Friday, December 29, 2023

Ravens’ Tyler Linderbaum is as competitive as they come: ‘He just won’t allow himself to fail’


By Jeff Zrebiec

5h ago (December 29, 2023)

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The team stretch was over and the Solon High School football squad started to break into its position groups. For young Tyler Linderbaum, that meant one thing: It was time to loosen up his right arm.

Linderbaum’s earliest years on the football field were spent as a quarterback. That’s the position he envisioned playing at the high school level, and dozens of coaches over the years have learned that telling Linderbaum he couldn’t do something didn’t often generate a positive response. Linderbaum’s older brother, Logan, was an offensive lineman. Linderbaum was a quarterback, or so he thought.

The only problem was that kids who looked like Linderbaum didn’t play quarterback. He had that thick, sturdy neck, that short and squatty build, those wide shoulders. He had that Iowa farm boy strength, too, even though he didn’t grow up working in the corn fields.

So when Solon football coach Kevin Miller saw Linderbaum jogging over to the quarterback group at the start of one of his first high school practices, the first thing Miller did was chuckle. The second thing he did was walk over to Linderbaum and ask him what exactly he was doing.

“I kind of joked with him. I said, ‘I don’t know where you think you are going to be,’” said Miller. “‘But put your hard hat on and go over there with the big uglies.’”

Linderbaum wasn’t the only one who didn’t initially view himself as a center. He was recruited to nearby Iowa as a defensive tackle and played two games at that position as a freshman. Even after Linderbaum switched to the offensive line and eventually established himself as the best center in college football, there were NFL organizations that questioned whether he was big enough or his arms were long enough to thrive at the next level.

With their second first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens took that bet and are reaping the rewards. In just his second season, Linderbaum is already regarded as one of the top centers in football. He’s been one of the keys to the Ravens’ top-ranked run game, and heading into Sunday’s highly anticipated matchup with the Miami Dolphins where a win would give Baltimore the AFC’s top seed, Linderbaum has allowed zero sacks and three quarterback hits in 13 games this season.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh believes that with Linderbaum, Baltimore has the best center in football. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken says Linderbaum is playing at an “elite level.” Veteran right tackle Morgan Moses called Linderbaum “special” and predicted that the 23-year-old would become a “foundational piece” in Baltimore for years to come.

Just about everyone you talk to in the Ravens’ locker room brings up Linderbaum’s competitiveness, toughness and physicality. As a rookie, he played through a significant foot injury. This year, he barely missed any time with a high ankle sprain.

Stories about his traits are still being told in Solon, a city in Eastern Iowa, where Linderbaum was a multi-sport standout for the Spartans and a one-time winner of the “Solon Beef Days” hay bale toss; and in Iowa City, where he became yet another star offensive lineman produced by Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes program.

“You can’t measure someone’s toughness and competitive spirit,” Miller said. “He just has some of these elements that separate himself from these guys he competes against.”

The clip was shown before, during and after the 2022 NFL Draft almost as often as highlights of Linderbaum sprinting downfield and knocking down Big Ten defenders like bowling pins. There was Linderbaum, in his white, orange and black Solon High wrestling singlet, executing an overtime takedown of rival and future Iowa teammate and NFL first-round pick Tristan Wirfs in 2017 to win a key match.

Linderbaum rose from the mat, his mouth agape, and stomped around like a conquering hero. Wirfs was a state champion wrestler who had dominated Linderbaum in previous matchups. He also was significantly bigger than Linderbaum. Yet, the result showed the persistence, competitiveness and toughness that Linderbaum possessed, and it foreshadowed how he’d become one of the league’s best centers despite being considered undersized at 6-foot-2, 305 pounds with a below-average 31 1/8-inch arm size.

“When I first started wrestling, I was not good,” Linderbaum said. “I only wrestled for three years in high school. My sophomore year, I got my butt whooped.”

How bad did it get?

“I probably went 30-20,” Linderbaum said. “But most of those 30 wins were against fat puds, kids that probably shouldn’t have been wrestling, and I’m sure half of those were forfeits. The other 15 of those were against kids I should have beaten just because of my athleticism. But I started to learn how to wrestle, and then my junior and senior year, I did better.”

