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Jay Sawvel coaches the Minnesota 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.
In 2014 under Sawvel's watch, Briean Boddy-Calhoun earned All-Big Ten First Team recognition and Eric Murray was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team. Boddy-Calhoun made a team-high five interceptions, nine pass breakups and 51 tackles. He also forced two fumbles and recovered one. Murray recorded 69 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and seven pass breakups.
The Gophers ranked 18th in the country in pass defense in 2014, allowing 193.5 yards per game. Minnesota was tied for 23rd in the nation in interceptions with 15. The Gophers finished the season with a +10 turnover margin.
The 2014 Gophers' special teams play, also coached by Sawvel, was a major factor in their success. Minnesota was second in the Big Ten in kickoff coverage with a net average of 41.9 yards for each of Ryan Santoso's kicks. The Gophers ranked 25th nationally in kick return defense, limiting opponents to 18.97 yards per return. Big Ten Punter of the Year Peter Mortell averaged a conference-best 45.1 yards, and the Gophers were second in the Big Ten in punt return defense (5.75 yards per return). Jalen Myrick, who returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown, was second in the conference with an average of 28.2 yards on 18 returns.
In 2013, Sawvel coached first-tearm All-Big Ten selection and Chicago Bears' fourth-round draft pick Brock Vereen, who broke up six passes and made 59 tackles as he played both corner and safety.
Despite replacing both starting corners and facing four of the top 15 wide receivers in the nation, Sawvel's charges allowed only 215.1 receiving yards per game to rank No. 35 in the nation in 2013. Minnesota also recorded 10 interceptions, while only giving up 16 passing touchdowns. In addition he oversaw a special teams unit that blocked two point-after attempts, one field goal and one punt.
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).
Sawvel also coached defensive back Jimmie Ward while he was at NIU. Ward was selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft by San Francisco.
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.
THE SAWVEL FILE
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