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What was the overall impact of Cal coach Justin Wilcox on Washington’s defense?

Some thoughts from the Huskies.

Justin Wilcox, Washington coach
Sports Illustrated

Before Justin Wilcox was the head coach of the California Golden Bears, he was the defensive coordinator of many teams, including the Washington Huskies. Wilcox had some of his best moments as a DC up at Washington, and Husky fans remember him fondly.

We continue with Part II of the Q&A!

What were your biggest frustrations with Wilcox as a coach?

Ryan Priest: Honestly, I was so shell-shocked by Nick Holt's Reign of Terror that I don't have any memory of major frustrations I had with Wilcox's performance as Washington's defensive coordinator. The sheer fact that the Huskies' cornerbacks were no longer playing with a 12-yard cushion on third-and-six was enough to make me a Wilcox believer, and most Husky fans would have gladly kept him on staff in the same role under Petersen's regime in the days following his hiring had Coach Pete wanted to do so.

Jeff Gorman: It was really hard to hate anything Wilcox did because the defenses I had seen for the 5 years prior were so horrendously bad, I could forgive off games from Wilcox's unit. There were certainly a few head scratchers in his tenure, like giving up 52 points twice in a 3 week span to Oregon and Arizona, but I suspect Sark's abilities as a head coach factored into those scores. Despite this, I still wanted Wilcox on the staff when Petersen has hired, and was mildly disappointing he wasn't offered the job. Though, I'm quite happy with Pete Kwiatkowski as DC.

Relative to expectations, how well was Wilcox able to recruit to his defense?

Ryan Priest: Again, Wilcox was only at UW for two years, so it's difficult to say how well his system came together with his own recruits. But the returns that we eventually saw from players like Thompson, Victor, Qualls, Mathis, King and Bierria seem to indicate that they would have thrived under his direction had they been given the chance.

Jeff Gorman: He wasn't known as a recruiter but he helped identify a lot of players that are in the NFL now, or will be in 1-2 years. Many of them were rated 3 stars or lower: Kevin King, Kieshawn Bierria, and Azeem Victor. Some fans weren't happy signing "lower rated" players but clearly they worked out.

What do you consider was Wilcox's best performance as a defensive coordinator? Were there any games he noticeably struggled?

Ryan Priest: Washington's first signature win with Wilcox on staff remains my favorite game that I've ever attended in person: Washington's 2012 victory over No. 7 Stanford at Century Link Field. Just one year after being whipped 65-21 by Jim Harbaugh and Andrew luck to the tune of a staggering 9.32 yards per play (!!!) and 446 rushing yards (!!!), the Huskies turned in a Herculean effort to limit the Cardinal to 10 points and 238 total yards, at a rate of 3.66 yards per play. (Hearing the crowd's thunderous roar when Bishop Sankey popped off his 61-yard touchdown run at the close of the third quarter is something I'll never forget.)

As for his worst performances: Maybe it's the opponent, but Wilcox's two games against Oregon were certainly nothing to remember. In 2012, the Dawgs surrendered 52 points and 497 yards (299 rushing/198 passing) at a clip of 6.54 yards per play; the next year, those numbers were 45 points and 631 yards (265 rushing/366 passing) at a rate of 7.79 yards per play.

Jeff Gorman: The best performance would probably have to be the Stanford game in 2012 at Century-Link field. I think this gif sums up the game and how Wilcox felt about it. I mentioned the Oregon and Arizona games above from 2012, and the defense also struggled in 2013 giving up 45 to Oregon and 53 to Arizona State.

Who were the players that developed and excelled the best in Wilcox's schemes?

Ryan Priest: I hate to keep going back to the same well, but it's hard not to point out players like Greg Ducre and Marcus Peters in this context. Peters was always going to be an NFL star, but few Washington fans would have guessed that Ducre possessed the chops to join an NFL roster. That he did is a testament both to his work ethic, and the coaching he received during Wilcox's time in Seattle. And of course, the eventual returns we saw from Wilcox's recruits that didn't get a chance to play under him but who thrived under Petersen and Pete Kwiatkowski is a testament to his ability to identify and recruit quality players to his teams.

Jeff Gorman: The secondary sticks out here. Sean Parker got better, and Marcus Peters went from a 3-star prospect to a first rounder. Greg Ducre is probably the surprise. He was a bit of an afterthought when he signed, but he possessed terrific speed to his game. Wilcox and the coaches were able to utilize his skills and he eventually became an NFL player.