Linderbaum initially played basketball, but he opted to turn to wrestling because Solon needed a heavyweight to replace his brother. He struggled so much early that he quit on multiple occasions, but only temporarily. Getting thrown around wasn’t something he ever wanted to get used to. One such occasion came when Logan, who wrestled at Minnesota State Mankato, returned to Solon to practice with the high school team. Logan dominated his younger brother so thoroughly that Linderbaum left the gym in frustration.

“I’d be like, ‘I’m done,’ and I’d go take a five-minute walk and then come back in,” Linderbaum said. “I wouldn’t actually quit.”

By the time he graduated, Linderbaum had won 122 matches in just three years and registered fifth- and third-place finishes in the state. The lessons he learned, though, about leverage, balance and one-on-one competition served him well in the sport that he planned to play in college.

“In a competitive setting, you don’t want to lose,” Linderbaum said. “I feel like I’m a sore loser, so any time we’re in a competitive game or something like that, I want to give it my best, and the competitive spirit comes out.”

Iowa was preparing for the Outback Bowl in early 2019 when Ferentz decided to make the move. While Linderbaum had ability as a defensive tackle, the program didn’t have an intriguing center prospect in the pipeline. Iowa knew when recruiting him that he was a high-level center and there was no time to waste.

“He immediately started taking reps with the twos,” recalled then-Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras. “He couldn’t snap yet. Every snap was going between my legs or over my head, but he had this ability to pick things up fast and to win reps when his body was in a compromised position. You’d see Tyler contorted and bent and he finds a way to have really impressive power.”

By the following year, Linderbaum was the starting center for a program that breeds quality NFL offensive linemen. The year after that, he was already garnering attention for being one of the top centers in the country.

He wasn’t physically imposing, but he was uber-athletic for an offensive lineman. His fundamentals were sound and he was relentless, working through the whistle on every play. He took a defensive lineman’s approach to the center position. He wanted to attack the player in front of him, rather than always sitting back and trying to hold his ground.

Ferentz, a former offensive line coach in Baltimore, once described Linderbaum as being “too good to be true.” Still, early on in his college career, his teammates didn’t have a good read on him. Linderbaum is always aware of his surroundings and isn’t prone to chitchat unless he knows his company.

Petras and Iowa teammates Nico Ragaini and Riley Moss were playing the video game Call of Duty when Linderbaum came strolling through their dorm room. Wanting to test the young lineman, Moss invited him to take a game.

“He didn’t say much and we had no idea how he was as a Call of Duty player. No warmup at all and he went up and had 50 kills and one death in his first game,” Petras said. “It wasn’t like he was sitting on his Xbox all day. He was a four-sport athlete in high school. This dude had things to do, and he does 50 kills and one death. I’ve never sniffed that.”

Petras would later learn something else about Linderbaum. If you made him angry, you better be prepared to deal with the consequences. The two Iowa teammates were partying in the offseason outside of a friend’s house. Some button pushing started and Petras reached back from the truck they were in and struck Linderbaum in the head with a stick of deer jerky. All hell broke loose.

“Next thing I know, he climbed over in the middle seat, held both of my arms in one of his and he was on top of me and whaling on me with his other arm,” Petras said. “It was like, ‘Woah, OK, you win.’ When he flips the switch, it’s nothing to mess with. It’s just part of his competitive nature. He’s got that bite to him. When it’s time to go, he’s ready to go.”

Petras says without hesitation that Linderbaum is the most competitive person he’s ever been around. That even applies to Linderbaum’s annual hometown hay bale toss. The challenge is to toss a hay bale, which weighs approximately 60 pounds, over a bar that is elevated above. Linderbaum won it one year by clearing 14 feet.

Miller recently saw the competitive side of him, too. Miller and his son, Cam, were locked in a tight best-ball golf match with Linderbaum and his father, Todd, who is a good athlete in his own right.

“All of a sudden, Tyler found another gear,” Miller said. “It was like, ‘All right, we’re not losing.’ He just has that ‘it’ factor. He just won’t allow himself to fail. He wants to be the very best at what he does. That’s his M.O.”

Former Ravens standout guard Marshal Yanda, who has gotten to know Linderbaum through their shared Iowa and Baltimore ties, used to say that NFL rookies should be seen and not heard. That would have been just fine for the reserved Linderbaum, except his very position mandates that he is vocal.

