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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

February 8, 2012 at 2:02 PM

Video — UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox

Among the five new UW assistant coaches to meet the media for the first time today was defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who was hired by Washington on Jan. 2 to replace Nick Holt, who had been fired on Dec. 31.

Wilcox talked today about the process of his hiring at UW from Tennessee, where he had been the D-coordinator for the past two years; his defensive philosophy, and a little bit more. Below is some video, and after the video are some transcribed quotes:

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On his defensive philosophy: “We want to make sure that we are giving our guys the best chance and whether that’s helping some positions more than others, kind of depends on who you’ve got. You always have to have a foundation of what you believe in in terms of stopping the run and playing enough guys in a run front that if people want to line up and hammer it you can stop them and you’ve got to be able to pressure the quarterback in pass downs whether that’s rushing four or getting after it fire zones or some man blitzes. So there are a certain amount of things you believe in, but I believe you’ve got to be able to adjust to your personnel a little bit or you are just setting yourself up for failure.”

On picking up recruiting immediately upon being hired: “(Recruiting coordinator) Johnny Nansen did a great job when we got here of where is where we are at with everybody and we went and watched tape of everybody on the defensive board and what we thought of them and then we went from there. … It’s been hectic, for sure and once signing day hit the next few days was kind of decompression mode, kind of ‘wow, how about that. Look what just happened.’ But it’s been awesome and it was so natural once we got here working with the people we were working with, the staff members who were already here, those guys were awesome and we really just stepped in and hit the ground running. It was very seamless as it could be.”

On the decision to take the job and the process taking 48 hours: “(It) probably (took) less than that. (The first call came) late Saturday night (presumably Dec. 31, the day Nick Holt was fired) and talked to a lot of people all day Sunday — coaches, administrators within the conference and everybody said the same things about the questions that I had. Again, I came from a great place and I was not looking to leave there — Tennessee is a phenomenal place, a great football team, a ton of respect for all of those coaches. It just, it made a lot of sense. It was late Saturday night and I was in the office here 11 Monday morning.”

On when the first call came: “I was driving home from dinner, I was eating at the Copper Cellar, which was one of my restaurants I went to, and I was driving home and it was a 206 number and I didn’t pick it up because I don’t usually do that, so I got a message and called back. … Coach (Steve) Sark (Sarkisian), we just talked. Obviously he had talked to (Tennessee) coach (Derek) Dooley and we just spoke about a lot of things and it wasn’t any one thing in particular. And then we talked a lot the next day and I talked to a handful of people that I trust a lot in the profession, that I value their opinion and I think they know what is going on and they all said the same thing about the university, about Sark, about the administration. And I know what the support is like here. I grew up not too far and I played in this stadium and I know what it’s like here, so that’s why it was exciting to come back. I always had a great deal of respect for this place.”

On coming to UW: “I wasn’t looking to leave there by any means. Just when this came up I had a very strong feeling about it, a strong feeling about the people here, coach Sark obviously and the administration, and I know how the fans are because I played in this stadium before. I wasn’t looking to leave but it was something that was a very clean, easy decision, obviously being from the Northwest had a part in that and my family being somewhat close. At the end of the day it’s about the people and that’s what made it easy.”

On longtime friend and former Oregon teammate Peter Sirmon coming along with him from Tennessee: “Obviously Pete and I have a long history together. But it’s not because we have a long history together that he is here. Pete is a phenomenal football coach, hard working, a great communicator, and really that’s what coaching is about, so whether he and I had a long history or not, he was the right guy for the job. And obviously he has ties to the Northwest and has played the position at the highest level for a long time so he has automatic credibility when he teaches a guy how to play the game and it’s not every player is a coach and vice versa, but he’s got that unique ability that he has done both, so he was the right guy for the job, so that was pretty easy as well.”

On the potential for the UW defense: “I know how hard this job is and college football and being a defensive coordinator is a great job, but it’s difficult. And I’m not going to pass judgment on anybody. What I am looking for is the guys that come in with the right attitude and the right work ethic and for us to develop them. Obviously there are probably certain spots where we have a little more experience and a little more ability and we’ve got to continue to develop some other positions, that’s obvious. But what we’ve got to do is continue to go out and get these guys working like they are and they already have been because they have developed that culture here, and get them to execute down in and down out for a long period of time, and that’s really at the end of the day what you’ve got to do in order to win games. So it’s not a one-week process or a two-week process. I wish it was and you wish it was, but that’s not reality so we are going to get in and get to work. I can’t wait for spring football — none of us can. But we’ve just got a little bit of grinding to do on football before we get there.”

On what he wants to do schematically: “We kind of have a basis of things we like and believe in. You’ve got to have an identity in terms of schematics. At the same time you don’t want to try to jam a square peg into a round hole. So we are going to see what we are good at and put the stress on our better players and not going to ask a guy to do something he can’t do. You can’t line up the same way anymore every down because people are too good on offense, especially in this conference. The days of people lining up in two backs and running tons of play action are over, especially out here. There are some unique offenses out here that can present a lot of problems. What we need to do is find out who we can rely on and who to put the stress on and we have an idea but as we get through spring ball it will kind of develop our scheme — we know what we kind of want to do but we don’t want to jam a square peg in a round hole and do something we are not good at.”

On going to more 3-4: “Yeah, we are probably a little more underfront 3-4-type looks. But in defensive football there are a certain number of ways to do things and it’s really about how well you do them and we need to make sure we are doing it at a high level — that’s really the goal. But in terms of some of the fronts there will be a little more underfront, 3-4 without getting too specific. … That’s a very personnel-driven decision and you can kind of start moving one way and go that direction down the road which is a possibility, but we’ll see. A lot of that has to do with your body types and what you can recruit and what you have on your team and again you don’t want to make it a three-year ‘well, these guys don’t fit.’ You don’t want to do that, it’s what’s your best chance to win.”

On his overall philosophy: “To play great defense you’ve got to play with fanatical effort and you’ve got to play physically and mentally tough — that’s football in general. And then you’ve got to execute at a high level. And that means knowing what you are doing and having confidence in what you are doing, and we could sit in there and draw up 800 defenses and we’ve got some great football minds in there — we’ve got plenty of that. But what is important is that the kids do what we say they are going to do, that’s what is important. And at the end of the day if they can do that then you’ve got a good shot, and if they can’t then you’ve got to re-evaluate that ‘well maybe we are putting too much on them.’ Defensive football is always going to come down to fundamentals — how you play blocks, how you tackle, how you cover. I mean, that’s it. And there are a certain number of coverages and all that and everybody is a little different that way. But if you can’t cover and you can’t tackle and you can’t take on a block, I don’t care what you do.”



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