Part Four of our “Meet the Coaches” segment here at Cat Crave will highlight the coaches for the linebackers and secondary.
Al Holcomb – Linebackers
PLAYING AND PERSONAL
Holcomb earned a bachelor’s degree in sport management in 1993, and a master’s degree in athletic coaching education in 1996 both from West Virginia. While pursuing his graduate degree, he coached linebackers at Morgantown (W.Va.) High School in 1994 and volunteered as an administrative assistant with the Mountaineers.
Holcomb began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Temple from 1995-96, helping with linebackers. In 1997, Holcomb worked as linebackers coach, assistant track coach and physical education instructor at Colby College.
He then moved to Bloomsburg University, where he spent six years from 1998-2003 as linebackers coach and special teams coordinator. From 2004-05, Holcomb coached at Kutztown University, where he was the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach and also served as the interim head coach in the winter of 2005.
Holcomb oversaw the defensive line at Lafayette from 2006-08. In his first season in 2006, Holcomb contributed to a unit that finished first in the NCAA FCS in total defense, fourth in rushing defense and eighth in scoring defense. During his final season in 2008, the Leopards led the conference in several defensive categories, including total defense and scoring defense. During his three years at Lafayette, five different defensive linemen claimed All-Patriot League honors.
He also gained professional coaching experience by participating in the NFL’s Minority Internship Program with the New York Jets during mini-camp and training camp in 2007.
Holcomb spent the last four seasons with the New York Giants, serving as defensive quality control coach from 2009-10 and as defensive assistant from 2011-12. The Giants ranked in the top seven in the league in total defense in two of Holcomb’s four years and capped his first season as a defensive assistant with a victory in Super Bowl XLVI.
Armed with four years of NFL coaching experience and 14 on the college level, Holcomb comes to Carolina in 2013 to lead the Panthers’ young and experienced group of linebackers, featuring the 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in Luke Kuechly and the franchise’s second-leading tackler in Jon Beason.
College coach: Temple 1995-96, Colby College 1997, Bloomsburg 1998-2003, Kutztown 2004-05, Lafayette 2006-08. Pro coach: New York Giants 2009-12, joined Panthers in 2013.
Steve Wilks – Secondary/Passing Defense Coordinator
PLAYING AND PERSONAL
A product of West Charlotte High School, Wilks played defensive back at Appalachian State from 1987-91 and finished his career with 103 tackles, four interceptions and four blocked kicks. He attended training camp with the Seattle Seahawks in 1992 and lined up at defensive back and wide receiver for the Charlotte Rage of the Arena Football League in 1993.
Wilks graduated from Appalachian State with a degree in communications.
He began his coaching career as defensive coordinator at Johnson C. Smith in Charlotte in 1995.
Wilks moved to Savannah State in 1997 and served as the team’s defensive coordinator from 1997-98. In 1998, he earned Division II defensive coordinator of the year as the Tigers led the nation in total defense. He was promoted to head coach in 1999, guiding the team to a 5-6 record.
He had one-year stints as the defensive backs coach at Illinois State in 2000 and Appalachian State in 2001.
Wilks was co-defensive coordinator at East Tennessee State in 2002 for a unit that featured three defensive backs who earned All-Southern Conference honors and in 2003, served as defensive backs coach at Bowling Green State University, producing an All-American cornerback.
He spent one season with Notre Dame, where he helped the Irish earn a bowl bid in 2004. The following year, he moved to Washington as defensive backs coach in 2005.
From 2006-08, Wilks joined to NFL coaching ranks with the Chicago Bears, where cornerbacks and safeties accounted for 42 of the team’s 62 interceptions, including 16 in 2006 when Chicago – with Panther head coach Ron Rivera as defensive coordinator, led the NFL with 44 takeaways. won the NFC Championship and advanced to Super Bowl XLI. Chicago’s defensive backs also forced 20 fumbles during Wilks’ tenure, the most in the NFL in that span.
Wilks spent three years with the San Diego Chargers, where he oversaw the secondary from 2009-11. In 2010, he and then San Diego defensive coordinator Rivera made a formidable duo when the Chargers led the NFL in total defense and pass defense. San Diego limited opponents to a 76.2 passer rating, the fourth lowest in the league, and allowed 18 touchdown passes, the fifth fewest in the NFL. Wilks was promoted to assistant head coach-secondary in 2011 and the Chargers’ pass defense vastly improved under Wilks’ guidance. Prior to his arrival, San Diego ranked 31st in the NFL against the pass but jumped to 11th in 2009, first 2010 and 13th in 2011.
Wilks, a Charlotte native, returned home to Carolina last season as secondary coach and pass defense coordinator and helped the Panthers pass defense improve from 24th in 2011 to 13th en route to an overall ranking of 10th in the NFL in total defense, despite dealing with injuries throughout the season.
Veteran safety Charles Godfrey led a group that received contributions from a number of young players as rookies D.J. Campbell and Josh Norman and second-year players Josh Thomas and James Dockery combined to start 22 games. The secondary propelled the Panthers to a first-place finish in the NFL in average yards after catch, limited opponents to 38 pass plays of 20-or-more yards – which equaled the third fewest in the league – and tied a team record with three interception returns for touchdowns.
Wilks is in his second year as Carolina’s secondary coach and pass defense coordinator in 2013.
Defensive back: Appalachian State 1987-91. Pro defensive back/wide receiver: Charlotte Rage (AFL) 1993. College coach: Johnson C. Smith 1995-96, Savannah State 1997-99 (head coach 1999), Illinois State 2000, Appalachian State 2001, East Tennessee State 2002, Bowling Green State University 2003, Notre Dame 2004, Washington 2005. Pro coach: Chicago Bears 2006-08, San Diego Chargers 2009-11, joined Panthers in 2012.
NEXT: Offensive Line Coaches