As the center, Linderbaum has to make line calls and make sure everyone is on the same page. It’s a leadership position, and that complicated Linderbaum’s transition to the NFL, particularly as he was surrounded by a former league MVP quarterback and a veteran offensive line.

The fact that Linderbaum was selected with the draft pick the Ravens received from trading wide receiver Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals only added to the pressure. Teams don’t regularly take centers in the first round of the draft. The ones who are selected are essentially expected to become Pro Bowl-caliber players early in their careers. Linderbaum, who dismissed the concerns about his arm length, calling it “genetics, I guess,” is on that path.

“The only thing changed is he’s been in the league another year, but Tyler has been the same,” said Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. “The knowledge is there. He’s vocal. He’s being a leader. Even though he’s young, he’s been a leader, just stepping up. He’s very smart.”

Linderbaum doesn’t believe anything has changed with his demeanor from his rookie year to now, but he is certainly showing more personality and more playfulness around the media. During a practice last week, he chided veteran left tackle Ronnie Stanley for being the last offensive lineman out on the field. He and his locker mate and closest friend on the team, reserve offensive lineman Patrick Mekari, are constantly tweaking each other, much to the amusement of onlookers. Linderbaum recently stood behind a throng of television cameras and playfully called for Jackson to end his media availability, because it was the second-year center’s turn at the microphones.

“It comes from him being comfortable, and he also understands he has to find his space before he can confidently be able to voice his opinions,” Moses said. “But he’s taken the road of being a staple in this offense and a leader.”

Much of that goes on behind the scenes. Teammates see how locked in he is during meetings, how hard he works every day in the weight room. They know how many nagging injuries he’s already played through. If it were up to Linderbaum, he wouldn’t have missed any time with the high ankle sprain earlier this season. The team, though, held him back for two games.

“He’s tough as nails,” Moses said.

What drives Linderbaum, though, is he still feels there are so many areas where he can get better.

“I’m certainly not where I want to be, but I’ve definitely made steps from Year 1 to Year 2,” he said. “Trying to be more consistent has been a big focus point for me. There’s so many things that I can still get better at that I’m excited about.”

(Top photo: Scott Taetsch / Getty Images, Nick Cammett / Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

For Giants' Casey Kreiter, football is a snap and he's got it down to a science


New York Giants long snapper Casey Kreiter (58) adjusting his jersey before the start of an NFL football game against Washington Football Team, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Landover, Md. Credit: Al Drago


By Kimberly Jones


Updated December 23, 2023 5:41 pm

Casey Kreiter is a student of the game.

The Giants' long snapper takes his job seriously. He also takes it home with him.

“It’s truly like art,” Kreiter said in a conversation with Newsday. “My family thinks I’m nuts because I can talk pass protection for hours.”

If there were such a thing as eating, sleeping and breathing a job, Kreiter probably would sign up. He loves what he does.

And Giants special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey counts on him, to say the least.

“Casey’s the glue,” McGaughey said. “He’s the glue to our special teams unit. He is the quarterback of our punt team. He’s a great leader, he’s insightful, he thinks like a coach on the field.

"He gets the guys together every week. He does his own scouting report, writes it on the board, they come in, they watch it, they talk about it, each unit as a whole, and I couldn’t begin to explain to you how much he means to us as a special teams group.”

Those words meant a lot to Kreiter. Long snappers aren’t often singled out.

“It’s a thankless job,” McGaughey said.

To Kreiter, doing his job in relative anonymity is ideal. Nobody notices a great long snap. But everyone can recognize one that gets away.

Kreiter is a perfectionist because he has to be.

“I was a guy who learned to snap by doing it,” he said. “When I’m snapping now — and I don’t watch my snap because I have to protect — but I can tell you within six inches where the snap ends up on the punter’s catch just based on how it feels leaving my hand. But that’s because I’ve snapped millions of football in my life.”


“Easily in the millions,” he said. “I was a guy who learned how to snap by just doing it. I had to feel my way into perfecting it. Hundreds of snaps a day, any target. I wasn’t in camps, was kind of self-taught, and I take a lot of pride in that.”

