Wilcox will be back

Tennessee head football coach Derek Dooley has gotten some salve for the gaping wound inflicted by Thursday night's controversial Music City Bowl loss to North Carolina.

First-year Vol defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is not considering a move to the same job at the University of Texas. Wilcox was reported to be among the leading candidates for the position, which has been vacant since Will Muschamp left the Longhorns Dec. 11 to become head coach at Florida.

Jimmy Stanton, Tennessee's associate athletics director of communications, verified Wilcox's decision in an email to InsideTennessee.com that stated: "I can confirm that Justin will be the defensive coordinator at Tennessee again next year."

That seems to suggest that Wilcox also is not interested in the coordinator position at Florida. He has been mentioned in connection with that job, as well.

Wilcox's original contract called for him to make $625,000 in Year 2 of his three-year deal with Tennessee. He reportedly is in line for a raise, however, that will earn him more than that in the season ahead.

Regardless, Wilcox's decision to stay put appears to be a significant plus for Tennessee. The Vols made considerable late-season progress under his guidance. After allowing 244 points in the first eight games - an average of 30.5 points per contest - the Big Orange defense allowed just 13.0 points per outing in the final four regular-season games.

Tennessee limited North Carolina to 17 points in the first 59 minutes and 59 seconds of the Music City Bowl. After the referee announced "The game is over," however, a replay review prompted officials to put one second back on the clock. That enabled the Tar Heels to kick a game-tying field goal on the final play of regulation, then add a touchdown in overtime and a field goal in the second overtime to finish with 30 points.

Tennessee's defense faced a massive rebuilding chore last September. The Vols had to replace two first-round NFL Draft picks (safety Eric Berry, tackle Dan Williams) from their 2009 stop unit, along with three other '09 starters - tackle Wes Brown, linebacker Rico McCoy and cornerback Dennis Rogan.

When first-team end Ben Martin and first-team tackle Marlon Walls were lost for the season with torn Achilles tendons in August, the Vol defense appeared ready to qualify for Federal Disaster Relief.

After an awful start that saw the Vols surrender 48 points to Oregon, 31 to Florida, 41 to Georgia, 41 to Alabama and 38 to South Carolina, Wilcox rallied the troops. Tennessee allowed just 14 points in Game 9 at Memphis, 14 in Game 10 vs. Ole Miss, 10 in Game 11 at Vanderbilt and 14 in the regular-season finale vs. Kentucky.

Tennessee will return just two members of the front seven that started the Music City Bowl for 2011 - tackle Malik Jackson and linebacker Herman Lathers. The secondary returns intact, however, featuring sophomores Prentiss Waggner, Marsalis Teague and Janzen Jackson, along with freshman Brent Brewer.

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