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.