Report: 49ers hiring former Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks as defensive coordinator

Carolina Panthers head coach Steve Wilks watches during the first half of an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Steve Wilks will take over the NFL's best defense from 2022. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The San Francisco 49ers are hiring Steve Wilks as their defensive coordinator, NFL Network reports.

Wilks took over as the interim Carolina Panthers head coach midseason and was a candidate for the full-time position before Carolina hired Frank Reich. Wilks takes over for DeMeco Ryans, who was hired as the Houston Texans head coach after coordinating the NFL's best defense this season.

Wilks worked as Carolina's secondary coach before taking over for fired head coach Matt Rhule following a 1-5 start. The Panthers finished 7-10 under Wilks and made a late push for the NFC South title before ultimately falling short. He previously spent the 2018 season as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

Wilks has also worked as the defensive coordinator in Carolina, for the Cleveland Browns and in college at Missouri in addition to multiple roles as a defensive assistant in the NFL and college.

Wilks takes over a defense featuring three 2022 All-Pros in edge rusher Nick Bosa, linebacker Fred Warner and safety Talanoa Hufanga. San Francisco finished first in the NFL in points (16.3) and yards (300.6) allowed per game. San Francisco's past two defensive coordinators Ryans and Robert Saleh (Jets) have moved on to head coaching positions.

The 49ers hire a coordinator in Wilks with extensive NFL experience as a locker room leader and defensive strategist. Wilks was well-liked in Charlotte and received support from Panthers players to take over as head coach full time.