USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is familiar with Washington’s staff

Former USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox calls a play during a fall scrimmage at Howard Jones Field.

Former USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox calls a play during a fall scrimmage at Howard Jones Field.

(Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times)

Justin Wilcox does not have to familiarize himself with Washington’s offense. USC’s defensive coordinator started his coaching career in 2001 as a graduate assistant at Boise State, where Chris Petersen was in his first year as offensive coordinator.

Five years later, Petersen became head coach and hired Wilcox as defensive coordinator.

Petersen is in his second season as Washington’s coach. Wilcox has schemed against Petersen twice but not for the Trojans until Thursday night.

In 2012, Wilcox was Washington’s defensive coordinator when the Huskies lost to Boise State, 28-26, in the Las Vegas Bowl. The teams met again in their 2013 opener and Washington won, 38-6, holding Boise State without a touchdown in the worst loss in Petersen’s eight seasons with the Broncos.

Petersen succeeded Steve Sarkisian in 2014, and his Washington staff includes several former Boise State assistants.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for all those guys,” Wilcox said Monday. “I have history with them, so I know them, so that’s probably the most unique part.”


Wilcox said he was “forever indebted” to Petersen for providing the opportunity to be a defensive coordinator. But their familiarity gives Wilcox no advantage.

“People talk about the offense and the deceptive plays that you’ll get,” Wilcox said. “Somebody [said], ‘Since you know the guy then you have a leg up on stopping those.’

“Well, unless they tell you when they’re going to run the play or when the trick play is coming…. I know they’re going to be a well-coached team, I know they’ve got talented players and I know they’ve gotten better every game, so that’s what we’re concerned with.”

USC’s defense is coming off an impressive Sept. 26 showing against Arizona State in which it forced four turnovers, all leading to touchdowns, in a 42-14 victory at Tempe, Ariz.

The dominating victory cooled much of the heat on Wilcox and Sarkisian after a poor performance in a loss to Stanford.

Familiar foe


Freshman linebacker Cameron Smith played against Jake Browning, Washington’s freshman quarterback, in high school in the Sacramento area.

Smith played at Granite Bay High, Browning at Folsom.

“He slings it,” said Smith, who leads the Trojans with 30 tackles. “His accuracy is what makes him a really good quarterback.”

Browning has completed 65% of his passes, five for touchdowns, with four interceptions.

“Jake’s got a good feel for the game,” Sarkisian said. “He’s a tough kid, he’s heady…and he’s gotten better from week to week to week.”

Pelon injured

Defensive lineman Claude Pelon suffered an apparent ankle injury Monday, putting his status for Thursday’s game in doubt.

Pelon, a senior, started in place of Antwaun Woods at nose tackle against Arizona State and made four tackles, one for a loss.

Woods has returned and is expected to play against Washington.

Quick hits

Sarkisian said that he felt “good” about cornerback Kevon Seymour’s chances of playing on Thursday night. Seymour sat out the last two games because of a knee injury…. Receiver Darreus Rogers (hamstring) did not participate in drills…. School is in session at USC on Thursday so on-campus tailgating and parking for the game is prohibited. For parking and tailgate information: Coliseum parking lots will open at 2 p.m. for pass holders.


Twitter: @latimesklein