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Steve Wilks will help bring the Mizzou secondary to the next level



 

Now that the Steve Wilks addition has been made official by the University of Missouri we can talk about how he'll be able to help Mizzou's defense. Before that, first impression from this hire is that this is typically a hire a blue blood would make. We see all the time former NFL coaches head over to Nick Saban's staff for his coaching rehab program before they move on to a better job and typically, Mizzou could never appeal to a former NFL head coach, especially for just a coordinator position. That speaks volumes about where head coach Eli Drinkwitz is taking the program. In an official press release from Mizzou after the Wilks announcement, Wilks said that Missouri was a place he was comfortable going to because of the direction of the program. "As I took time off to reflect over the past year, I wanted to find a good program with great people that was moving in the right direction, and without a doubt, Mizzou Football has all of that". Those are some strong words from the former NFL head coach.





The relationship between Mizzou assistant Charlie Harbison who was on Wilks' staff in Arizona in 2018 helped ignite talks between Wilks and Mizzou about the potential fit. Eli Drinkwitz also got to know Wilks over his time at App. State as Wilks is an alumni at the school so there was already built-in trust. All of that led to the hiring of Wilks who brings all sorts to the table as a defensive coordinator, but there's one area in particular that Wilks has an outstanding background in coaching. Defensive backs. The level of secondary play has the potential to rise to a level we've never seen at Missouri.


Missouri has had some good defensive backs over the years but they've struggled to send many to the league over the last several years. The most recent one who had some sustained success was E.J. Gaines but that was almost a decade ago at this point. Luckily for Missouri, Steve Wilks is someone who has the ability to send guys to the league as he knows what it takes to get there with his experience and has coached many notable names throughout his time in the NFL. Let's look at some of the big names Wilks has mentored over the years:


Patrick Peterson


We all know Steve Wilks' lone season as Arizona head coach was a bad marriage for many reasons, However, Wilks put together one of the best defenses in the league in Arizona despite their talent-deficient roster. Wilks coached LSU legend cornerback Patrick Peterson where he put together a pro-bowl season while the Arizona's pass defense ranked 4th in the league in pass yards given up per game at just 203.9 pass yards given up per game.





Eric Weddle


Steve Wilks was the defensive backs coach for the San Diego Chargers from 2009-2012 and Wilks coached likely future hall-of-famer Eric Weddle in the secondary for multiple years including 2010 where the Chargers had the No.1 pass defense in the league giving up 177.8 pass yards per game.


Josh Norman


Wilks coached Panthers defensive backs for multiple years for the Panthers including 2015 in which the Panthers went to the Super Bowl and Josh Norman had his breakout year. A lot of credit went to Wilks for helping to develop Norman who was selected to go to the pro-bowl and selected first team all-pro after tallying 48 solo tackles, 4 interceptions, and 18 passes defended.


Denzel Ward


When Wilks was the defensive coordinator for the 2019 Cleveland Browns he coached former first-round pick out of Ohio State in Denzel Ward. In 2019, Ward recorded 38 solo tackles, 2 interceptions, and 11 passes defended.


Those are just some of the names Wilks helped coach in his time in the NFL. That should also help ease any recruiting concerns people have about Wilks. Typically, anyone with NFL experience has a ton to offer recruits and recruits love NFL experience. Imagine you're a defensive back recruit and Wilks walks into your living room and tells you he coached some of the greatest defensive backs of all-time to have career seasons. That sounds pretty appealing doesn't it?





Wilks has had a ton of success coaching defensive backfields in general. We've talked about some of the passing defense numbers briefly but there's more where that came from. The Chargers had a top-ten pass defense the first three years Wilks was the defensive backs coach for San Diego and they were also 17th in 2012 which was Wilks' last year there. Wilks also has some success in the college ranks coaching pass defenses. Although it was basically 15 years ago, Wilks was the secondary coach at Washington where his pass defense allowed 275.0 pass yards per game but also averaged 1.5 defensive takeaways on the year. In 2017 for Carolina when Wilks was promoted to defensive coordinator, Wilks led a top-10 defense that also only allowed a 51% completion percentage against its opponents.


You get the point, Wilks has experience not only coaching defenses, but successful defenses. The Mizzou secondary should benefit greatly from someone like Wilks who is a huge step up from Ryan Walters when you look at his resume. Wilks' defenses were also pretty good at stopping the run including when he was DC in Carolina and his defense ranked 3rd against the run. Wilks does a good job coaching his defensive backs to help in the run game and Wilks loves to blitz. He blitzed a ton, especially with Arizona. Guys like Martez Manuel and Ennis Rakestraw will have a field day blitzing and racking up tackles for a loss. You can even check out this video breaking down how Wilks likes to blitz and create different looks here.





In a world where football is becoming a passing game and so many explosive offenses are developing in the SEC, bringing in a defensive coordinator with Wilks' strategy should help to boost Mizzou's secondary play to the next level. It might not happen in year one, two, or even three, but give him some time and you should start to see a mature and productive Mizzou secondary under Wilks who can start getting Mizzou corners and safeties to the NFL.





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