Niemann and Woods added to Kansas football staff as analysts; Knisely takes over as director of football video operations
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Head coach Les Miles continues to fill out the support staff for Kansas football as Jay Niemann and Christopher Woods were added as analysts and Alex Knisely has been hired to serve as the director of football video operations.
Jay Niemann, Analyst – Defense
Jay Niemann has joined the Kansas football staff as an analyst on the defensive side of the ball. He comes to KU after spending the previous three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Rutgers. Niemann has over 25 years of coaching experience, including eight seasons as a defensive coordinator
Prior to his three seasons at Rutgers, Niemann led the defense for a Northern Illinois program that won the Mid-American Conference West division in five-straight seasons with three league titles. Also coaching the safeties, the Huskies played in a bowl game in all of those seasons, including a berth in the 2013 Orange Bowl.
In his first season in DeKalb, Niemann oversaw the development of a young defense. By week six, the Huskies turned in their best defensive game of the season statistically and 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 went 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.
Niemann compiled a 32-29 record in his six seasons as head coach at Simpson (2002-07). He led the Storm to the 2003 NCAA playoffs while also serving as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach.
Niemann coached the secondary, linebackers and filled the role of defensive coordinator during his five seasons at Northern Iowa. One of Niemann’s UNI pupils, cornerback Ty Talton, went on to play in the NFL.
Prior to his arrival at UNI, Niemann spent eight seasons at Drake. After serving as the defensive backs coach from 1989-94, he was promoted to defensive coordinator/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.
Niemann began his coaching career in 1985 at Western Washington where he coached the linebackers and special teams units. He accepted the graduate assistant position at the University of Washington, working with the Husky linebackers and defensive backs from 1986-88.
A graduate of Iowa State, Niemann played football for the Cyclones from 1979-82 as a linebacker. He earned his master’s degree from Western Washington in 1988. Niemann and his wife, Lou Ann, have two sons, Ben and Nick.
Christopher Woods, Senior Analyst – Defense
Christopher Woods has joined the Kansas football staff as a senior analyst for the defense. Woods comes to KU after spending the 2018 campaign as the defensive coordinator at Texas State. He has nearly 25 years of experience, including six seasons as a head coach and 14 years as a defensive specialist and coordinator. Additionally, he was the interim head coach for the final game of the 2018 season at TSU.
During his season at Texas State, the Bobcats’ defense improved drastically in many statistical areas including total defense (+49 spots in the FBS rankings), scoring defense (+31), pass defense (+87), pass efficiency defense (+81), turnovers gained (+48) and yards per play allowed (+57). Woods mentored the inside linebackers with both of his starters in 2018 leading the Sun Belt Conference in tackles, on their way to earning all-conference honors.
Woods joined Texas State after serving the previous three seasons as a defensive specialist at Oklahoma. While he was at Oklahoma, the Sooners won three-consecutive Big 12 championships, made two appearances in the College Football Playoff and won the 2016 Sugar Bowl.
Woods joined the Sooners’ coaching staff in 2015 after working three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Holmes Community College in Mississippi. While he was there, Holmes had its first winning season and best conference finish since 2000. He also was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Columbia for one year.
Prior to his time at Columbia, Woods served three years as the defensive line coach/special teams coordinator at Bryant University. Woods led a Bryant defense that was ranked first in the Northeast Conference in scoring defense with 17.3 points allowed per game and finished the season ranked second in both passing defense (141.5 yards allowed) and total defense (287.4 ypg) in 2009.
In his first season at Bryant, the Bulldogs finished the year nationally ranked in several defensive categories, including rushing defense (16th – 100.82 yards per game) and sacks (tied for 15th with 2.64 sacks per game).
Woods spent the 2007 season at another Ivy League school, Harvard, where he coached the Crimson’s special teams and linebackers.
Woods was the head coach at Stonehill College for three seasons (2004-06), following a successful three-year term as head coach at Mansfield, where he was named the PSAC coach of the year and the AFCA Region II coach of the year in 2003. Woods led the Mountaineers to an 8-3 record in his third year, its first winning season since 1975.
Woods spent four years (1996-99) as an assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Wittenberg, where he helped that program to a 40-4 record and two appearances in the NCAA playoffs.
Woods also served as interim head coach at Plymouth State in 1994-95 and was part of two teams that went undefeated in the regular season and advanced to the NCAA Division III tournament.
Originally from Milton, Massachusetts, Woods attended Boston College High School before continuing his playing career at Davidson. Graduating in 1991, Woods served as captain of the football team. He was the Wildcats’ team MVP as a senior and started in a school-record 41 games.
A member of the AFCA since 1994, Woods was a member of the NCAA Northeast Regional Advisory Committee and has been a regular speaker and clinician in New England and the Midwest. He and his wife, Stephanie, have two children: a son, Braden, and a daughter, Hannah.
Alex Knisely, Director of Football Video Operations
Alex Knisely joined the Kansas as the director of football video operations in January of 2019 after spending the previous two seasons serving as the assistant director of video operations for the Northwestern football program.
Prior to her time at Northwestern, Knisely held the position of video coordinator at both FIU and Eastern Michigan. Knisely got her start at Georgia, where she was a student video assistant with the Bulldogs football program, while earning her bachelor’s degree in mass media arts.