Rarely has Cal football had the opportunity to add an assistant coach with the successful resume at the highest levels as they were able to do in securing veteran offensive line coach Steve Greatwood's services back in January, towards the close of the 2017 recruiting season.
Greatwood guided his offensive lines at Oregon to 10 straight rushing titles from 2006 to 2015 during his second stint with the program as a critical component of the Ducks high-powered offense and brings a wealth of experience and success to the Cal program.
"Steve is one of the most respected offensive line coaches in college football and has a long history of success coaching some of the best offensive lines that have ever played the game," said head coach Justin Wilcox. "We are thrilled that he will be joining our staff at Cal."
It's a big move for Greatwood, who has spent most of his life in Eugene, coaching there for 32 of his 37 years in the coaching profession after growing up there and playing there as a prep and collegiately, as well.
"It's a new change and a new chapter in my life," said Greatwood. "I think it's kind of really reinvigorated me, meeting new people and new surroundings.
"I feel really recharged right now. I'm excited about the move."
Working with offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin, Greatwood would like to duplicate some of the success he oversaw in Eugene.
The Oregon offenses over the years were often mis-labeled as "finesse" offenses -something the successful San Francisco 49er teams had to deal with in the past where their high-powered offenses had to shed similar misconceptions.
"The term finesse always kind of rankles me a little bit because we're running the same schemes and same techniques that we did when I was running pro style offenses in the NFL and USC prior to when we stared running the spread stuff (at Oregon)," said Greatwood.
"Instead of using a fullback or a tight end on the back side to hold off a defensive end, that's the quarterback's responsibility. It doesn't affect what the five interior guys are doing. They've still got to account for five guys in the box.
"So that label always has kind of gotten to me a little bit. We just came off the ball and moved people.
"Now we had the advantage of spreading the field with terrific skill players at both running back and wide receiver that made teams respect that skill so they couldn't load the box up, so we had that."
While Baldwin will largely be the one calling plays, Greatwood noted that it will be a collaborative effort.
"I see it as a compilation of what we're doing," said Greatwood. "I don't see it being much different for me than it was in Oregon. What we'll put on paper as a game plan will be a compilation of everyone's thoughts.
"The run game has to mesh with the pass game formationally, for example. It will all come together in a good way. Whoever ends up calling what, I don't really care about that. I just want to make sure I put my guys in a position to be able to execute whatever we call, to the best of their ability."
Greatwood sees some of the same potential at Cal working with new offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin.
"I see us being able to do some of the same concepts here at Cal but we still have to move people off the line of scrimmage, no matter what type of scheme you're running.
"We'd like to be more multiple than maybe Cal's been lately but you have to recruit the players to be able to do that. You can't pound a square peg into a round hole.
"It's going to be a transition for us initially to try and get those types of body types into the program but we'll do what we have to do initially the first year until we're there. But it would be nice to have that weapon and the ability to run that type of 2-heavy sets in our arsenal, as well."
The veteran coach sees a lot of potential to build a winning program at Cal with what they have to sell from a recruiting standpoint and with the type of student athlete that's naturally attracted to what Cal has to offer academically and otherwise.
"My first impression coming here to Cal is there's a ton to sell here," said Greatwood.
"Obviously you have the Bay Area, the weather, a strong population base and, first and foremost, you have one of the top universities in the country and in the world. So I think you can attract a certain type of kid to come here.
"The thing that really struck me is the number of kids that are within a one or two hour drive of here that can come whenever they want and make unofficial visits so you can expose them to the program.
"At Oregon, we didn't really have that luxury. You had a handful of kids that lived in Oregon so you had to get them to get on a plane to visit or drive a lot of hours. It was like pulling teeth sometimes to get guys out there unofficially. The way recruiting has accelerated, the more guys you can get out there early, the more it helps you build a class. So that's been to me a huge bonus at Cal. You tell them to check us out and once they get here, you can sell the heck out of this area and this school academically.
The offensive line will lack depth in 2017, particularly with the early departure of early OL grads Aaron Cochran and Vinnie Johnson -a challenge Greatwood doesn't take lightly.
With that in mind, look for the Bears to add as many as seven new offensive lineman in the next year in a combination of preps, junior college transfers and potential grad transfers, as well.
"It's going to be somewhat difficult this year," said Greatwood. "We're going to be short of bodies and we'll have to manage our practices so we don't beat those guys down. So I'd like to try and balance those numbers out as much as possible so 4-5 years from now, we're not going through the same transition where we're losing so many guys at once."
"We'd like to get our offensive line scholarship numbers up to 15 or so in any given year."
Keeping his o-line healthy will largely be in the hands of new strength and conditioning coach Torre Becton.
"The thing I appreciate about Coach Becton is he's very much in tune with working with the big guys," said Greatwood. "He understands how to train them properly and bring them along. He's not in a hurry to try to get them there too fast. He's going to be very methodical about his plan and hopefully, knock on wood, that will translate into fewer injuries during the season.
"I want them to be able to do functional football movements. In my opinion, lining up and running 100 yard sprints with an offensive lineman -they don't do that. I want them to be explosive, change direction, keep their balance -those types of things, while still conditioning themselves."
Joining this year's team in June will be incoming freshman offensive lineman Mike Saffel and Poutasi Poutasi.
"I've known both those kids," said Greatwood. "While I was at Oregon, I was looking at both those guys, so I feel really comfortable with both Mike and Junior (Poutasi).
Assessing the Bears' roster, Greatwood doesn't have a lot to go on so far but the veteran coach sees several areas that are the basis for a strong program.
"One thing I've been impressed by with our guys is they have the want-to," said Greatwood. "They're not backing away from anything we're asking them to do. I think they're hungry.
"I think we have good team cohesion here. I don't see the cliques -I'll be honest with you here- we had some issues with that at the last place I was at. I see this team being very well-rounded and that crosses over positionally, it crosses over racially, it crosses over class rank -in every way. This is a really cohesive group of guys.
"The kids that come here are very well-rounded, very diverse, very open-minded and they have a genuine respect for each other, no matter what their backgrounds are."
As for the staff that Wilcox has established, it brings an interesting mix of young coaches like receivers coach Nick Edwards, outside linebackers coach Tony Tuiotti and defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander, experienced coaches still on the younger side like Wilcox and Baldwin and salty veterans like Greatwood and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro.
"You can say old guys," said Greatwood, with a laugh regarding him and Azzinaro.
"I think this staff is awesome. To me, taking this job was all about the people I was going to work with. It wasn't about the place, though it turns out the place is awesome, too.
"Coming to work every day with these guys -I see quality guys, low ego guys that just want to roll up their sleeves and get to work. That makes it for me. And Coach Wilcox sets the tone. He's not into promoting himself. It's all about the program and the people in the program. He puts that first over himself.
"I think everyone he's brought in there is that same type of person."