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Wisconsin football: Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox 'humbled and excited' to lead Badgers' defense

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Wisconsin's newest assistant coach addressed the media for the first time on Monday.

The Wisconsin Badgers introduced new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to the media in a press conference on Monday afternoon. Head coach Paul Chryst joined Wilcox in speaking with reporters inside the Kohl Center media room, and the one key theme brought up by both men was being a "great fit" for the university and the football program.

"I've known about Justin for a number of years and I remembered him as a player playing against his brother as well," Chryst said, "and we actually played against him when he was at Cal and he was at Boise (State), so knew of him more than I did know him.

"And then I had a chance to first visit with Justin and was truly energized by that, and then we brought him out and had time to talk and spend time together and just kept feeling like it was a really great fit."

Here are some highlights from the nearly 15-minute long press conference:

  • Chryst said it wasn't necessarily a surprise former defensive coordinator Aranda found another opportunity
  • Wilcox said he's "humbled and excited" to be here. Noted the longer process, and like Chryst, mentioned the "fit"
  • Wilcox said Monday was the first time to meet with some players. Admitted he had flash cards with players names, numbers and positions to get to know them.
  • When asked if he saw film on the defense and if it would change, Wilcox said he and Aranda shared information dating back to when Wilcox was at Boise State and Aranda was at Hawaii.
    Noted how last "It's always going to be driven by the personnel, the people, so you build it for those guys, and we'll see as we move along our cut-ups and tape, where that goes."
  • Wilcox said he's been fortunate to work with some great people in his time in his recent stops. "These experiences are all valuable. Some are more enjoyable than others. That's how I look at it"
  • When asked about what happened at USC, Wilcox said there are a lot of things that come up. "Everybody is so key, you know, every piece of the program and all of us, I know I do, as soon as something doesn't go well, whether it's after a play or a practice or a game or a season, and the first thing you do is take some time to reflect on that and figure out what you could have done better, differently, maybe from decisions not only may be in the scheme part of it but just personnelwise, whatever those things are."
  • When asked about the defense itself philosophically, Chryst said right away both found a common ground that what drives the defense is its personnel and fundamentals. "Where we're at right now, you know, I believe the 3-4 has some -- kind of what we have recruited to, and the team has been made up of in the past and Justin has a background in that and yet, you know, a lot of times this year, depending on what type of team we were playing, we played with some, you know, 4 down -- heck, we had Vince put his hand down," Chryst said.
  • Chryst did mention Biegel, redshirt junior outside linebacker T.J. Watt and senior cornerback Sojourn Shelton, and the safety position battle during the press conference.
  • Wilcox agreed with Chryst about the 3-4 base scheme. "We want to be a 3-4 team, but there are going to be times when we play four down fronts, and, again, it will be driven by the people, driven by the teams we're playing and some of what they do," Wilcox said. "It will evolve from now until -- really through the season, a lot of times, so I think some of that it to be determined but we have a starting point for sure."
  • Wilcox saw tape of the 2015 Holiday Bowl (was flying during the game). Said what jumped out to him while watching team played hard, the effort, toughness and intelligence of the team. Noted that was part of culture at Wisconsin.

Here's a full transcript from the Wisconsin athletic department:

CHRYST: Very excited to be here with Justin. When this whole process started, it was important for us and for me to find a defensive coordinator that would be a great fit for this university, and I think we did that.

I'm excited about that; I know the other coaches are excited, and it was an interesting process. Obviously appreciated having the chance to work with Dave, but it wasn't one of those things where you're -- it was going to be a matter of time where I thought Dave would have a chance and might leave, so something that wasn't necessarily surprising to me when it happened.

After the season and before the bowl, out recruiting, we had a little bit of time to start thinking and certainly right after the bowl game and Dave told me, reached out to a number of people that I trust and I know had a vested interest in our success at Wisconsin, and people I knew personally. Just kind of kept -- more people I talked to Justin's name came up. I've known about Justin for a number of years and I remembered him as a player playing against his brother as well and we actually played against him when he was at Cal and he was at Boise, so knew of him more than I did know him, and then I had a chance to first visit with Justin and was truly energized by that, and then we brought him out and had time to talk and spend time together and just kept feeling like it was a really great fit.