Between six-tenths and seven-tenths of a second isn’t a lot of time, but that's the range of time long snappers have to deliver the ball. Kreiter said there’s some wiggle room there, but not a lot. And there also are potential pitfalls.

“If you snap the ball as a long snapper really, really fast but you’re not consistent, you may be adding time on the back end for the punter to adjust,” Kreiter said. “If he’s not comfortable catching the ball, it just adds time.

"If you’re not on the fast end of snapping but the punter is super-comfortable and you’re consistent, he knows where the ball’s going to be and he can be faster on his end. It’s a little like jazz. There’s a marriage between the punter and the snapper.”

Just ask former Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie, who played 13 seasons, made two Pro Bowls and was a two-time Super Bowl champion.

He told Newsday that when he was playing, he spent more time with his teammates on special teams than he did with his wife.

Buffalo long snapper Reid Ferguson summarized the job in this way: “I would say the hardest part of the position is being able to diagnose what the defense is trying to do pre-snap, delivering a perfect snap to your punter, then getting your head back up to block the defender.”

Kreiter knows he can control only what he can control.

“If you’re in your snap longer and you snap [the ball] faster but you don’t block the guy in front of you and the punt gets blocked, you don’t have anything to cover,'' he said. "It’s about trying to find the right marriage with everything.”

A year ago, the Giants' upback/punt protector was Julian Love. When he left in free agency, safety Dane Belton took over that role.

For Belton, the job is about “calling what I see. Making sure everyone’s on the same page. It’s really talking a lot to Casey [and sometimes the guards] on the punt teams. We have a lot of calls, so it’s about making sure everyone is on the same page, is set and we’re ready to go.

"Casey is the one guy who can coach every spot to perfection, top to bottom. He’s seen so many looks. He’s really a coach on the field. He’s the guy.”

Belton estimates there is “probably 1.2 seconds” to ultimately get a kick off.

“If you mess up,” he said, “they’re back there blocking the punt.”

Not on Kreiter’s watch.

“He’s a professional’s professional,” Belton said. “He takes pride in everything he does. He leads us in the right direction. Just being able to rely on Casey to answer questions, he always knows the answer and he’s going to make sure we’re on the right page.”

By Kimberly Jones


Thursday, December 21, 2023

T.J. Hockenson Will End 42-Year Vikings Drought


Dustin Baker

Dec 20, 2023

Nov 12, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) celebrates his touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports


Barring injury, Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson will make first-time-in-42-years franchise history in the next three weeks.

And it might even happen on Christmas Eve.

T.J. Hockenson Will End 42-Year Vikings Drought

The richest tight end in league history needs just 98 receiving yards to hit the 1,000 mark, and that’s only happened one time in Vikings history with a tight end — Joe Senser in 1981.

Nov 12, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) is tackled against the New Orleans Saints in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Others have gotten valiantly close, but Senser stands alone, at least for the next few days. Here’s the TE lay of the land in Vikings history per yards in a single season:

  1. Joe Senser (1981) — 1,004 yards
  2. T.J. Hockenson (2023) — 902 yards
  3. Steve Jordan (1986) — 859 yards
  4. Kyle Rudolph (2016) — 840 yards
  5. Steve Jordan (1985) — 795 yards


In 2022, Hockenson’s first [half] season in Minnesota, he produced 60 receptions for 519 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 10 games — not a bad opening salvo. Moreover, spread throughout an entire regular season and per-target basis, Hockenson could’ve — and will in 2023 — tabulated a 100+ catch, 1000+ yard season in Minnesota.

The offseason forecast suggesting Hockenson would have a sizable second act in Minnesota was correct. In fact, when Justin Jefferson was lost for seven games in October, one could argue Hockenson was a season saver.

The Vikings received Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-round pick (Jay Ward), and a 2024 fourth-round pick while giving up a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-rounder in November 2022 in a deal with the rival Detroit Lions.

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) catches a two-point conversion during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.


Too, the 27-year-old took a little heat at the beginning of the season. Hockenson fired up a couple of drops and failed to haul in every contested catch. Correspondingly and predictably, a small sect of Vikings fans screamed that Hockenson’s contract wasn’t worth it. The theory claimed Hockenson, at his lofty pricetag, should catch absolutely every ball in his vicinity.

