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.
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 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. 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