SEATTLE - Washington's efforts to rebuild its lagging defense turned Monday to two men with deep ties to one of UW's most heated rivals - the University of Oregon.
By the time Monday ended, though, Justin Wilcox and Peter Sirmon were Huskies, entrusted with attempting to help Washington catch up to the Ducks and the rest of the Pac-12 powers.
Wilcox has been hired as defensive coordinator to replace Nick Holt, and Sirmon as linebackers coach to replace Mike Cox.
Sirmon is a 1995 Wa-Hi graduate who played four years on the Blue Devil football team. He just completed his second full season as an assistant coach after having played as a linebacker from 2000 through 2006 in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans.
After a year as an assistant at Central Washington in 2008, he worked as a graduate assistant at Oregon in 2009 before landing at the University of Tennessee.
Sirmon becomes a Huskies coach roughly 16 years after he almost did as a player. Sirmon was recruited seriously by UW when he led Wa-Hi (where he also played quarterback) to the 1994 Class AAA title game before losing to South Kitsap. Washington, though, was saddled at the time with scholarship reductions due to NCAA sanctions and had to chose between Sirmon and Marques Hairston of Tacoma. The Huskies chose Hairston to offer a scholarship and Sirmon went to Oregon, where he was an All-Pac-10 choice in 1999 before heading to the NFL.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian didn't waste any time hiring Wilcox and Sirmon, who were roommates while playing together at Oregon from 1996-99.
Each spent the past two years at Tennessee in the same roles they will fill at Washington.
There, the two helped shape a young Tennessee defense into one that ranked No. 28 in the country in yards allowed.
"I am excited to welcome Justin and Peter to Washington as they are two of the brightest young coaches in the country," Sarkisian said in a statement. "Both are natives of the Northwest and have strong recruiting ties in the area which complements their tremendous coaching abilities."
Wilcox's star began to shine during a stint as defensive coordinator at Boise State from 2006 through 2009. In his last season at Boise, the Broncos went 14-0 and won the Fiesta Bowl, a season that began with a 19-8 victory over Oregon.
"Washington is a place where you can win big, and I'm excited to work with coach Sarkisian in developing a championship-caliber football program," said Wilcox, who was a defensive back at Oregon. "Our first order of business is hitting the recruiting trail, and I can't wait to get started."
While Tennessee finished 5-7 in 2011 in the second year for coach Derek Dooley, the defense allowed just 22.6 points a game to rank 35th nationally, and was 13th against the pass (177.83).
Wilcox reportedly turned down a chance to become the defensive coordinator at Texas following the 2010 season, after which he had his contract restructured. He made a reported $700,000 in 2011 and was reportedly set to make $750,000 in 2012 and $800,000 in 2013.
Washington officials said no details of his contract with the Huskies were yet available but he's likely making just as much, if not more. Holt made $650,004 in 2011 and also will be paid that amount for next year.
Sirmon was reported to make $175,000 in 2011.
Holt and Cox were among three coaches fired Saturday as the Huskies decided to reshape a defense that ranked statistically as the worst in school history, punctuated by a 67-56 defeat against Baylor in the Alamo Bowl in which UW allowed a school-record 777 yards.
Washington still has two defensive openings to fill, for a cornerbacks coach and a safeties coach, to replace Demetrice Martin (who left for UCLA) and Jeff Mills (who was fired).