Jay Sawvel
Jay  Sawvel

Defensive Backs

Alma Mater:
Mount Union (1993)


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Jay Sawvel is in his sixth year as an assistant coach at Minnesota and is in his first year as the team's defensive coordinator. Sawvel had previously coached the defensive backs and was special teams coordinator at Minnesota from 2011-15. 

Sawvel has coached with Tracy Claeys for more than a decade, beginning at Southern Illinois in 2001 and moving on to Northern Illinois in 2008.

In 2015, Sawvel coached corners Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun. Murray was drafted by Kansas City in the fourth round, while Boddy-Calhoun signed with Jacksonville as a rookie free agent. The duo helped anchor a secondary that ranked 11th in the nation in passing yards allowed (179.5) and 25th in team passing efficiency defense (113.19). 

In 2014, under Sawvel's watch, Boddy-Calhoun earned All-Big Ten First Team recognition and Murray was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team. 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. 

In 2013, Sawvel coached first-team All-Big Ten selection 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. Minnesota also recorded 10 interceptions, 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.

At Minnesota, Sawvel has seen three of his players drafted into the NFL. In addition to Murray, Cedric Thompson was taken in the fifth round in 2015 by Miami and Vereen was a fourth-round selection by Chicago in 2014.  

Sawvel helped lead Northern Illinois 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. 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.

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
2016-present: Minnesota - Defensive Coordinator 
2011-15: 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

M.A., Notre Dame, 1997
M.A., Eastern Kentucky, 1995
B.A., Mount Union, 1993

High School
Barnsville (Ohio), 1989

Barnsville, Ohio

March 14, 1971


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