SEATTLE — He saw it on a daily basis, worked to figure out how to stop it and knew the formations and other nuances.
Still, Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox insists he doesn’t have an advantage against the offense and trick plays of 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 for the Broncos 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 … unless they tell us what play they’re running, it really isn’t an advantage,” Wilcox said.
Boise State did give Wilcox a helping hand when then-defensive coordinator Bob Gregory (Gregory is back at Boise as the linebackers coach) called him to see if he wanted to join the Broncos’ staff as a graduate assistant more than 10 years ago. That meant Wilcox had a decision to make.
Keep moving furniture or coach football.
“I was like, ‘yeah, let’s try that out,”’ Wilcox said with a laugh.
That started his coaching career, which took him from Boise to Cal, back to Boise, to Tennessee, and then to Washington.
Although Wilcox has been gone for years, Boise State has essentially stayed the same on offense. They 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, and 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.”
Prepping for a Dec. 22 showdown with Boise State in Las Vegas also demands spending time defending trick plays.
The Broncos made their national splash in 2007 with one of the most remarkable endings in college football history at the Fiesta Bowl.
Boise State ran the “hook and ladder” on fourth-and-18 from midfield, down seven, with 18 seconds remaining in the game to score and tie it.
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 to a tight end. Then, incredibly, on the two-point conversion attempt they won on a “Statue of Liberty” handoff.
Wilcox may try to determine if Peterson 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.