Fast forward to Week 16, and those naysayers quieted, and the heat-of-the-moment panic was stupid. Hockenson is one of the NFL’s most productive tight ends in 2023, neck and neck with Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs) and Sam LaPorta (Detroit Lions). The Iowa alumnus is worth every penny and will be attached to the Vikings’ roster for the next four seasons.

Feb 4, 2023; Paradise, NV, USA; NFC tight end T.J. Hockenson of the Minnesota Vikings (87) during practice at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Meanwhile, Hockenson will chase Vikings history versus his old team. Minnesota plays Detroit twice in the next three weeks, with the Green Bay Packers in between, and if the Vikings win two of the contests, they’ll trot into the postseason.

So, write it down. Hockenson needs 98 yards to achieve a feat not accomplished in franchise history since 1981.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Titans use two-pointer strategy to defy the odds


By Mike Florio

Published December 12, 2023 12:34 AM


The Titans were 13-point underdogs to the Dolphins. Late in the fourth quarter, Miami was poised to beat the spread against Tennessee.

First went the cover. Then went the win.

Via TruMedia sports, the Titans became the first team this century to win in regulation after trailing by 14 or more points in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter.

It’s the first win by any team down 14 or more with less than three minutes to play since 2017, when the Saints beat Washington in overtime, 34-31. New Orleans had trailed 31-16 with three minutes left. Since then, teams trailing by 14 or more points with three minutes to play were 0-582.

The Titans avoided overtime on Monday night by using an increasingly common analytics wrinkle aimed at avoiding an extra session. After scoring a touchdown when previously down by 14, the trailing team goes for two. Fail to convert, and eight points are needed to force overtime. Make it, and seven point will win it.

That’s what Titans coach Mike Vrabel did. Tennessee went for two, got it, cut the margin to 27-21, forced a three-and-out, and then quickly went to work.

Almost too quickly. Miami had a chance to drive for a potential game-winning field goal, until Tennessee stopped Tua Tagovailoa and company on downs.

And so the Titans pulled off the sixth prime-time upset since the Bears beat the Vikings in Minnesota two weeks ago tonight. In so doing, Tennessee threw a giant wrench in Miami’s hopes to be the No. 1 seed in the AFC.



Monday, December 11, 2023

In the Kirk Ferentz Era, Iowa has now won…

The best NFL third-round draft pick in the history of each franchise


Updated 3 days ago (December 8, 2023)

By Seth Trachtman

Great middle-round picks can make all the difference for a franchise's future. These are the best third-round picks in the history of each NFL franchise.


Baltimore Ravens: Marshal Yanda, OG (2007)

Mitchell Layton / USA Today Sports Images

Yanda had quite a career as a key part of Baltimore's offensive line. He started for Baltimore almost immediately after being drafted in 2007 and made eight Pro Bowls. We could be seeing the 13-year pro in Canton soon enough.

T.J. Hockenson breaks Vikings single-season TE reception record


MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - NOVEMBER 12: T.J. Hockenson #87 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium on November 12, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)


Saivion Mixson 

With his 84th reception of the season, Minnesota Vikings TE T.J. Hockenson officially breaks the record for most receptions by a tight end in a single season. The record was formerly held by long-time tight end Kyle Rudolph in 2016.

Before this season started, the plan was for T.J. Hockenson to be the beneficiary of favorable looks due to the attention that Justin Jefferson attracted. With Jefferson out for seven weeks, someone had to step up and be the primary pass-catcher in the offense. Hockenson was that person.

Whether it was Kirk Cousins, Josh Dobbs, Jaren Hall or Nick Mullens, Hockenson was always available for an easy pitch-and-catch opportunity.

His combination of elite size mixed with surprising quickness and agility makes him a nightmare to cover in space and contested catch situations.

This off-season, Minnesota made Hockenson the highest-paid tight end in the league. It is safe to say that he has lived up to his contract.

Giants' Thomas McGaughey: Casey Kreiter the glue that holds us together


GLENDALE, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 17: Long snapper Casey Kreiter #59 of the New York Giants during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on September 17, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. The Giants defeated the Cardinals 31-28. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)



By Dan Benton 



New York Giants long-snapper Casey Kreiter is somewhat of a forgotten man. If he doesn’t make a mistake, he’s generally an afterthought to those in the media and the fans in the stands.

