Former NFL coach John Lovett to coach Cal football’s cornerbacks

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Cal football took another step toward bolstering its weak secondary Monday, when head coach Sonny Dykes announced the team will be hiring John Lovett to coach its cornerbacks.

That was just the first step in a reshuffling of the team’s coaches that took place Monday, as former secondary coach Greg Burns will have his coaching focus shifted to the safeties, while Dykes will add coaching the outside wide receivers to his list of duties.

“We are thrilled to be able to add someone with John’s level of experience and expertise to our coaching staff,” Dykes said to Cal Athletics. “He is a proven coach who has had success at the highest level of football. His addition to our staff certainly makes us better as a unit.”

Dykes’ responsibilities on this staff continue to expand, and his additional shift in coaching outside receivers is an interesting task. He will replace Pierre Ingram, who left the program in April after being arrested for allegedly soliciting a prostitute.

Dykes, who previously spent nine years of his career coaching outside receivers, is definitely qualified for the position. He also has some experience juggling the job with bigger duties, as he coached outside receivers in his last two years at Texas Tech, when he was also the team’s co-offensive coordinator. Despite his past of managing these duties, it may be hard for Dykes to continue to do so in the long term while also being the team’s head coach.

In the short term, however, it shouldn’t be a problem, as the Bears will return with the vast majority of a receiving corps that really impressed last season — Chris Harper is the only major contributor Cal will have to replace. Along with the experience of the receivers, it’s likely that much of the responsibility for the position group will fall to inside-receivers coach Jacob Peeler, leaving Dykes with the ability to focus most of his attention on head-coaching duties.

While Dykes will hope that taking control of coaching the outside receivers will help keep the Bear Raid running smoothly, Lovett was hired to help steady one of the nation’s weakest defenses. Burns’ reassignment to coaching only safeties rather than the whole secondary seems to be less of a demotion than it is a sign that the team is getting more serious about fixing its defensive deficiencies. The Bears, who gave up the most passing yards on a per-game basis in the nation last year, can use all the help they can get on the secondary.

“By hiring John, it allows us to put needed resources into our defensive coaching staff to work with a young group of players that we know we need to continue to improve,” Dykes said to Cal Athletics. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the improvements our defensive staff has already made in our defense, and hiring John should help us speed up the process even more.”

Lovett’s hiring will be a nice step toward trying to remedy these problems, as he has 14 years of experience coaching players in the defensive backfield at the college and NFL levels. He most recently coached defensive backs for the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL in the last two seasons. Before that, he worked under Cal defensive coordinator Art Kaufman at Texas Tech. Lovett helped the Red Raiders take their passing yards allowed per game down by almost 40 yards and helped decrease their completion percentage allowed by 6 percent. His experience working with Kaufman will be invaluable, as it should make the transition go more smoothly for Lovett, who is taking this job just more than a month before the regular season kicks off.

“It is critical that our coaching staff is a cohesive unit,” Dykes said to Cal Athletics. “Art and John have an excellent history of success together. They work well with each other, and their experience in the game helps them bring out the best in young defenses like ours. I’m confident that they will be able to do that with our team this season.”

Hooman Yazdanian is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @hoomanyazdanian.