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Tennessee made some news Wednesday, and it didn't have anything to do with high school football players. In a move that was lost in the commotion of National Signing Day, Derek Dooley ended a month of speculation naming Justin Wilcox as the Vols new defensive coordinator.
That's probably the overwhelming reaction from the majority of SEC fans – and some Tennessee fans, for that matter. A closer look reveals that Dooley may have found a diamond in the rough.
Wilcox comes to Knoxville after four successful years as the defensive coordinator of the Boise State Broncos. The Broncos emerged as one of college football's elite teams during his tenure there, leading the WAC in total defense and scoring defense in each of Wilcox's four seasons on the smurf turf.
Last season the Broncos posted an unblemished 14-0 record, which included a Fiesta Bowl win over high-powered TCU and an opening night win over Oregon. Under his leadership, the Broncos posted the nation's No. 14 defense, allowing just 300 yards per game. Keep in mind, this is in the WAC, a conference that boasted six of the top 20 offensive units in the country last season.
The hire seemingly came out of nowhere, considering the 33-year-old Wilcox has limited experience running a defense and has very few ties to SEC football. Don't let Wilcox's relative anonymity fool you. He has developed a strong reputation out west as a brilliant defensive mind. That's not easy to do considering most west coast teams only focus on offense.
Is the hire going to make a big difference in year one in Knoxville? Probably not. The Vols have a depleted roster and a patchwork coaching staff thanks to Lane Kiffin's departure, so it will take some time for the Vols to get back in to serious SEC East contention. They certainly seem to be on the right track though, notching the No. 15 recruiting class in the country and nabbing a solid defensive coordinator in the same day.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BSallee_CFN
Off-Season Column Archive:
Vols Go West For New DC – February 3, 2009
Early 2010 SEC Predictions – January 31, 2010
Chizik Doing It Right – January 21, 2010
Georgia's DC Debacle – January 12, 2010
SEC Bloggers: Do Over – January 8, 2010
Trouble In Baton Rouge – January 2, 2010
Meyer Calls A Reverse – December 27, 2009
Urban Meyer's SEC Legacy – December 26, 2009
End Of The Season Accountability – December 26, 2009
Ranking The SEC Bowl Games – December 18, 2009
2009 SEC Superlatives – December 13, 2009
Click here for the 2009 Regular Season Three & Out archive