B.A., Mount Union, 1993