Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley turned Wednesday into his own version of national signing day by naming one of the nation's rising stars his new defensive coordinator.
Justin Wilcox comes to the Vols from Boise State, where for the last four seasons he served as defensive coordinator and helped the Broncos blast their way into the elite of college football. In 2009, Boise State completed a perfect 14-0 season with a Fiesta Bowl victory over TCU.
That victory lifted Boise State's record to 49-4 in four seasons with Wilcox at the defensive helm under head coach Chris Petersen.
"It's an unbelievable opportunity," Wilcox said of his Tennessee assignment. "I'm really humbled to be considered and for Coach Dooley to offer me the job. Boise State is an incredible place and I really wasn't looking to leave there. All this happened pretty fast.
"But after talking with Coach Dooley and a couple of the other coaches, and getting a feel for the way he wants to model the program and a lot of the philosophies he has, I just felt like it was a great opportunity at an unbelievable place in terms of the tradition. I think it's just one of those things that was too good to pass up and I'm excited to be here."
Wilcox, 33, made his mark on the national defensive rankings this past season, guiding the Broncos to a No. 14 statistical finish in both total defense and scoring defense and a No. 3 showing in turnover margin. Boise State bookended the season with two of its most impressive victories, clamping down on Pac-10 Conference champion Oregon 19-8 to start the year and then closing with the 17-10 triumph over previously undefeated TCU at the Fiesta Bowl.
The Broncos of 2008 were nearly as tough, finishing 12-1 and winning their second Western Athletic Conference championship in three seasons. Wilcox's defense ranked third nationally in scoring, allowing just 12.6 points per game and holding eight of its 13 opponents to 10 points or fewer.
Boise State led the WAC in total defense and scoring defense all four seasons under Wilcox.
Wilcox coached six seasons overall in Boise, also working as a graduate assistant for the Broncos from 2001-02. Among his prized stalwarts were defensive end Ryan Winterswyk and defensive back Kyle Wilson, both of whom twice earned All-WAC first team nods.
In both 2007 and 2006, the Broncos also led the WAC in rushing defense. Boise State was eighth nationally against the run during Wilcox's debut season as defensive coordinator, and his overall defensive scheme was instrumental in helping that 2006 squad to a 13-0 record and the now-famous 43-42 overtime win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
Before returning to Boise State as defensive coordinator, Wilcox spent three seasons (2003-05) at California as linebackers coach. Wilcox was credited with turning his linebackers into a unit that epitomized the Cal defense's swarm-to-the-ball philosophy, and the Golden Bears went to three straight bowls and combined for a 26-12 record.
In his two seasons as a graduate assistant at Boise State, Wilcox worked with the Broncos' outside linebackers. He helped Boise State to an upset victory over No. 8 Fresno State in 2001 and a 12-1 record and No. 15 national ranking in 2002.
The Junction City, Ore., native played collegiately at Oregon from 1995-99 and was a part of four Ducks teams that advanced to bowl games. He played in the 1997 Las Vegas, 1998 Aloha, and 1999 Sun bowls. He redshirted in 1995 when Oregon participated in the Cotton Bowl.
His first three years were spent at safety before he moved to cornerback as a senior in 1999 and claimed All-Pac-10 second-team honors. Wilcox earned his bachelor's degree in anthropology from Oregon in 1999.
Wilcox is the son of Dave Wilcox, an All-Pro linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.