On Friday afternoon, the San Francisco 49ers newest defensive coordinator Steve Wilks introduced himself to the Faithful by holding his first press conference with the team.
The 49ers announced the hiring of Wilks as the team's defensive coordinator earlier this offseason in March, following the departure of DeMeco Ryans to the Houston Texans.
Prior to Carolina, Wilks spent time at the University of Missouri (2021) and Cleveland Browns (2019) as a defensive coordinator, the Arizona Cardinals (2018) as a head coach and the San Diego Chargers (2009-11) and Chicago Bears (2006-09) as a defensive backs coach.
Here's what Wilks had to say in his first press conference as a member of the 49ers:
Wilks on what it's like to work with the 49ers:
"I want to say how happy I am to be here. It didn't take me long to really realize why this place is so successful. You see it from the outside, from afar, but once I got here and had the opportunity to meet ownership and to spend some time with (general manager) John (Lynch) and (head coach) Kyle (Shanahan), it all came to reality for me, so to be here is definitely a blessing for me. To be around this talented defense, the players that we have and the things that we were able to do in free agency and also in the draft, I'm extremely excited and looking forward to the season."
Wilks on bringing new ideas to the 49ers system:
"You have to embrace the success that they've had here. I think it is a foundation that we all agree we wanted to keep, and I think it is an opportunity as we go through the process, which we already have, to try to tweak things a little bit. I still think there's room for improvement. If you talk to the players, they would tell you the same, so when it's not broke, you don't really want to try to fix it, and once again, we've had a lot of success around here and we just want to continue to build on that."
Wilks on the 49ers defensive front:
"Everything we do starts up front. When you look at how dominant we've been over the years, it is because of our defensive line and we've done a great job building that through the draft. As I just alluded to, we did some great things in free agency this past year. (Defensive line coach Kris) Kocurek does a tremendous job. He's one of the best in the business at what he does, and he's had a major impact on this defense, so that was really the biggest thing that stood out to me, was just how great we were up front consistently over the years."
Wilks on the progress of players on the defensive line:
"Javon Kinlaw has just been tremendous since I've been here. The day that I came in on my interview, he was here working out. He has not missed a day of offseason training, so I'm excited to see exactly where he's going to be. It's the same thing with Drake Jackson. Drake has been here all spring working out, doing the things that he needs to do to improve his game. He's gained a lot of weight, he's in there with Kocurek and I'm just excited to see exactly what he's going to do and how he's going to progress in his second year."
Wilks on Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa:
"I've only heard great things about him, even before I got here. Just his personality, going around the league, different guys that I know and how they just rant and rave about him. The work ethic that he has most importantly is just across the board. The standard is set here. These guys work extremely hard, and I'm so impressed just watching those guys work even in phase one. I would just watch the individual period every day and see how they work at all three levels of the defense and Bosa is a leader of that. He exemplifies that each and every day."
Wilks on his expertise as a defensive coordinator:
"I think you have to explore and experiment with everything. My background is diverse in zone as well as man, and I think it can change each week based off your opponent and who you're playing. Do I feel like we have the skill set to play more man? Yes. At times, do I want to be a little bit more aggressive with the talent and athleticism that we have at linebacker? Yes... In regards to probably blitzing a little bit more. I believe in zone eyes, I think that's how you make plays on the football, particularly from the underneath positions, so zone is still going to be a high-element of what we do, but I feel like we have the skill set and the talent to be able to get in a guy's face, press man, make the quarterback hold the ball, particularly with our front."
Wilks on the 49ers newest defensive lineman, Javon Hargrave:
"We've been talking back and forth. We do have a connection just from the mere fact that he resides and lives in Charlotte as well. Born and raised right outside of Charlotte in Salisbury, NC, so a lot of guys that I coach he's real close with, so just that mutual friendship that we have. I'm excited to have him as a part of the 49ers. I know he's going to be a huge addition for us this year."
Wilks on adjusting to the Bay Area:
"It's still an ongoing process in regards to making the move with my family. We were all on the same page in this decision. I don't make any decisions without really involving my family, so I had total support there. I think always in the transition of going to a new place, you want to have that extra time to be able to dive into watching more tape, staying here late, trying to get to know the guys a little bit more, building relationships I think is critical, so that was part of the process."
Wilks on reuniting with his former players from the Carolina Panthers, Christian McCaffrey and Sam Darnold:
"Hopefully they're going to have a lot of success. Both of those guys are extremely talented. I'm glad that they're on our team. I'm glad we're here together. It was disappointing to lose Christian last year, but he has definitely made a difference here with the 49ers and I'm glad to be able to be a part of that now."
Wilks on how free agents Myles Hartsfield and Isaiah Oliver fit into the defense:
"With Hartsfield, I think it's always important if you can have someone, whether it's a player or coach that's somewhat familiar with your system and philosophy, he can be an extension of you on the field, coaching the guys, also in the locker room and then also in the classroom. So that was an important factor for me. He's a good football player as well. Oliver is someone that I had the opportunity to go against being in that division... We wanted to make sure that we sort of got the best nickel in free agency and that's what we went out and did, so I'm excited about Oliver. He's long, he's physical, can tackle, can cover, he's going to be a good blitzer for us, everything that we do within this defense."
Wilks on why third-round draft pick Ji'Ayir Brown impressed him:
"His tape just jumped off at you. He just makes plays, but having an opportunity, we didn't go to the combine, we did zooms, but even when you are there, those 15 minutes don't give justice for us really trying to get to know someone. And we do a huge thing here where we bring our 30 in all at the same time. We have dinner, Top Golf and as you get into a social setting, I think you have more conversations. He just started growing on me, the conversation that we're having, his dedication to the game, he's mature, he sees it with a different lens and I said, 'This guy right here can be the future for us.' So I was excited about it and I'm glad we got him."