Kill Announces Hiring of Claeys, Limegrover

University of Minnesota head football coach Jerry Kill announced the first two hires to his new staff Friday. Joining Coach Kill on the Golden Gopher coaching staff will be Tracy Claeys and Matt Limegrover. Claeys, 41, will serve as Minnesota's defensive coordinator. Limegrover, 42, has been named to the offensive coordinator position.

Both Claeys and Limegrover served in the same capacities on Kill's staffs at Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois.

"I feel fortunate in this situation to get both coordinators on board," Kill said. "They've been with me a long time. There's a wealth of experience there. They understand what I want and what I expect. That gives us a good start to putting what we want together."

"When Coach Kill gave me the opportunity to come here, I was very excited," Claeys said. "What a great place to coach, here at the U. I'm very privileged to have the opportunity to be here. I look forward to getting to work with the kids and getting to know them. To have everything so close and together here in this building is very user-friendly for the student-athletes and the coaches. All that makes our job easier."

"I'm very excited to be here," Limegrover said. "I feel it's an unbelievable opportunity. I can't wait to get going. You can't ask for anything more. There's no reason we can't build a winner. We've heard from quite a few people that Minnesota football is a sleeping giant. After being around here for just a few hours, I can see why people feel that way."

Claeys has been been an assistant coach under Kill for the last 16 years. He 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 is currently ranked No. 16 in the nation and No. 1 in the Mid-American Conference in scoring defense, allowing an average of just 19.08 points per game. The Huskies are also No. 24 in the nation in pass efficiency defense, No. 26 in total defense and No. 27 in rushing defense.

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 last 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. named Claeys as the MAC's Defensive Coordinator of the Year for 2008.

"Tracy Claeys and our defensive group for the last three years led the conference in scoring defense," Kill said. "He's coached several guys who have played in the NFL. He's an outstanding coach and person. He doesn't have any hobbies except for football. I know he's going to sink his heels in get after it."

Claeys' 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. Other NFL players he tutored include 10-year NFL veteran DE Paul Spicer at Saginaw Valley State, and current New York Giants' linebacker Bart Scott at Southern Illinois, a 2006 Pro-Bowler as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

Claeys graduated from Kansas State University in 1994. He is a native of Clay Center, Kan.

Limegrover has been on Kill's staff for the last 12 years. He began his coaching career in 1991 at the University of Chicago, where he coached the tight ends in 1991, the offensive line in 1992, became offensive coordinator in 1993 and interim head coach in 1994. Limegrover then moved on to a graduate assistant position at Northwestern for two seasons. He was the offensive line coach and run game coordinator at Ferris State in 1997 and 1998.

Limegrover then caught on with Kill as offensive line coach at Emporia State in 1999. He coached the offensive line and ran the offense when Kill took over the Southern Illinois program and maintained both of those responsibilities with NIU.

Limegrover was in charge of an offensive unit that ranks among the nation's best in 2010. The Huskies are currently No. 7 in the nation and No. 1 in the MAC in rushing offense (264.8 ypg). NIU also leads the MAC in scoring offense (37.9 ppg, No. 13 in the nation) and total offense (445.9 ypg, No. 21 in the nation).

In addition to the team rankings, Limegrover's offense produced the No. 1 rusher in the MAC for the past two seasons. Chad Spann currently averages just less than 100 yards per game and ranks No. 20 in the nation in rushing. Spann is a two-time first-team All-MAC selection and was chosen as the league's most valuable player in 2010.

Over the last three seasons, Limegrover's offensive linemen have earned All Mid-American Conference recognition seven times, including 2010 first-team selections Scott Wedige and Trevor Olson.

The Huskie line gave up only 15 quarterback sacks in 2009. NIU also led the MAC and ranked 19th nationally in rushing with 202.42 yards per game last year.

"We were fortunate to have a very good offensive football team," Kill said of Limegrover's unit at Northern Illinois. "He's also an offensive line coach. Those guys are hard to find – the good ones -- and he's special. He's been part of a Rose Bowl and part of the Big Ten. That's important."

Limegrover spent seven seasons with Kill at Southern Illinois. With the Salukis, he coordinated a prolific offense that ranked in the top 10 in scoring for six straight years (2002-07).

During his tenure, SIU averaged 207.8 yards per game on the ground, and totaled more than 3,000 rushing yards in four different seasons. Four of the top five rushing seasons in school history came under the guidance of Limegrover. Limegrover's rushing offense gained more than 18,000 yards on the ground at SIU, and his passing attack produced better than a 2-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Limegrover coached five FCS All-Americans at SIU, including two offensive linemen. Under Limegrover's direction, the Salukis' 2004 offense set school records for yards (502.7) and points (42.6) per game and touchdowns (67). In 2007, the Salukis produced 3,293 yards and scored 28 touchdowns through the air, also school records.

Both Claeys and Limegrover deserve credit for Northern Illinois' turnover margin of +0.77 per game in 2010, which ranks No. 2 in the MAC and No. 18 in the nation. The Huskie offense has turned the ball over just 14 times in 13 games this season to rank No. 8 in the nation. The NIU defense has 24 takeaways to rank No. 34.

Limegrover is a 1991 graduate of the University of Chicago. The Pittsburgh, Pa. native holds a master's degree from Northwestern, where he served as a graduate assistant coach and was a part of two Big Ten championship teams. He and his wife Ann have two children – Emma (7) and T.J. (5).

Both Claeys and Limegrover began their duties at Minnesota on Friday.

Courtesy: University of Minnesota Communications

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