Sawvel named Wyoming defensive coordinator
LARAMIE -- University of Wyoming head football coach Craig Bohl announced on Thursday the hiring of Jay Sawvel as Wyoming’s new defensive coordinator.
Sawvel will also coach the Cowboy safeties. He previously served as the defensive coordinator at the University of Minnesota and Wake Forest University. He will be entering his 26th season as a college coach in 2020.
“Jay comes from the great coaching tree of Jerry Kill and has a long relationship with Coach Kill,” said Bohl. “I’ve admired Jay’s work through the years. He’s an outstanding recruiter, a great secondary coach and an experienced coordinator.”
“I am honored and excited to be a Cowboy,” said Sawvel. “Having an opportunity to work for a championship coach like Coach Bohl is something I am really looking forward to. The players here have been great to me as I’ve gotten a chance to meet them, and I can’t wait to start working with them daily.”
Sawvel most recently served as the defensive coordinator at Wake Forest University in 2017 and ‘18. He was named the defensive coordinator at Wake Forest in January, 2017 and helped the Deacons to the 2017 Belk Bowl. During his first season at the helm of the Wake Forest defense, the Deacons set school records for tackles for loss in a single season and finished the season ranked No. 7 nationally in tackles for loss.
As the cornerbacks coach in 2017, Sawvel coached Essang Bassey, who set a sophomore school record, with 19 passes defended and earned Honorable Mention All-ACC honors.
Prior to coaching at Wake Forest, Sawvel served as the defensive coordinator at the University of Minnesota where he constructed a Top 25 ranked defense and helped the Gophers to their best record in 13 seasons in 2016. Minnesota posted a 9-4 record in 2016 and defeated Washington State, 17-12, in the Holiday Bowl. In the Holiday Bowl victory, Minnesota held Washington State’s explosive passing offense to just 264 yards, 86 yards below its average, and held the Cougars to their lowest point total of the season.
Sawvel spent six seasons as an assistant at Minnesota. He was the defensive backs and special teams coach from 2011 to 2015. After Kill’s retirement as the head coach at Minnesota, Tracy Claeys was elevated to head coach and Sawvel became the Gophers’ defensive coordinator.
Under Sawvel’s direction, the 2016 Golden Gopher defense was ranked in the Top 25 in a number of defensive categories including: rushing defense (14th), turnover margin (18th), scoring defense (21st), sacks (22nd) and total defense (21st). In addition, Minnesota ranked 27th nationally in team pass efficiency defense.
Sawvel has helped develop several players who went on to play in the NFL. In 2015, two of his players at Minnesota, Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, earned opportunities in the NFL. Murray was a fourth round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs while Boddy-Calhoun signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as a free agent. In 2014, both Murray and Boddy-Calhoun were named to the All-Big Ten Team following a season in which the Gophers were 18th in the nation in pass defense.
Brock Vereen, a 2014 First Team All-Big Ten selection and another one of Sawvel’s pupils, was drafted in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears.
For three seasons from 2014 through 2016, Sawvel had at least one of his secondary players selected in the NFL Draft. Sawvel was part of teams that advanced to four conference championships as a collegiate coach.
Prior to his time at Minnesota, he served as the defensive backs coach on Kill’s coaching staff at Northern Illinois for three seasons from 2008-10. As secondary coach at Northern Illinois, he mentored Jimmie Ward, a first round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2014.
Sawvel was a member of the Southern Illinois staff under Kill for seven seasons from 2001-07, working with the secondary and special teams.
Sawvel was a three-year letterwinner and an All-Conference linebacker in 1993 at Division III power Mount Union, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1993. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Eastern Kentucky in 1994 and moved to Notre Dame as a graduate assistant coach for the 1996-99 seasons. Sawvel owns master’s degrees from both Eastern Kentucky and Notre Dame.
Sawvel and his wife, Jeannine, have two daughters, Mackenzie and Miranda.
2017-18 Wake Forest, Defensive Coordinator, Cornerbacks
2016 Minnesota, Defensive Coordinator, Secondary
2011-15 Minnesota, Secondary/Special Teams
2008-10 Northern Illinois, Secondary/Special Teams
2001-07 Southern Ilinois, Secondary/Special Teams
1999-00 Ferris State, Secondary/Special Teams
1996-98 Notre Dame, Graduate Assistant
1994-95 Eastern Kentucky, Graduate Assistant