Wyoming Adds Linebacker’s Coach

photo courtesy of UW Athletics Department

by staff–12 Feb ’19

The Wyoming Football coaching staff added a great deal of experience on Monday, as head coach Craig Bohl announced the hiring of Jay Niemann as Wyoming’s new linebackers coach.  Niemann will be entering his 35th season as a college football coach in 2019.

      For the past eight seasons, Niemann has served as a defensive coordinator at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level.  He was most recently the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Rutgers University for three seasons from 2016-18.  Prior to that, Niemann served as the defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Northern Illinois University for five seasons from 2011-15.

      Niemann has five additional years of experience serving as a defensive coordinator — two seasons at Drake University and three seasons at Hardin-Simmons University — and he has six years of head-coaching experience at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa.   

      “Jay (Niemann) brings great experience to our staff,” said Bohl.  “He has operated as a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at all levels of college football.  He was part of a very successful program at Northern Illinois.  His understanding of coaching linebackers should really benefit our linebacker group, and he will bring a wealth of knowledge overall to our defensive meeting room.”

      “I am thrilled to be joining Coach (Craig) Bohl’s staff and becoming a part of the Cowboy football family,” said Niemann.  “I have followed Coach Bohl since his days at Nebraska, and I have always had tremendous respect and admiration for his success.  He embodies what coaching is all about by operating with great integrity and class and developing players into young men who will be successful in life. 

      “It isn’t often you get the privilege to work for a coach who has won multiple national championships.  It truly is a blessing, and I am thankful to have this opportunity.”

      Niemann’s 2018 defense at Rutgers ranked No. 19 in the nation and No. 4 in the Big Ten in pass defense, allowing opponents only 186.7 yards per game.  The Scarlet Knights ranked 45th in the nation in pass defense efficiency, with a rating of 123.29.  They were No. 6 in the 14-team Big Ten and No. 46 in the nation in red-zone defense (.814).  Three Rutgers defenders earned postseason honors from the Big Ten.  Senior safety Saquan Hampton was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten by both the coaches and media.  Senior linebacker Trevor Morris was an Honorable Mention honoree by the media, and senior cornerback Isaiah Wharton received the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.  Two Scarlet Knights ranked among the Big Ten leaders in tackles in 2018.  Morris ranked No. 3, averaging 9.1 tackles per game.  Fellow senior linebacker Deonte Roberts ranked No. 11 in the league, averaging 7.9 tackles per game.

      Niemann’s Scarlet Knight defense in 2017 was key in victories over Purdue (14-12), Illinois (35-24) and Maryland (31-24).   Rutgers’ defense ranked No. 48 in the nation in fewest opponent first downs allowed (243) and No. 55 in fewest passing yards allowed (216.8).  Four Scarlet Knight defenders earned All-Big Ten recognition.  Defensive back Kiy Hester was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten by both coaches and media.  Linebacker Trevor Morris received Honorable Mention recognition from the media.  Defensive back Damon Hayes earned Honorable Mention honors from the media, and defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph was named Honorable Mention by the coaches.

      Niemann’s first season as defensive coordinator at Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights ranked No. 6 in the nation in red zone defense (.727) and 18th in passing yards allowed per game (186.5).  Cornerback Blessuan Austin, who ranked second in the Big Ten and 12th nationally with 1.4 passes defended per game, received Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honors from the media.

      Prior to Rutgers, Niemann served as the defensive coordinator at Northern Illinois.  The Huskies won the Mid-American Conference West Division all five seasons (2011-15) and captured the MAC Championship three times (2011, ‘12 and ‘14).  The Huskies played in a bowl game each of those five seasons, including: winning the 2011 GoDaddy Bowl; playing in the Orange Bowl at the conclusion of the 2012 season; appearing in the Poinsettia Bowl twice, in 2013 and 2015; and the Boca Raton Bowl in 2014.

      Niemann’s top defensive player at NIU was safety Jimmie Ward, who after an outstanding college career was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The 30th overall pick, Ward led the Huskies in tackles in each of his final two seasons at Northern Illinois.  In all, Niemann’s Huskie defense produced seven players who signed with NFL teams, including: Ward, Rashaan Melvin, Alan Baxter, Sean Progar, Ken Bishop, Joe Windsor and Pat Schiller.

      In 2015, NIU was ranked eighth in the nation in turnovers gained (29) and fourth in interceptions (22).  In Niemann’s defense, sophomore cornerback Shawun Lurry led the FBS with nine interceptions and earned multiple All-America honors.  The defensive unit posted 26 sacks with 15 different players involved in at least a half sack. Overall, four Huskies on the defensive side were named All-MAC, with three first-team selections.

      The 2014 season saw the Huskie defensive unit force 24 turnovers and hold six opponents to 17 points or less. Six NIU defensive players earned All-MAC honors under Niemann’s guidance, including first-team selections Jason Meehan and Paris Logan.

      In 2012, the NIU defense held five opponents to nine points or less en route to a second straight MAC title and a historic berth in the Orange Bowl at the conclusion of the season.  The Huskie defensive unit totaled 40 sacks in 2012, which was the second best total in NIU school history.

      His first season in DeKalb in 2011, Niemann oversaw the development of a young defense.  In the 2011 MAC Championship game, the NIU defense shut out Ohio in the second half en route to a 23-20 victory, the school’s first MAC football title in 28 years.

      Niemann came to NIU after spending three seasons as co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Hardin-Simmons University in Texas.  During his tenure with the Cowboys, Niemann helped turn a defense that ranked last in the nation prior to his arrival into the No. 2 unit in the American Southwest Conference in 2009.  He helped guide Hardin-Simmons to the first round of the 2008 NCAA Division III playoffs.

      He compiled a 32-29 record in his six seasons (2002-07) as head coach at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa.  He led the Storm to the 2003 NCAA Division III Playoffs while also serving as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach.  He was named the 2003 Conference Coach of the Year.

      Niemann coached the secondary (1997, 2001), linebackers (1998-2000) and served as defensive coordinator (1999-2000) during his five seasons at Northern Iowa (1997-2001).  The Panthers advanced to the semifinals of the 2001 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (then Division I-AA) playoffs.  One of Niemann’s players at Northern Iowa was cornerback Ty Talton, who went on to play in the NFL.

      Prior to his arrival at UNI, Niemann spent eight seasons at Drake University (1989-96).  After serving as the defensive backs coach from 1989-94, he was promoted to defensive coordinator and assistant head coach in 1995.  In his final three seasons, the Bulldog defense ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense, pass efficiency defense and total defense.

      He began his coaching career in 1985 at Western Washington where he coached the linebackers and special teams units while pursuing his master’s degree.  Niemann accepted the graduate assistant position at the University of Washington in 1986, working with the Husky linebackers and defensive backs from 1986-88 and coaching under UW legends Don James and Jim Lambright.

      A native of Avoca, Iowa, Niemann completed his bachelors’ degree in physical education from Iowa State in 1983, and he received his master’s degree in educational administration from Western Washington in 1987.  He played linebacker at Iowa State from 1979-82. 

      Niemann and his wife, Lou Ann, have two sons, Ben and Nick.

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