Was fortunate when it all came together, and I'm excited for our players to be around Justin as well as our coaches. I think he's going to bring a lot to us and add a lot of body to our staff and because of that I'm appreciative and I'm looking forward to working with him.

WILCOX: First of all, I'm humbled and excited to be here. This was -- as Coach said, it was a little bit of a longer process for both of us, and I think the key word that comes up is the "fit." In the past month or so, both of us had a chance to visit quite a bit and we always had probably one degree of separation from a lot of people in football.

The few people that I talked to and I trust had the same things to say about Coach, just in terms of the type of person he is, the type of coach he is.

Knowing from an outsiders view my perception of the program here and what it stands for, all of those things were just really exciting to me.

So, again, I'm humbled and excited to be here. They've done a fantastic job, and they've got great coaches on their staff who I look forward to working with. Today was the first chance I had to meet some of the players and kind of my number one goal right now is I have some flash cards, so I got names and places and numbers and I'm learning those guys and getting to know them, because they are the engine that makes it go, and that's priority number one. I'm excited to get to work.

QUESTION: Have you had a chance to watch much of Wisconsin's defense live, and if so how do you think the defense next year might be different?

WILCOX: I actually watched a lot -- Dave Aranda and I have a history, when he was at Hawaii and I was at Boise, so we had been in constant communication for a number of years regarding just football things.

So I watched a lot of tape, we had shared ideas and things like that. There is a lot of similarities. Some of the language may differ a little bit but they played excellent defense there is no doubt about it. The kids played fundamentally sound, they played hard, they're aggressive and I think with the team as a whole that was pretty evident, offense and defense, and some of the things defensively, it's very, very similar to kinda what my background has been, and we will see.

It's always going to be driven by the personnel, so you build it for those guys, and we'll see as we move along through our cut-ups and tape here where that goes.

QUESTION: Justin, you had arrived from Boise to Tennessee to Washington with Sarkisian and to USC. I'm curious if you can share what the last year or so has been like, because we got to know a little bit about USC prepping for the bowl game, but Steve having to step down, and then you losing your job along with some other people. What's it been like to get here today?

WILCOX: I've been fortunate to work at some great places with some great people, so I think that's the first thing I always try to take away. In this business of football, things happen, and especially when things happen to different people at different times in their lives, and these experiences are all valuable; some are more enjoyable than others.

I think that's how I look at it. That's life in general. Things don't always go exactly -- rarely do they go exactly how you planned them to go, so it's what you do when you have a little adversity here or there that really makes you who you are so that's how I look at that.

QUESTION: Justin, what do you think happened at USC? You had success stop after stop after stop and all of the sudden it goes sideways. What happened?

WILCOX: There's a lot of things that come up, and there is a lot of different variables in football. Everybody is so key, you know, every piece of the program and all of us, I know I do, as soon as something doesn't go well, whether it's after a play or a practice or a game or a season, and the first thing you do is take some time to reflect on that and figure out what you could have done better, differently, maybe from decisions not only may be in the scheme part of it but just personnel-wise, whatever those things are. So I think that's the big thing is you look back and say okay, how could I have done this better? And I don't think that changes.

Obviously the results are what drives this world of college football, but as long as we're doing the best things we can to help the team win then you can sleep good at night. That's kind of how I look at that whole scenario.

QUESTION: You touched on this in your first answer but how will you approach trying to mold this defense as your own given the success that Dave did have here? Are you concerned about trying to match everything that he accomplished while he was here?

WILCOX: I think it's really our job as coaches to prepare the guys on the team, the team you have, as best you can to help them be successful.