Inside of the building at 1925 Giants Drive, it’s a different story, however.

While meeting with reporters earlier this week, special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey heaped praise upon Kreiter and had to stop himself from carrying on for an extended period of time.

“Casey’s the glue. He is, he’s the glue to our special teams unit. He is the quarterback of our punt team,” McGaughey told reporters this week. “I couldn’t sit here and tell you how much he means to our special teams unit. He’s a great leader, he’s insightful, he thinks like a coach on the field, he’s a real leader in our room, he gets the guys together every week.

“He does his own scouting report, writes it on the board, they come in, they watch it, they talk about it, each unit as a whole, and I couldn’t begin to explain to you how much he means to us as a special teams group.”

Kreiter essentially serves as an extra assistant coach in addition to a player on the field. That will likely position him well when the time comes to hang up his cleats, as he’ll ultimately be afforded similar opportunities to another former Giant, Chase Blackburn.

Unfortunately for Kreiter, there isn’t much gloating to be done here in 2023. Through no fault of his own, the Giants’ special teams unit is among the worst in football.

TJ Hockenson sets single-season record for a Vikings tight end


Thursday, December 07, 2023

Jay Sawvel Named Head Coach of Cowboy Football


Current Cowboy Defensive Coordinator will take over program following Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl

Nick SeemanFootball12/6/2023 10:14:00 AM


LARAMIE, Wyo.  (Dec. 6, 2023) – Jay Sawvel was introduced by University of Wyoming Athletics Director Tom Burman as the new head coach of the Wyoming Cowboys during a team meeting on Wednesday morning. He will replace head coach Craig Bohl following Wyoming's bowl game against Toledo in the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl on Dec. 30. Bohl announced he will retire after the Toledo game to the team on Wednesday.  Bohl leaves the program after 10 seasons that saw him engineer one of the most successful runs in program history.
"Jay has done a masterful job in his time at Wyoming building strong relationships with players and staff," Burman said. "His defense embodies Wyoming's culture in that we play physical, disciplined and with passion."
Sawvel is the 33rd coach in Wyoming history and has served as the team's defensive coordinator and safeties coach since February of 2020.  Over his career, he has been part of 21 teams who advanced to postseason play, including 14 bowl appearances and seven NCAA Playoff appearances.
"His vision on the future of Cowboy Football energized me and I feel he will help us reach a Mountain West Championship in the near future," Burman said.
Sawvel has learned from some of the top minds in college football history. Some of the names include Craig Bohl, Lou Holtz, Roy Kidd and Jerry Kill. Of the seven head coaches that Sawvel has worked for, the group owns over 1,200 wins.
"I'm excited and honored to be the next head football coach at the University of Wyoming," Sawvel said. "I have loved working and learning under head coach Craig Bohl for the last four years. The infrastructure Coach Bohl has put into this program makes me very excited to be the next leader of this program."
The 2023 Cowboy defense ranks No. 17 in the nation thus far in turnovers gained. The Cowboys rank sixth in the nation this season with 11 fumble recoveries. The Wyoming defense ranks No. 24 in the nation in fewest yards allowed per pass attempts. Sawvel's 2023 defense ranks No. 2 in the Mountain West Conference in scoring defense (allowing only 22.9 points per game) and ranks No. 3 in the MW in total defense (allowing opponents only 360.2 yards per game).  Linebacker Easton Gibbs, a first-team All-MW selection finished the 2023 regular season averaging 8.8 tackles per game to rank No. 4 in the Mountain West and No. 29 in the nation.  Gibbs will enter Wyoming's bowl game with 359 career tackles as a Cowboy to rank eighth in school history and 13th among all active FBS players. Defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole, was a second-team All-MW selection ranking No. 3 among all Mountain West defensive linemen in tackles this season, averaging 4.8 tackles per game. Safety Wyett Ekeler ranked third on the Cowboy team in tackles this season with 75 and ranked No. 9 among MW defensive backs in tackles, averaging 6.25 per game.  Ekeler was twice named MW Defensive Player of the Week in 2023 and was an honorable mention All-MW selection.
Sawvel's 2022 defense ranked No. 2 in the Mountain West and No. 21 in the nation in sacks, averaging 2.85 per game.  His defense also ranked No. 2 in the MW and No. 33 in the FBS in defensive touchdowns scored, with two.  Sawvel's defense featured three All-MW honorees as selected by coaches and media.  Those three were: Easton Gibbs (LB), who earned First Team All-MW; and defensive end DeVonne Harris and cornerback Cam Stone, who both earned Honorable Mention honors.  Phil Steele's All-MW team included: Gibbs and Stone on his First Team; defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole on his Second Team; and Harris on Steele's Fourth Team.  Freshman defensive end Braden Siders was also named an Honorable Mention Freshman All-American by College Football News.

