Standing up for his first press conference as the new head coach of the Cal football team, Justin Wilcox appeared as prepared and upbeat as possible considering he is inheriting a flailing program.
When Wilcox walked up to the podium, he assured listeners that the program would regain its footing as a premier college football program as well as a center for student-athlete success. He ran through his successful track record at Wisconsin, USC and other programs, and he assured listeners that he would do what had to be done in order to ensure that winning ways would be brought back to Cal.
“The goal here is pretty simple: It’s really just to consistently compete for championships, graduate our student-athletes and leave them with a fulfilling experience here in Berkeley,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox has done his best to inject life back into the program with some new and interesting coaching hires. He’s hired former Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter as the Bears’ defensive coordinator and Beau Baldwin as the offensive coordinator.
Wilcox is looking to improve Cal’s defense, which has often been pinpointed as its weakest link over the course of the past few seasons, with the addition of DeRuyter. He was the defensive coordinator for the Air Force from 2007-09 and transformed it from a 79th-ranked defense to an 11th-ranked one.
Baldwin, too, is an addition with a successful pedigree: During his eight-year tenure as head coach of Eastern Washington State, Baldwin tallied a 85-32 record and a FCS national championship in 2010.
It has also been reported that former NFL quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo will step in as Cal’s new passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach and former NFL safety Gerald Alexander will be its new defensive backs coach.
Among the numerous coaching changes that happened after Wilcox’s hiring was the release of controversial head strength and conditioning coach Damon Harrington. A locker room confrontation between athletes resulted in one being concussed in 2013, and a physically demanding workout resulted in the death of defensive lineman Ted Agu in 2014.
During the question-answer segment of the press conference, Williams appeared to intentionally skirt a question regarding assistant coach compensation, a move that is unsurprising considering the recent reports of the incredible amount of debt in the Cal Athletics program. Wilcox instead spoke of changing his recruiting decisions, specifically in regard to the physical attributes and position flexibility of the players he would recruit, but did not go into deep details about game tactics.
What was echoed continually throughout the conference was Wilcox’s, and Cal Athletics’, desire to highlight the importance of academics. Repeatedly, Wilcox said he was looking for players who would want to succeed both on the field and in the classroom — a sentiment supported by Williams as well. The focus on academics is one of the few things the new coaching staff will be looking to continue from the former coaching administration. Former head coach Sonny Dykes, during his tenure, helped to improve the graduation rates of his athletes.
Certainly, Wilcox appears to be a deviation from the ways of Dykes, which considering the less-than successful on-field track record of the program in recent history, bodes well.
Sophie Goethals is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]