- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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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.