The Wyoming Cowboys entered the 2022 college football season as the fourth youngest team in the country.  But given that, the Cowboys went on to record a 7-6 record, finish second in the Mountain West Conference Mountain Division and earn a spot in the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl.  Along the way the '22 Pokes defeated rivals Air Force, Colorado State, Hawai'i, Utah State and American Athletic Conference member Tulsa.  Wyoming's 7-6 record gave them their fifth winning season in the past seven seasons.   

The Cowboy defense in 2021 was one of the top pass defenses in the nation.  Wyoming allowed opponents only 189.8 passing yards per game to rank No. 1 in the Mountain West and No. 12 in the nation.  The Cowboy defense was also No. 13 in the nation in defensive touchdowns scored, with three.  Wyoming held opponents to 23.7 points per game in the 2021 season to rank No. 5 in the MW and No. 43 in the country out of 130 FBS programs.  The Cowboys posted a 7-6 record and won their third consecutive bowl game, with a convincing 52-38 win over Kent State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. 

Linebacker Chad Muma was one of six national finalists for the Butkus Award in 2021.  Muma earned Second Team All-America honors from the Walter Camp Football Foundation and Pro Football Focus and was a Third Team selection by Associated Press.  He was selected as the Sixth Pick in the Third Round (70th overall) by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2022 NFL Draft.  Sawvel also had six of his defenders earn All-Mountain West Conference honors in 2021.  Muma was a First Team selection (MW Coaches/Media and Pro Football Focus), cornerback C.J. Coldon (Second Team MW Coaches/Media), nose tackle Cole Godbout (Second Team Pro Football Focus and Honorable Mention MW Coaches/Media), cornerback Azizi Hearn (Second Team Pro Football Focus), defensive end Garrett Crall (Honorable Mention MW Coaches/Media), linebacker Easton Gibbs (Honorable Mention Pro Football Focus).      

In his first season guiding the Wyoming defense as defensive coordinator in 2020, the Cowboys were among the best in the country, ranking No. 16 in the nation in total defense, allowing opponents only 328.0 yards per game.  UW's defense also ranked No. 21 in rushing defense (125.3 yards per game), No. 24 in scoring defense (21.0 points per game) and No. 29 in pass defense (202.7 yards per game).  Three of his Cowboy defenders earned All-Conference recognition in 2020.  Junior linebacker Chad Muma earned First Team All-Mountain West honors from MW head coaches and media.  Senior free safety Esaias Gandy earned Honorable Mention honors from the conference head coaches and media, and sophomore cornerback C.J. Coldon earned Fourth Team All-MW from Phil Steele.

Before coming to Wyoming, Sawvel 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 Jerry 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), total defense (21st) and sacks (22nd).  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.

Sawvel was a member of the Southern Illinois staff under Kill for seven seasons from 2001-07, working with the secondary and special teams.

His first full-time coaching position came at Ferris State for two seasons from 1999-2000, where he coached the defensive backs and special teams.

Sawvel was a three-year letterwinner and an All-Conference linebacker in 1993 at Division III power Mount Union.  He earned a bachelor's degree in 1993 in sports management with minors in business administration, information systems and physical education.  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 1996-98 seasons.  Sawvel owns master's degrees from both Eastern Kentucky and Notre Dame, where he completed his master's in administration.

Sawvel has two daughters, Mackenzie and Miranda.

Coaching Experience
2020-                 Wyoming, Defensive Coordinator/Safeties
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


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