So that's really my only goal. I'm just a piece of the puzzle. I think when you start adding in external things that you might lose track of what's really important and that's just preparing the team as best you can. They've done an excellent job. There are great coaches on the staff, again, I'm just a piece of it, and I'm looking forward to getting to work with those guys to help prepare the team we have in spring and through summer into fall.

QUESTION: What did you learn about yourself in this last year going from USC to here and everything that you faced?

WILCOX: What did I learn about myself?

QUESTION: Yeah, mainly as a coach, but also as a person, how you handle things that don't go as you hoped?

WILCOX: Like I said, these are all valuable experiences; some more enjoyable than others. As long as you can take something and prove yourself as a person, as a coach from each of those experiences, I think you can look at it and sleep good at night. Again, would you do things differently from time to time? Probably, but I don't know who goes through life and doesn't think that; you would probably be fooling yourself.

So, again, I think it's extremely valuable, and I'm excited to go to work with the people in this program and the players on this team as we move forward.

QUESTION: Paul and Justin, what do you see from this defense philosophically moving forward and how did your ideas mesh as you got to know each other and expectations and all that stuff?

CHRYST: I think right away we found common ground in the fact that what drives it most is personnel and also being sound. I think we both believe in the fundamentals and that's the key. Where we're at right now, you know, I believe the 3-4 has some -- kind of what we have recruited to, and the team has been made up of in the past and Justin has a background in that and yet, you know, a lot of times this year, depending on what type of team we were playing, we played with some, you know, 4 down -- heck, we had Vince put his hand down!

I think that we both mentioned, we were talking about "fit" we both felt good that we know that it's all about the players, and the scheme, certainly you need to have a foundation and a starting point, but it's in the tackling, it's in the leveraging the ball, it's in playing sound coverage, it's being disciplined and the rest.

The essence of the game, you know, we saw eye-to-eye on. And that's the exciting -- you know what, there had been no changes in the coaching staff. Our team is going to change, therefore, the look will change.

I think that's one of the qualities I like in talking with Justin was that it truly was driven by people, and there is also a confidence in the ability to adjust to people and players and teams, whoever you are playing.

How's it going to look? We really don't know until -- how is T.J. Watt going to progress? What's Vince going to do differently? Where is Sojourn at, and who emerges at safety? That's the fun part of our job, to be honest.

WILCOX: Just to piggy-back that, we spoke about that when we first started talking, and you have kind of your foundational beliefs in what makes a program go and what makes a good defense.

We want to be a 3-4 team, but there are going to be times when we play four down fronts, and, again, it will be driven by the people, driven by the teams we're playing and some of what they do.

It will evolve from now until -- really through the season, a lot of times, so I think some of that it to be determined but we have a starting point for sure.

QUESTION: Obviously coming from USC, did you watch any of the bowl game between the Badgers and the Trojans, and if so what did you see?

WILCOX: I was actually traveling during the bowl game, but I have seen a lot of tape. I've already watched quite a bit since I got here Friday night and a lot of great things. I think the things that jump off the tape are how hard the guys play, the effort, the toughness, they're very in tune with what's going on, you can tell they're a very smart football team. I think those things are all, you know, part of the culture here.

That's exciting to see and there is obviously some talented guys out there making plays. Very impressive to watch and, again, I've already watched some tape this weekend, and I was doing that until I came over here.

QUESTION: Paul, when Dave told you he was leaving, was Justin already on the top of your list in terms of replacement or was it just in talking to people that you thought that would be a good fit?

CHRYST: No, like I said, I had an amount of respect for Justin over a number of years, so he was a guy that I knew should something happen, I would want to find out more about him and a lot of it is, you know, continuing to get to know him. I had a perception of him and have known guys that had worked with him, and I'd gone up against him, so I wanted to find out more, and it was absolutely one of those that -- he was one I was going to start with and see -- not just if there is an interest, but if it was the right fit, and that's what was exciting as I went through the process. The more I talked to people, and specifically when I talked to Justin, I got more energy.

It felt like this could be a great fit, and that's what -- I'm excited for him to be coaching our kids because I really do think it's a great fit for our staff and for our players and for this program.

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