KNOXVILLE -- Judging by the NFL-caliber defections from this season's roster and uncertainty from their potential replacements, one could reasonably argue that the University of Tennessee's defense will need to do more with less next fall.
If that's the case, what better place to pluck a coordinator from than BCS-buster Boise State?
The Volunteers officially hired Broncos' defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox on Wednesday.
Wilcox, 33, coordinated the defense throughout Boise's 49-4 run the past four seasons, including two BCS bowl victories. The Broncos led the Western Athletic Conference all four seasons in total defense and scoring defense, and they were also typically among the nation's leaders in several categories.
"It's an unbelievable opportunity," Wilcox said of his new job. "I'm really humbled to be considered and for Coach Dooley to offer me the job. Boise State is an incredible place, and I really wasn't looking to leave there. All this happened pretty fast.
"But after talking with Coach Dooley and a couple of the other coaches, and getting a feel for the way he wants to model the program and a lot of the philosophies he has, I just felt like it was a great opportunity at an unbelievable place in terms of the tradition. I think it's just one of those things that was too good to pass up, and I'm excited to be here."
Wilcox, the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Dave Wilcox, entered the coaching business immediately following his collegiate career. He was named All-Pac 10 as a senior cornerback at Oregon in 1999 before spending two seasons as a Boise graduate assistant. He returned to Boise as coordinator after a three-year stint as California's linebackers coach.
Cal went 26-12 during Wilcox's stay, giving his teams a 75-16 overall record in the seven seasons he's been a full-time coach.
Dooley became increasingly familiar with Wilcox the past three seasons, when UT's head coach patrolled the sidelines for WAC program Louisiana Tech.
"I've watched every game he's ever coached, and the best resume for a coach is the film," Dooley said. "There's no better resume. You can get a piece of paper, you can get 28 coaches calling and recommending him, you can get players recommending him. But when you just watch the film, and you watch how his players play -- the toughness, the effort, the discipline, the multiple schematic issues -- it was good, and I was always impressed with him.
"What really sold me on Justin was the three hours I spent eyeball-to-eyeball with him. He believes in the same things I believe. He's got a great personality. He's very humble. He wants to grow professionally. I'm happy to have him. I'm very thrilled."
Dooley wouldn't comment specifically on UT's new defensive philosophy, but he admitted the Vols would implement a "multiple 40" base. The 40 defense is a variation of the 4-3 that generally offers more flexibility. Dooley said the Vols would have packages with three and four down linemen.
Wilcox has earned a reputation for outside-the-box thinking -- something that's been encouraged for years at Boise -- and the Fiesta Bowl win over TCU last month was the most recent example. Wilcox redesigned the Broncos' base into a version of the 3-2-6, and the new look held the previously-undefeated Horned Frogs to 272 yards and 10 points.
"His ability to be multiple was a factor, but it wasn't the determining factor," Dooley said. "His core was the difference. There's a lot of guys that can go out there and draw that stuff up. They can move this guy here, put that guy here, and then they go clinic around the country, and everybody says he's a guru. But a good coach, there's a lot that goes into it. How does he communicate? How does he teach? What are the expectations you're going to set? How does he react when a guy is not performing well? What does he do when it gets tough? What does he do when things happen and don't go his way?
"There's so many other intangible values that I look for in a coach more so than, 'He dropped that end, and boy, that was a good scheme right there.' We can watch somebody else and get that."
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