NCF Nation: Peter Sirmon

Now that hiring season for head coaches is complete, here are three items about hiring assistants:

1. It’s two weeks before signing date and Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian already has the best class ... of new assistant coaches. Sarkisian hired line coach Tosh Lupoi from Pac-12 North rival California, Lupoi’s alma mater and only employer. Lupoi, known for his recruiting prowess, joins new coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebacker coach Peter Sirmon, both of whom who came from Tennessee.

2. Alabama head coach Nick Saban likes coaches who know what he expects, which is why he just hired Tennessee defensive line coach Lance Thompson … for the third time. Thompson went with Saban to Alabama in 2007 and left for Knoxville three years ago, which means Thompson missed both of the Crimson Tide’s BCS titles (he won a ring with Saban and LSU in 2003). Out of the eight jobs that Thompson has held since 1995, Saban and George O'Leary (at Georgia Tech and UCF) each have hired him three times.

3. If you are looking for an example of grace and class in a difficult situation, read Tom Bradley’s statement after 37 years as a student, player and coach at Penn State. Jay Paterno, Joe’s son, also said goodbye after playing for his father and spending 17 years on his staff. I can't help but think, after all these years and all that stability, they are finally learning how the rest of the business lives -- at the whim of the head coach and his record.
It's been a revolving door on Tennessee's coaching staff ever since the season ended, and head coach Derek Dooley moved quickly to fill his latest opening.

The Vols announced on Thursday that Sam Pittman had been hired to coach the offensive line after Harry Hiestand bolted for the Notre Dame offensive line job.

Pittman was at North Carolina for the past five seasons and part of Butch Davis' original staff there in 2007. Just prior to the 2011 season, Pittman was promoted to associate head coach, replacing John Blake, who resigned one game into the 2010 season after being linked to NCAA allegations that triggered an investigation of the Tar Heels' football program. Pittman was named as one of the country's top 25 recruiters by ESPN.com in 2011. He was at Northern Illinois before joining Davis at North Carolina.

The Vols have seen five different assistant coaches to leave since the end of their 5-7 season. One of those, receivers coach Charlie Baggett, was not retained. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon left for the same jobs at Washington, while special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Eric Russell left to join Mike Leach's staff at Washington State.

Dooley is targeting Alabama linebackers coach Sal Sunseri and Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green to replace Wilcox. Dooley has talked with both Sunseri and Green in the last two days. Dooley has offered the special teams coordinator's job, meanwhile, to San Diego Chargers assistant Rich Bisaccia, who just finished his first season as the Chargers' special teams coordinator. Bisaccia was previously the associate head coach and special teams coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Dooley had already hired Jay Graham to coach the Vols' running backs. Graham, a former star running back at Tennessee, had been at South Carolina the past three seasons.
1. The decision by Justin Wilcox and Peter Sirmon to leave Tennessee to resuscitate the Washington defense isn’t necessarily a commentary on the struggles that Derek Dooley is undergoing in Knoxville. Both guys are from the Pacific Northwest, and every coach is allowed a move to go home. But there is an implicit endorsement of Husky coach Steve Sarkisian, who took the Huskies from the bottom of the Pac-10 and is stalled below the top tier of the Pac-12 North. If Washington gets a defense, watch out.

2. In the wake of that thrilling Fiesta Bowl, Oklahoma State and Stanford are faced with the task of how to sustain their newfound success. The Cowboys had the benefit of a 28-year-old quarterback and a once-in-a-generation wideout. The Cardinal rode the mind and body of their once-in-a-generation quarterback and a brutish offensive line. Coaches Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State and David Shaw of Stanford think they have capitalized on their program’s success by upgrading their recruiting. We’ll find out in September.

3. Go figure: Alabama, Boise State and Stanford suffer crushing losses this season because of their inability to execute a field goal. Virginia Tech suspends its regular kicker from playing in the Sugar Bowl, then sends his backup home from New Orleans for missing curfew. Third-string kicker Justin Myer comes in against Michigan and makes kicks of 37, 43, 36 and 25 yards before missing a 37-yarder in overtime. Myer not only kept the Hokies in the game, he showed why coaches don’t use a scholarship on a kicker.

Washington hires Wilcox from Tennessee

January, 2, 2012
1/02/12
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Washington has raided Tennessee to replace fired defensive coordinator Nick Holt, according to ESPN.com's Chris Low.

