By Mike Hendrickson
Tracy Claeys is already making Minnesota’s staff his own.
Minnesota’s head coach said Monday morning it was a difficult decision to not renew the contracts of former offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Limegrover and former quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Jim Zebrowski, but he wanted to run things differently on offense.
Claeys said the main reason for the change is that he only wanted one person calling plays on offense. Limegrover and Zebrowski shared played calling duties.
"I love 75, 80 percent of what we do, so this isn’t going to be a total overhaul,” Claeys said. “The main thing is just getting back to a one-structure, one guy in charge on game day.”
The search of a new offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and quarterbacks coach may go until the end of January, Claeys said, though the positions could be filled before then.
Claeys said in an “ideal world,” he would only make two new hires. One would serve as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and the other would be the offensive line coach.
Adding just two members to the coaching staff would allow Minnesota to keep four coaches on defense.
Sawvel targeted for promotion
Minnesota defensive backs and special teams coach Jay Sawvel is being highly considered by Claeys to be the team’s new defensive coordinator.
Claeys filled the role before being promoted to interim head coach in the wake of Jerry Kill’s retirement.
The two will sit down after the current recruiting period ends in the middle of December to discuss it, Claeys said.
“Jay has been with me a long time and he’s a hell of a coach,” Claeys said. “I want to make sure that I get a chance to talk to Jay and his family and make sure that is truly the way he wants to do it also.”
O’Brien added to coaching staff
Dan O’Brien has been hired as co-special teams coordinator, assistant defensive backs coach and assistant to the head coach, Claeys announced Monday.
O’Brien has been at the University of Minnesota since 2008, serving as the director of football operations until 2014 when he was promoted to senior associate athletic director.
“Dan will be my sounding board,” Claeys said. “I’m excited, all our coaches are, about having Dan and his family join us.”
O’Brien previously served as a head coach and athletics director at Concordia University in St. Paul from 1995-2002 and was the athletics director at Hamline University until 2007.