Tracy Claeys is the Associate Head Coach for the University of Minnesota football program. He has also served as the team's defensive coordinator since head coach Jerry Kill's arrival in December of 2010.
Claeys has helped transform Minnesota's defense since he has been in charge and has been nominated for the Frank Broyles Award (top college assistant coach) in each of the past two seasons.
Minnesota allowed 380 points in 2011 and 321 points in 2012. In 2013, under the leadership of Claeys, the Gopher defense allowed only 289 points, which was the first time that Minnesota went an entire season not allowing 300 points since 2004 when it allowed 273 points in 12 games (allowed 285 points in 13 games in 2003).
In 2013, Minnesota ranked fourth in the Big Ten and 25th in the nation allowing only 22.2 points a game. The Gophers were at their best when their back was against the wall, as they finished first in the Big Ten and 15th in the nation in red zone defense. Minnesota allowed opponents to score only 74.0 percent (37 of 50) of the time.
In 2014, Minnesota allowed 314 points (24.2 points per game) to rank sixth in the Big Ten and tied for 33rd nationally. The 2014 Gophers held 10 teams below their final season scoring averages. In one stretch, the Claeys-led defense held three consecutive conference teams at least 13.8 points below their averages. In addition, Minnesota limited four teams to less than 100 yards rushing. Michigan mustered only 83 rushing yards and 88 passing yards against the Gophers. The defense's 15 fumble recoveries and 15 interceptions helped Minnesota to a +10 turnover margin (second in the Big Ten and 15th in the nation).
In the past two years, Claeys has coached four first-team All-Big Ten selections. Damien Wilson and Briean Boddy-Calhoun were honored in 2014, while Ra'Shede Hageman and Brock Vereen were recognized in 2013. Hageman and Vereen were the first Gopher defensive players to be recognized by the conference since 2008.
Claeys has also started sending members of his defense to the NFL. Damien Wilson (Dallas cowboys) and Cedric Thompson (Miami Dolphins) were both selected in the 2015 NFL Draft, while former standouts Cameron Botticelli (San Diego Chargers) and Derrick Wells (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) signed free agent contracts. Hageman (Atlanta Falcons) and Vereen (Chicago Bears) were both picked in the 2014 draft. Under Claeys, Minnesota has had four total defensive players taken in the 2014 and 2015 drafts. The Gophers had the same number of defensive players selected from 2003-10.
Claeys started his coaching career at Santa Fe Trail High School in 1994. He joined up with Kill in 1995 at Saginaw Valley State, where he coached the defensive line. Claeys became Kill's defensive coordinator at Emporia State in 1999. He remained in that capacity when Kill took over at Southern Illinois in 2001 and Northern Illinois in 2008.
Claeys led a Northern Illinois defensive unit that was ranked No. 14 in the nation and No. 1 in the Mid-American Conference in scoring defense, allowing an average of just 19.08 points per game in the 2010 season. The Huskies were also No. 32 in the nation in pass efficiency defense, No. 27 in total defense and No. 27 in rushing defense in Claeys' final season at NIU.
Claeys' defense topped the MAC and ranked 30th in the country in total defense in 2009. The Huskies were also among the top 30 FBS teams in the country in scoring defense that season and held opponents below 125 yards per game on the ground. In 2008, his first season at NIU, Claeys and the defensive staff engineered one of the biggest turnarounds in the country, as the Huskies led the MAC in pass defense, total defense and scoring defense. The Huskies finished in the top 20 nationally in three categories - fifth in pass defense, 14th in scoring defense and 17th in total defense. Rivals.com named Claeys as the MAC's Defensive Coordinator of the Year for 2008.
Both Claeys and offensive coordinator Limegrover deserve credit for Northern Illinois' turnover margin of +0.79 per game in 2010, which ranked No. 2 in the MAC and No. 17 in the nation. The Huskie offense turned the ball over just 14 times in 13 games in 2010 to rank No. 5 in the nation.
Claeys' pre-Minnesota resumé also includes coaching several standout defensive players, most recently NIU's Larry English, the first-round draft choice of the NFL's San Diego Chargers in 2009. Claeys also coached Seattle Seahawks' 1999 first-round draft choice Lamar King at Saginaw Valley State and tutored linebacker Bart Scott at Southern Illinois and defensive end Paul Spicer at Saginaw Valley St.
Claeys, who is from Clay Center, Kan., is a 1994 Kansas State graduate.
THE CLAEYS FILE
Coaching Experience 2014-present: Minnesota - Associate Head Coach 2011-present: Minnesota - Defensive Coordinator 2008-10: Northern Illinois - Defensive Coordinator 2001-07: Southern Illinois - Defensive Coordinator 1999-2000: Emporia State - Defensive Coordinator 1995-98: Saginaw Valley State - Defensive Line 1994: Santa Fe Trail HS - Co-Defensive Coordinator