Christopher Smith

Washington Coordinator Follows Sarkisian To USC

Created on Dec. 27, 2013 4:01 PM EST

Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox will follow Steve Sarkisian to USC, CBS reported Friday morning.

In a move that took a while to develop, Wilcox, the Pac-12's highest-paid assistant coach in 2013 at about $800,000, replaces current defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.

According to the Seattle Times, Wilcox had a $1 million buyout, unusually high for an assistant coach. Washigton, of course, hired former Boise State coach Chris Petersen to replace Sarkisian. Wilcox was Petersen's defensive coordinator for the Broncos from 2006-09, and there has been speculation that the new Huskies coach wanted to retain the assistant for his own staff.

Instead, Petersen will bring Boise State defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski and two key Broncos defensive assistants to Seattle, the Times reported.

Wilcox will be under pressure to perform at USC, both due to his high-dollar price tag and because of the job Pendergast did in reforming a defense that was shaky before he arrived. He installed a 5-2 scheme as the Trojans, despite depleted depth from NCAA sanctions, finished first in the Pac-12 in total defense. A defensive coordinator in the NFL for several seasons, Pendergast may return to the professional ranks, Adam Schefter reported.

USC's 2014 defensive coordinator has a strong resume of his own. The Broncos led the WAC in total defense for Wilcox's entire stint as defensive coordinator. Tennessee ranked in the top third in total defense and scoring defense under Wilcox in 2011 and fell apart the next season, while Washington's defense made significant improvements in 2012 when he re-joined Sarkisian.

A defensive back for Oregon in the late 1990s, Wilcox is no stranger to the Pac-12. He'll coach the Huskies in the Fight Hunger Bowl against BYU on Friday night before flying to Los Angeles to begin coaching his new defense.

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