Wilcox to coordinate Vol D

Securing commitments from defensive prospects would've been easier for new Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley if he'd had a coordinator in place during the recruiting process. But Dooley was determined to get the right fit, even if it meant waiting until Signing Day to announce a hire.

Which is precisely what he did.

All but lost in the excitement of adding 17 prospects was the fact the Vols finally added a defensive coordinator. Justin Wilcox, 33, is fresh from a highly successful stint coordinating the defense at Boise State.

The Broncos went 49-4 in Wilcox' four years directing the defense, capped by a 14-0 season in 2009 that began with a 19-8 upset of Oregon and ended with a 17-10 Fiesta Bowl defeat of Texas Christian.

Boise State ranked No. 3 nationally in turnover margin last fall, No. 14 in total defense and No. 14 in scoring defense. The 2008 Broncos were No. 3 in scoring defense, allowing just 12.6 points per game, and the 2006 Broncos were No. 8 nationally in rushing defense.

Having a coordinator in place to meet with defensive prospects on their official visits would've been advantageous but Dooley was more concerned with a good hire than good timing. He knew precisely what he wanted in a coordinator and was unwilling to settle for less.

"When I'm looking for a coach, you really have to have two critical components," Dooley said. "One is the obvious: He's got to be very good at Xs and Os, have a history of good coaching.

"But, more importantly, you've got to be a good person who believes in what I believe in coaching - how we're going to develop these young men, how we're going to support them, how we're going to coach them..."

Dooley also said he wants aides who "believe in the staff dynamic and believe in the team chemistry."

Although several coaches reportedly declined the Vol vacancy before Wilcox accepted, Dooley insists it was a highly prized position.

"There's a thousand coaches that wanted that job," he said. "Finding the right person that was going to fit was more important to me than some resume' hire.

"I told the players: 'Look, I could go hire a guy right now that has 15 or 20 years' coordinator experience in the NFL but that's not really fair to you as a player. What's important to me is that I get the right coach that fits on this staff that is going to support you the way I want to support you.

"That's why I took my time on it. I wanted to be very diligent. I wasn't going to rush into a hire - then two weeks later regret it - because we were concerned about this year's recruiting class."

The son of former San Francisco 49ers linebacker and NFL Hall of Famer Dave Wilcox, Justin Wilcox was born in Junction City, Oregon. He played defensive back for the University of Oregon from 1995-99, earning second-team All-Pac 10 honors as a senior.

After serving as a grad assistant at Boise State in 2001 and 2002, he coached linebackers at the University of California from 2003-05 before returning to Boise as coordinator in 2006.

Wilcox referred to the Tennessee job as "an unbelievable opportunity" in a UT news release. He said he is "really humbled to be considered and for Coach Dooley to offer me the job," adding: "I think it's just one of those things that was too good to pass up, and I'm excited to be here."

Dooley thought Wilcox was too good to pass up, as well, based on what he saw of his Boise State defenses on film.

"I've watched every game he's ever coached," Dooley said. "The best resume' for a coach is the film.... When you watch how his players play - the effort, the toughness, the discipline, the multiple schematic issues - I always was impressed with him.

"But what really sold me on Justin was my three hours I spent eyeball-to-eyeball with him. He believes in the same things I believe in. He's got a great personality, he's very humble and he wants to grow professionally.

"I'm happy to have him."

Even with the addition of Wilcox, Tennessee is one aide shy of a full staff. Former Vol defensive end Chuck Smith reportedly has a good chance to fill that void, although Dooley deftly ducked the topic.

"I know Chuck," Dooley said. "Chuck's a great coach, a good person, a great player. We'll see where all of that takes us."


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