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Jay Sawvel to oversee new Wyoming Cowboys defensive staff

Posted: 3:28 PM, Feb 06, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-06 17:28:04-05
Game time announced for Wyoming-Texas State on September 7

(Wyoming release)

Laramie, Wyo. - 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.

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.

Coaching Experience

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

Bohl also announced three other defensive coaching positions Thursday:

Pete Kaligis - Defensive Run-Game Coordinator

Kaligis will be entering his 12th season on the Cowboy coaching staff in 2020 and his 27th season as a college coach. He will continue to coach the Cowboy defensive tackles and nose tackles. Kaligis will coach the Wyoming defensive tackles and nose tackles for the seventh straight year in 2020. He is the longest serving assistant coach on the current Cowboy coaching staff.

“Pete (Kaligis) has been a valuable asset to our defense for the past six years,” said Bohl. “His role will increase with these new responsibilities. He transitioned from being an offensive coach prior to joining our staff to becoming a very effective defensive coach who does a great job mentoring his players. He is well versed in our defense and will be a great resource to the new coaches joining our defensive staff.”

“In 2009, my family and I fell in love with this community,” said Kaligis. “At that time, I had two major goals with the first being the desire to be the best coach and representative I could possibly be for the University of Wyoming. The second goal was on a more personal level and that was to have the opportunity for my family - who sacrifices a great deal for me to continue in this profession - to remain in Laramie, allowing my kids to graduate from Laramie High School. "

In 2019, the Cowboy defense was again among the best in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), ranking: No. 11 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing opponents only 17.8 points per game, and No. 11 rushing defense, giving up only 107.1 rushing yards per game to opponents. Wyoming also ranked: No. 6 in the FBS in redzone defense (allowing opponents to convert only 68.9 percent of their opportunities), No. 12 in the country in defensive touchdowns scored (3), No. 31 in interceptions (12), No. 37 in defensive pass efficiency (123.23),

Marty English - Defensive Line Coach

English will coach the Wyoming defensive ends and recruit the state of Colorado for the Pokes. He previously coached at Wyoming for nine seasons from 2003-11.

“Marty English enjoys a great reputation recruiting the Rocky Mountain area,” said Bohl. “He has spent time previously here at Wyoming, at Colorado State and at Northern Colorado. He’ll be coaching our defensive ends. He has tremendous defensive experience. Marty will add great value on our defensive staff, and we look forward to his recruiting efforts in the state of Colorado.”

“I’m really excited to come back to Wyo and work with Coach Bohl and the rest of the coaching staff,” said English. “I’m also looking forward to working with a bunch of tough, hard-working kids with great attitudes,” said English. “My family and I are very grateful to be back in Wyoming.”

English was part of many successes during his previous time coaching at Wyoming. He helped the Cowboys win the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl over UCLA, win the 2009 New Mexico Bowl over Fresno State and earn a bid to the 2011 New Mexico Bowl versus Temple. English coached the Wyoming linebackers from 2003-08. He was elevated to defensive coordinator for the 2009-11 seasons while continuing to coach the Poke linebackers.

His impact on recruiting and coaching at Wyoming was key to the Cowboys’ success. Among the players that English either recruited or coached at Wyoming were: future NFL players Mark Nzeocha, Mike Purcell, Mitch Unrein and Eddie Yarbrough; and All-Conference performers Ward Dobbs, John Fletcher, Tyler Gottschalk, Brian Hendricks, Dusty Hoffschneider, Gabe Knapton, Purcell, Unrein and Yarbrough. Several of those Cowboys were recruited from the state of Colorado, including: Fletcher, Hendricks, Hoffschneider, Knapton, Purcell, Unrein and Yarbrough.

Benny Boyd - Cornerbacks coach

Boyd comes to Wyoming from Eastern Illinois University. He will be entering his 19th season as a college coach in 2020.

“Benny (Boyd) is a very capable corners coach and special teams coordinator, as well,” said Bohl. “He has demonstrated his skills by molding young men and doing an excellent job of mentoring many players over his long career.”

“This is a tremendous opportunity, and I am humbled to join a program the caliber of the University of Wyoming,” said Boyd. “To be able to work with Coach Bohl and this coaching staff and to uphold the high standards that have been set here at Wyoming is a daunting task but is one I am extremely excited about.

“What has been accomplished at Wyoming the past several years is extremely impressive. I love the tough, physical style of play that Coach Bohl has brought to Laramie, and I embrace the blu- collar mentality that embodies the entire state of Wyoming!

Boyd coached the cornerbacks and coordinated special teams at Eastern Illinois in 2019. The Panthers’ defense ranked No. 30 in the nation out of 124 Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams in 2019, allowing opponents only 350.6 yards per game. EIU’s defense also ranked: No. 29 in the FCS in fewest first downs allowed to opponents (215), No. 29 in most fumbles recovered (10), No. 29 in tackles for loss (7.2 per game), No. 40 in pass defense (204.1 passing yards allowed per game), No. 40 in turnovers gained (21) and No. 44 in rushing defense (146.5 rushing yards allowed per game).