Steve Wilks not planning major changes to Panthers' 4-3 scheme

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- New Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks doesn't plan any major changes to the 4-3 scheme run by Sean McDermott the past six years.

Wilks on Friday officially was promoted from secondary coach/assistant head coach, replacing new Buffalo Bills coach McDermott, whose Panthers defense ranked in the top 10 in the NFL from 2012 to 2015.

"I've been a part of this defense for the last five years," Wilks said. "I feel like I've had a major part in the input and shaping of this defense and doing the things we're doing today.

"I congratulate Sean and the opportunity he has. As I sat around and talked to the defensive coaches earlier, I was telling those guys this wasn't Sean's defense. This was our defense, and we all had a hand in it."

Wilks, 47, grew up in Charlotte and held his first coaching position as the defensive coordinator at Johnson C. Smith University from 1995 to 1996.

He worked with Panthers coach Ron Rivera, then a defensive coordinator, as the secondary coach in Chicago and San Diego between 2006 and 2011. He has been the secondary coach in Carolina since 2012, helping develop players such as 2015 Pro Bowl selection Josh Norman.

"Having an opportunity to do [this] at home, it's sometimes surreal," Wilks said. "I can recall back when I was young back working at Johnson C. Smith over there cutting the grass, washing the clothes and dreaming of this opportunity to one day having the chance to coach here."

Wilks' immediate task will be finding a replacement secondary coach and building an offseason plan.

He wants his replacement to be a lot like him, somebody who is a teacher and communicator and who understands how to manage people.

"What we fail to realize in this business -- it's no different than corporate America -- it's about dealing with personalities," Wilks said.

Wilks is thankful that linebackers coach Al Holcomb, who was a candidate to be McDermott's coordinator in Buffalo, is staying put. Wilks said continuity with the staff and the roster will help make Carolina a top defense again after it struggled in 2016 with injuries and inexperience in the secondary.

"I told him last night when he told me he was staying, 'I'm not one to be selfish, but I'm glad you're here,'" Wilks said of Holcomb.

Wilks has no concern that middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who didn't play the final six games after suffering a concussion in November, will be at full force in 2017.

"Luke will be ready to go in the spring," he said of the four-time Pro Bowl selection.

Wilks said the goal is the same as it always has been: to be the best defense in the league.

"The one thing I believe in, it's not about trying to outscheme your opponent, it's about trying to outplay them," he said. "We're going to continue to emphasize and focus on the fundamentals of the game. We're going to put a quality product on the field that is going to outplay the opposing defense."
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