SEATTLE — He saw it on a daily basis. Worked to figure out how to stop it. Knew the formations and other nuances. But, Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox insists he doesn’t have an advantage against Boise State, his former employer.
Wilcox had two stints in Boise, first as a graduate assistant in 2001, then when he returned as the defensive coordinator in 2006 under current coach Chris Petersen. He says assumptions about a possible benefit from those years as part of the Broncos’ inner circle are unfounded.
“Everyone thinks it’s an advantage … (but) unless they tell us what play they’re running, it really isn’t …,” Wilcox said.
Boise State gave Wilcox a helping hand when then-defensive coordinator Bob Gregory (Gregory, too, is back at Boise coaching linebackers) called him to see if he wanted to join the Broncos’ staff as a grad assistant more than 10 years ago. That meant Wilcox had a decide: Keep moving furniture or coach football?
“I was like, yeah, let’s try that out,” Wilcox said with a laugh.
It was the start of a coaching career that has taken him from Boise to Cal, back to Boise, to Tennessee and now to Washington.
Wilcox attributes being around Petersen, Gregory, Dan Hawkins and others as the reason he’s been a successful coach.
Although Wilcox has been gone for years, Boise State has stayed essentially the same on offense; the Broncos try to be creative while maintaining a foundation rooted in power running formations and motion.
Wilcox said facing the Broncos’ offense in practice broadened the defense’s ability to handle different looks. He said the same process holds true at Washington.
“Some teams that don’t have that imagination on offense and play a little more stagnant, you have a false sense of security,” Wilcox said. “Then you go play somebody who does and now you’re trying to simulate that in practice … it’s hard to do.”
Preparing for a bowl game showdown against the Boise State offense demands spending time defending trick plays. When the Broncos made their national splash, they won the 2007 Fiesta Bowl using trick plays for scores in one of the most remarkable endings in college football history.
Down seven points and facing a fourth-and-18 at midfield, Boise State ran a hook-and-ladder play that resulted in a tying touchdown with 18 seconds remaining in the game.
On fourth-and-2 in overtime, again down seven, the Broncos motioned their quarterback out of the backfield, snapped to a wide receiver who faked a run, and threw a touchdown pass to the tight end. Then, incredibly, the Broncos used a Statue of Liberty handoff to score the winning two-point conversion.
Wilcox joked he may try an unusual tack to determine if Petersen is about to call another cloak-and-dagger play.
“Maybe I need to study his sideline demeanor like a poker player,” Wilcox said.
That could be the best option. They’ll be in Las Vegas, after all.todd.dybas@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas