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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

January 2, 2012 at 12:20 PM

A Tennessee perspective on UW’s two new coaches

So now that we know two of Washington’s new defensive coaches — Justin Wilcox, expected to be the new coordinator, and Peter Sirmon, expected to be the new linebackers coach — it’s time to find out more about them.

Each is coming from the University of Tennessee where they spent the past two years working on the staff of Derek Dooley.

As points of reference, here is Tennessee’s official NCAA stats page, showing that the Vols were 28th nationally in total defense this year and 35th in scoring defense. And here is Wilcox’s bio, and that of Sirmon.

To find out more, I talked this morning with Austin Ward, who covers Tennessee for the
Knoxville News-Sentinel for his thoughts on Wilcox and Sirmon and the perception of the jobs they did at Tennessee:

Q: What kind of defense did Tennessee run under Wilcox?

A: “They were very multiple. I know that’s kind of a cliche, but one thing he did was a four-down front but he could do a lot of things where he would stand up a guy at the end and make him a hybrid pass-rusher or linebacker and drop him into coverage, and not just the way they lined up but he was able to use guys in different roles. It wasn’t the most talented defense that Tennessee has ever had so he to mix and match a lot. But a lot of that four-down front, not necessarily too exotic with the blitzing, but I’m not sure anyone at Tennessee ever saw what he really wanted to do consistently (due to talent limitations). I’ve heard him say that if he could play zero coverage with his corners and blitz all day long, he would. So he’s aggressive in that regard but I don’t think at Tennessee we ever really saw what he wanted to do because the talent never got to the point it needed to be.”

Q: What is the perception of the job he did at Tennessee? Sounds like it’s thought he did a good job there?

A: “Yeah, he did. I think when he got hired and people saw Boise State on his resume, I think they thought ‘well, they are just an offensive team and they didn’t really do anything that stood out defensively, people just saw the trick plays and gadget plays. But when you looked at his resume and what he had done in four years there, people were really impressed that he came in with the reputation of being one of the hottest coordinators in the country. Because of the talent he didn’t get amazing results, but when you looked at the job he did as a whole, I think they were (28th) in the nation in total defense which doesn’t just blow people away but they had a converted fullback playing middle linebacker who ended up leading them in tackles (Austin Johnson). They had one senior on the defensive line. No seniors in the secondary. So people looked at that, and especially (head coach) Derek Dooley and thought he’d done a tremendous job based on the resources he had. I think also the perception after last year was if you didn’t think he had a great impact in year one, when Texas was calling and offering him the job last off-season that also gave Tennessee an indication what they really had and what the perception of the job he had done nationally and not just at Tennessee that he’s a bright, young mind in the coaching profession.”

Q: What kind of recruiter he is regarded to be?

A: “That wouldn’t be, I don’t think, his strength. He’s a very personable guy, really smart, but I don’t think that’s something they really hung their hat on with him. He was definitely involved and he impressed people when he worked with them, but that was something if you evaluated him of all the things he brings to the table the ability to be a home-run hitter on the recruiting trail wouldn’t be high on the list. Peter Sirmon in just one year is certainly somebody that they gave a lot more credit for him to go in right away and land some big-time names. I think that’s the interesting dynamic is those two play off well for each other and maybe he picks up a little bit of the recruiting side for him. Not that Justin couldn’t do it, but not sure that’s the number one thing he brings to the table.”

Q: What was the overall impression of Sirmon at Tennessee?

A: “If you talk to any Tennessee fan, and obviously the people in the state were very familiar with him due to his time with the Titans, that’s somebody that they never, ever wanted to lose. Wilcox and Sirmon were both at the top of the list of coaches that Derek Dooley probably needed to keep and that UT fans would have really wanted to keep. Sirmon, as I mentioned, they moved a fullback to linebacker for his junior season and Sirmon has been working with him and he’s turned into a really reliable tackler and one of the only seniors and so he was flanked by two true freshman, so Sirmon as with Wilcox — the same thing obviously applied — he didn’t have veteran talent to work with and the seasons that those guys put together (the two freshmen at outside linebacker, Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnson) just were some of the most phenomenal freshmen seasons. Playing linebacker in the SEC is not going to be easy regardless but he got so much out of them. They had alignment problems early in the season and they seemed to be struggling to put it together early in the year, but those problems they had seemed to disappear really quickly. He seemed to have a way to communicate things with them to help them figure out the game and take advantage of what they did do well and what they didn’t do well. They started moving some guys from the line to pass rushing on the edge — they had a lot of responsibilities and he had a lot to teach them and when you look at what they did as freshmen, they came with great ability but he was able to make them understand the game a lot better, and to me not a lot of coaches who have played the game and then become coaches are able to make that transition and help people as quickly as Sirmon seemed to be. He seems to have a real knack for passing along what worked for him and helping these guys apply it. He seemed to really get a lot out of those guys that he had, as I said, those guys on defense they didn’t have great depth or even veteran talent.”

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