The Huskies have hired Justin Wilcox, a former Oregon player who built his reputation at Boise State, to replace Holt. Volunteers linebackers coach Peter Sirmon, another former Duck, is also part of the deal.

This looks like the foundation of a rebuilt defensive staff. The Huskies still have two vacancies: Jeff Mills also was fired, and Demetrice Martin was hired away by UCLA. Both coached in the secondary.

Sarkisian fired Holt, Mills and linebackers coach Mike Cox following a 67-56 loss to Baylor in last week's Valero Alamo Bowl, in which the Huskies yielded 777 total yards. The Huskies' defense was, arguably, the worst in program history this season.

According to Low:
Not a lot went right for Tennessee this season, but the Vols finished 28th nationally in total defense, and Wilcox and his staff were able to hold their own with one of the youngest defenses in the country. Three true freshmen -- linebackers A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt and safety Brian Randolph -- started most of the season.

Wilcox, 35, has been a hot commodity since his red-hot run at Boise State. He was wooed by Texas last season, but elected to stay at Tennessee.

Sirmon, a Wenatchee, Wash., native, played seven seasons with the Tennessee Titans as a linebacker. He spent the 2009 season as a graduate assistant at Oregon before coming to Tennessee in 2010 as a grad assistant working under Wilcox. In addition to being one of the Vols' top assistant coaches, Sirmon also was one of the program's best recruiters

Tennessee is probably getting tired of the Pac-12. Not only have the Vols lost four consecutive games to Pac-12 teams -- California, UCLA twice and Oregon -- USC hired away after just one season coach Lane Kiffin, who did a masterful job this year leading the Trojans to a top-five ranking while the Vols finished 5-7 under Derek Dooley.

As for Wilcox's contract issues coming and going, there's this from the Knoxville News Sentinel:
Wilcox does not owe UT anything by leaving for another job. His original contract stipulated that he owed the school $300,000 if he terminated the deal before Dec. 1, 2011 -- with the exception of leaving because he obtained a Division I head coaching position -- but that clause was completely wiped out when it was amended in August.

Wilcox was to receive $700,000 in 2012, a base pay of $275,000 and a "broadcast/endorsement" payment of $475,000.

Holt -- notoriously -- made $650,000 annually, an amount the Huskies will be on the hook for in 2012 because of a two-year contract. So the expectation is Wilcox is likely to exceed that total. It certainly is more expensive to live in Seattle than in Knoxville.

But Wilcox, a Eugene, Ore., native, also likely wanted to get back to the West Coast. He figures to become a top head coaching candidate if the Huskies' defense starts to excel, so he probably has his eyes on a Pac-12 post down the road.

Before that happens, of course, the Huskies will have to start playing good defense again, something their fans have been hoping for since the mid-1990s.

Vols lose Wilcox, Sirmon to Washington

January, 2, 2012
1/02/12
11:41
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One of the few bright spots for Tennessee this season was a defense that ranked 28th nationally in total defense and did it with three true freshmen in the starting lineup.

The guy running that defense was Justin Wilcox, considered one of the brightest young defensive minds in college football. He was wooed by Texas last season, but elected to stay at Tennessee.

The Vols weren't able to hold onto him this time around, as Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon have agreed to join Steve Sarkisian's staff at Washington.

Losing Wilcox is a tough enough blow for the Vols. But in losing Sirmon, they're also losing one of their best assistant coaches and one of their most dynamic recruiters. In fact, Wilcox and Sirmon were the lead recruiters on several key prospects in this class.

So the Vols' recruiting could really suffer a blow with both Wilcox and Sirmon leaving in January.

There had been talk that Wilcox and Sirmon could be in play elsewhere. They're both West Coast guys and were teammates at Oregon, so it makes sense that Pac-12 jobs would be appealing to them.

Now the onus is on Tennessee coach Derek Dooley to make some timely hires, but some sound hires. Prospects always want to know who their coordinators and position coaches are going to be. At the same time, though, Dooley will want to make sure he makes the right hire and brings somebody in that's a fit. Needless to say, these are critical hires for him as he faces a critical third season at Tennessee.

He's already made one very good hire, bringing in former star tailback Jay Graham to coach the running backs. Dooley has three more to go. The Vols are also looking for a special teams coordinator/tight ends coach. Eric Russell left last month to join Mike Leach at Washington State.

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