Who is Wisconsinâ€™s newest defensive coordinator? His name is Justin Wilcox and his last stop was as defensive coordinator of the USC Trojans.
No, he wasnâ€™t there to coach perhaps the best non-College Football Playoff game of the postseason. Instead, he was on the unemployment line after being one of four assistant coaches let go
It may not be a wringing endorsement, but there are plenty of other factors involved in Heltonâ€™s decision. Thereâ€™s no doubt that Wilcox was a Steve Sarkisian man, and plenty of rumors and reports indicate that loyalty was a major part of why he was let go.
So, now you know how Wilcox got here…however, thereâ€™s more to the story and part of getting to know the new Badgersâ€™ defensive coordinator is getting to know what his defenses did.
That means digging in to the numbers, and since you probably donâ€™t have hours to sift through it all â€” weâ€™re doing the work for you.
Letâ€™s take a look at what the numbers tell us.
Wilcox has been a defensive coordinator since 2006, so letâ€™s take a look at the major numbers sighted by just about everyone first.
However, just the regular stats arenâ€™t enough these days. Itâ€™s important to understand what those raw numbers actually mean, so letâ€™s take a look at things like defensive efficiency and other advanced stats.
What do those numbers mean? For those that donâ€™t know letâ€™s start with quick definitions per football outsiders:
The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) is a college football rating system based on opponent-adjusted drive efficiency. Defensive efficiency (DE) is the scoring value generated by a teamâ€™s defense per possession.Â
The S&P+ Ratings are a college football ratings system derived from the play-by-play data of all 800+ of a seasonâ€™s FBS college football games (and 140,000+ plays). S&P+ ratings are based around the core concepts of the Five Factors: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives, and turnovers.
Given all of that information, what do the numbers ultimately tell us? The numbers mostly tell us that Wilcox has been a nomad and itâ€™s really difficult to know what would happen long term at the Power 5 level. The good news is that Wilcoxâ€™s defenses get better with time, as each stop has included a jump up the defensive FEI rankings in the second year at the helm.
Those same numbers also tell us that heâ€™s going to have to up his game to keep the Badger faithful happy. After all, Wisconsin has been at or near the very top of all those statistical numbers throughout the years Wilcox has been in charge of defenses.
Perhaps most interesting is looking at where defenses were just before Wilcox arrived on campus. In the case of Boise State, we only have the raw numbers. The 2005 Broncos defense ranked 51st in scoring defense (24.4), 100th in pass defense (261.7), 16th in rushing defense (107.9) and 51st in total defense (369.6).
Boise State moved up dramatically in passing defense his very first year (100th to 45th) and made dramatic jumps in every other category available. A look at the numbers at Washington show similar results, which indicate a coach who has the ability to transform and mold defensive players quickly. One doesnâ€™t improve the way these defenses did under Wilcox without that kind of transition.
Perhaps the biggest question is if he can sustain that success for more than a few seasons at a time and if he can do it without “elite” recruiting talent all over the field. He did have trouble at USC, as the defense he took over was one of the best in the country upon his arrival â€” ranking inside the top 20 of scoring, rushing and total defense.
Wilcox has the 3-4 pedigree to help Wisconsin keep the momentum going on defense, however this isnâ€™t pass-happy West Coast football. Could it be that Big Ten country is best for Wilcoxâ€™s style? Could it also help that Wilcox will have most of the front seven back at Wisconsin?
Weâ€™ll all find out together, butÂ itâ€™s safe to say the numbers suggest the jury is well out on Wilcoxâ€™s ability to be an elite defensive coordinator.