For the last 15 years, Tracy Claeys has been Jerry Kill's right hand man. Since joining Kill in 1995, Claeys has produced top defensive units at each of his coaching stops and the Kansas native has continued that tradition at Northern Illinois.
Under Claeys, Northern Illinois has boasted the No. 1 defense in the Mid-American Conference in each of the last two seasons.
Last year's "no-name" defense topped the MAC and ranked 30th in the country in total defense. The Huskies were also among the top 30 FBS teams in the country in scoring defense and held opponents' below 125 yards per game on the ground.
In 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 boasted the second-most improved scoring defense in the nation in 2008 and NIU finished in the top 20 nationally in three categories - fifth in pass defense, 14th in scoring defense and 17th in total defense. Rivals.com named Claeys as the MAC's Defensive Coordinator of the Year for 2008.
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.
In his last five years at Southern Illinois, Claeys' defenses allowed just 18.5 points per game while holding opponents to 14 points or less 21 times, including five shutouts.
Claeys' 2007 unit helped SIU reach the FCS National Semifinal, as they ranked as the 10th-best scoring defense in the country (FCS) and the second-best scoring defense at SIU since 1983. The 2007 group also intercepted 21 passes to rank fourth in the nation.
The 2007 defense at SIU was overshadowed only by the 2004 squad. That group led the country in scoring defense, allowing just 13.2 points per game. The Salukis gave up only 101.7 yards per game on the ground while snagging 17 interceptions.
The SIU defense also had standout years under Claeys in 2005, when the team ranked 13th nationally in rushing defense, and in 2003, when the unit was 18th in the country in total defense.
Prior to his time at SIU, Claeys served with Kill as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Emporia State (1999-2000). From 1995-99, he worked with the Saginaw Valley State linebackers for one year and was the defensive line coach for three years. In addition, he served as assistant athletic director at SVSU, where his duties included oversight of the daily operation of the Detroit Lions' training camp held at the university.
Claeys began his coaching career after earning his bachelor's degree in secondary education from Kansas State University in 1994. His first coaching position came as the co-defensive coordinator at Santa Fe Trail High School, where he coached in 1994.
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