Wilcox focus is on Vols

Wilcox focus is on Vols

December 23rd, 2010 by Wes Rucker in Sports

Knoxville News Sentinel Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox works with players, from left, Tyler Wills, Charles Karlosky and Grant Jessen during spring practice at Haslam Field. This was Wilcox's first campaign with the Vols after spending the previous four years as defensive coordinator at Boise State.

Knoxville News Sentinel Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox works...

KNOXVILLE -- University of Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox met with the media after Wednesday morning's practice, but he didn't disclose his level of interest in a similar position at the University of Texas.

Wilcox, who is paid $600,000 in the first year of a three-year contract with Tennessee, has become at least a viable option for the position at Texas. Sources from both programs have confirmed that.

Still, Wilcox maintained that his "sole focus" remains on the Volunteers and their preparations for a Dec. 30 Music City Bowl game against North Carolina.

"OK, guys, I know what you guys are doing here all of a sudden," Wilcox said with his typical smile. "Here's the deal: I have a great job at Tennessee. I have not been offered any other jobs. I'm not in discussions about any other jobs. I believe 100 percent in what we're doing here at Tennessee. I back Coach [Derek] Dooley 100 percent in where this program is going.

"My sole focus, 100 percent, along with all the other coaches, is getting ready for North Carolina. That's what I've spent my time doing, and will continue to spend my time doing.

"So that's about it. We can talk about North Carolina."

Jimmy Stanton, Tennessee's Associate Athletic Director for Communications, told reporters before Wilcox's interview that the coach would open with a statement and then only take questions about the Vols' bowl game.

When reporters asked non-bowl questions, including one specifically about his reported contact with Texas head coach Mack Brown, Stanton interrupted and said, "Guys, he's not going to go into that."

All Wilcox added about his job situation is that it hasn't been a distraction.

"There's no distraction," said Wilcox, who added that Tennessee's other coaches haven't asked him about the matter. "I've been up there working the whole time. I don't know. We're practicing and we're up there getting ready for North Carolina. That's all we're doing."

Sources close to the Texas program have indicated that Brown will wait until after Tennessee's bowl game to replace the departed Will Muschamp -- who is now Florida's head coach -- and some have indicated that Wilcox is one of the top candidates, possibly atop the list.

Dooley didn't meet with the media on Wednesdays -- a day typically reserved for his assistants to speak with reporters -- but he said earlier this week he wasn't "losing sleep" over his assistants' futures.

"[Others] can call my coaches all the time and offer them anything they want, and if our coaches want to leave, they can leave," Dooley said earlier this week. "I'm not going to beg a guy to stay, because I've got thousands of them right behind him waiting for their job. And we don't depend on an assistant coach, just like one player doesn't make a program. We have a staff. We have an organization. I believe this is a phenomenal job, and I believe our coaches are happy. It's a great job. They're well-compensated. We've got some good talent here. And we've got a chance to do some special things. I'm losing sleep over North Carolina, not our coaches."

Dooley on Monday said he wasn't aware of reports from Texas that Wilcox's departure was Knoxville was imminent and inevitable.

"I'm not talking about Internet rumors," Dooley said. "I'm not talking about Lance Thompson and Justin Wilcox and Jim Chaney. I'm not going to do that, guys, because every year there's going to be talk about our coaches going somewhere, because we have a good staff, and that's a good thing. Every year I talk to all of our coaches about other opportunities -- 'Where do you want to head professionally? What are you thinking long-term wise? How can I help you?' -- because we all are in it for Tennessee, but then everybody's got their personal goals that they have.

"And I don't think that's worthy of public record. I don't think that's a fair thing."

Contact Wes Rucker at wrucker@timesfreepress.com or 865-851-9739. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/wesruckerCTFP or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tfpvolsbeat.