Claeys shakes up Gophers coaching staff
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys fired offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover and quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski on Sunday, acting swiftly and decisively as he embarks on his first offseason as a head coach.
Claeys made the moves one day after the Golden Gophers lost to Wisconsin to finish 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the Big Ten. Claeys took over as coach with five games remaining after Jerry Kill was forced to retire because of epilepsy.
Limegrover had worked with Kill and Claeys dating to 1999 when the staff was at Emporia State. Kill prided himself on the continuity of his staff and said it was key in helping to rebuild every program they entered, including Northern Illinois and Minnesota.
Limegrover also served as Minnesota’s offensive line coach.
"Matt and Jim are both terrific people and coaches, but I have decided to make a change that will better fit my offensive philosophy, which is to have one coordinator calling the plays," Claeys said in a statement issued by the school. "They have been great representatives for the university and always put our student-athletes first, and I thank them for their contributions to our program and wish them well in the future."
The new Gophers football boss also announced the hiring of former senior associate athletic director Dan O’Brien on Monday, who will fill an open defensive position on Claeys’ coaching staff.
A native of Winthrop, Minn., O’Brien served as the Gophers’ director of football operations from 2008-2014.
O’Brien will recruit Minnesota-based players as part of his new role along with linebacker coach Mike Sherels.
The Gophers struggled all season to find consistency on offense while dealing with a rash of injuries to the offensive line. Quarterback Mitch Leidner was up and down in his second full season as a starter and the Gophers finished 13th out of 14 Big Ten teams in scoring offense at 22.6 points per game and 12th in total offense.
Claeys was elevated to head coach Oct. 28 after serving as the defensive coordinator, and he hinted to some changes coming on the offensive side of the ball the day he took over. He went 1-4 in his five games at the helm to finish this season and signed a three-year contract on Nov. 11.