In the days since Will Muschamp took the head coaching job at Florida, there have been as many false starts in the search for the next Texas defensive coordinator as now-departed tackle Kyle Hix had this season. Okay, not nearly that many because that would be about 15 or more, but the point is that first it looked like Randy Shannon was all but a shoo-in for the job. Then it was Teryl Austin. Now the hot name is Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.
One of the first things that stands about Wilcox is the notable difference between he and the rest of the candidates discussed for the job -- he's white. Now, it's probably not that big of a deal, except that either other name mentioned seriously, from Shannon to Austin to Dewayne Walker to Everett Withers to Jerry Gary, has been African-American. Take that for what it's worth, which may be nothing entirely.
The second thing that stands out about Wilcox is his youth, at 34, he's still extremely young and one of the up-and-coming young coaches in the industry. He's spent only one season in Knoxville after four years calling the shots on defense at Boise State, where his defenses ranked in the top 25 in scoring defense each season, as well as leading the WAC in total defense every year. He also has some pedigree, as his father, Dave, is an NFL Hall-of-Famer.
Sincehas Bellmont on absolute lockdown and there's basically no information emerging from the program at this point -- not even the disinformation that charaterized last week -- the news of interest in Wilcox is all coming directly from Knoxville.
Rivals affiliate Volquest was one of the first outlets ($) to publish reports about the interest from Austin in Wilcox:
VolQuest.com did learn that Dooley spent the afternoon trying to recruit his first-year defensive head coach to stay in Knoxville. Dooley and his entire staff had a planned meeting on Sunday afternoon to finalize their game plan for the Music City Bowl as they move into game preparation mode on Monday getting ready for North Carolina.
While Dooley was game-prepping with his staff and recruiting Wilcox to stay, Texas was doing all it could to try and get its top candidate to Austin for a visit with Longhorns head coach Mack Brown. However, as of just after 6 p.m. Sunday night, Wilcox remained at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex. If Wilcox ever flew to Texas, it would have been on a private flight because all commercial flights bound for Texas departed Knoxville's McGee Tyson Airport before Wilcox was done with his Sunday obligations on campus.
At this point, it appears that Wilcox has not had an interview with Mack Brown, seemingly a prerequisite to receiving a job offer. It's also worth noting that Wilcox doesn't meet the preferred qualificaitons of having NFL experience posted on the job posting.
On Monday, Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley denied that Wilcox has a job offer from Texas, an implication made in the Volquest report that characterized the situation as it being up to Wilcox to decide whether or not he wants make the jump from one UT to the other. A similar denial has come from the Texas side. Dooley went on to say that he "doesn't anticipate changes" to his coaching staff. However, when asked if he had discussed the Texas job with Wilcox, instead of denying any such conversation, Dooley simply said that he wouldn't discuss "internet rumors."
In terms of practical considerations, Wilcox has a $300,000 buyout and signed a three-year contract when he arrived in Knoxville at around $600,000. Money shouldn't be a problem for Texas, as the coffers overfloweth around Bellmont and the Board of Regents on Friday gave the go-ahead for Deloss Dodds and Mack Brown to spend up to or in excess of $1 million to lure coordinators to Austin.
As the coach-in-waiting last season, Will Muschamp made $900,000, so it would be a bit of a surprise if a relatively inexperienced coordinator like Wilcox would receive the same compensation as a proven guy like Muschamp. Once again though, money should not be an issue for Texas and if Wilcox is truly the top target at this point, a lack of money on the table won't keep him away from Austin.
Despite his youth, Wilcox makes more sense than Austin because of his greater experience as a defensive coordinator with five years of experience there instead of only one. He also has experience coaching linebackers, as he did at Cal from 2003-2005, the position he would likely coach at Texas in addition to his duties as the defensive coordinator. There has also been some discussion that Austin doesn't care for the NCAA limits on practice time and for recruiting, leading to speculation that he could seek a return to the NFL at some point.
The Cal Rivals affiliate believes that Wilcox will take the job ($) and that defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi could be targeted by Wilcox to fill the open defensive tackle coaching position at Texas. Lupoi is another well-regarded young coach who was named the Rivals Recruiter of the Year last season and may be looking for a way out of Cal after being thrown under the bus by Jeff Tedford for ordering Cal defenders to fake injuries to slow down the Oregon offense.
By himself, Wilcox is a good candidate, but if he could bring a proven coach and recruiter like Lupoi with him to Austin, Lupoi could be the piece that puts his candidacy over the top.