Story Poster
Cal Football

Wilcox Talks New Staff, Returning Players, Spring Ball and More

February 4, 2021

Last night, head coach Justin Wilcox and several others associated with the program held a one hour zoom session with season open to the public to introduce the 2021 recruiting class, field questions on the program and more.

Today, Wilcox, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and new outside linebackers coach Keith Heyward fielded questions from Bay Area media to follow up last night’s session in depth.

One of the big wins for the program was to finally be able to return in limited capacity to using Student Athlete High Performance Center to work out indoors for the first time in nearly a year -a big boost to the program on several levels.

“We got to come inside as of this week,” said Wilcox. “The players now get to work out in the weight room. It’s been a long time -almost a year since that’s happened. 

“The group size is about 25. Just to see them go in the weight room and the responses from that, that’s a big win. So we’re looking forward to getting back in the building even more with the locker room and training table at some point. 

“In football, there’s training, practice and meetings. But there’s also so much time the team spends together in the locker room, eating, between workouts that builds cameraderie and chemistry and that’s really important. So we’re looking forward to the situation continuing to get better so we can do that.

“The locker room is a sacred place. Not just physically -and we’ve got a great one thanks to (former Cal QB) Aaron (Rodgers). It’s where they spend time. They talk to each other, they eat together. The older guys get to know the younger guys. It’s more challenging to do that on zoom.

“If you’re not in the same workout group as a freshman and you never see them in meetings or workouts -even in practice, you’re separated so it’s hard to build a relationshp that way. I think we all found that out in the last year. So being back in the facility is a big, big deal. We’re not (fully) there yet but we’re looking forward to getting there whenever the experts say we can. The guys are still getting tested and following all the protocols, which they’ve all done a great job with.”

Some of the new additions to the locker room -one this spring and one this summer- were also discussed as the Bears added redshirt freshman Florida State safety transfer Ray Woodie and St. John Bosco OLB/DE Ieremia Moore‍, who goes by Iele.

“Iele we found out about around a year as we were watching some guys at a workout at St. John Bosco,” said Wilcox. “We know the coached down there well. They have an excellent program, as you probably know. And throughout the offseason -the spring and summer- we were eager to watch him play. He had a limited football background but the athleticism and physical traits are really impressive. 

“We were able to watch some spring practice. He intially came in 2019 but had to play JV because of the rules of transferring in. As you know, he’s from New Zealand. But we able to watch the workout and we were able to see some video from the summer camps he was able to take part in. We really felt great about his physical traits and honestly, we all feel like if there was a season for him, his recruiting would’ve skyrocketed. So we’re really comfortable with him as a prospect and as a person, getting to know him and what he’s all about.

“(DL coach) Andrew Browning did a great job throughout the process being really, really thorough and we were fortunate to sign him.

“Ray we knew from high school (in 2019),” said Wilcox. “We watched him quite a bit so there was a relationship there. He went down to Florida State and his dad was coaching there. 

“He had entered the transfer portal and reached out to us and we began that process. We’re excited to add him to our roster.”

In addition to the newest additions to the roster and ‘21 recruiting class, the Bears have the luxury of having 10 key seniors return for extra seasons in 2021. Previously, RB Marcel Dancy, center Michael Saffell, linebackers Kuony Deng and Cameron Goode and DBs Josh Drayden and Elijah Hicks had announced their intentions to return. Today Wilcox confirmed that offensive guards Valentino Daltoso and Gentle Williams will also be back along with receivers Kekoa Crawford and Trevon Clark -all in all, great news to the experience and depth on the Cal roster.

“It’s great news for the program,” said Wilcox. “I think it’s win-win. Helps our team from their ability standpoint and it helps our team with their leadership, especially in times like this. And I think it benefits them, as well, in their futures in football.

“We had those discussions throughout winter break with guys sorting through things and we’re really pleased those guys are back with us. All of them are working extremely hard this offseason and all of them have goals for the team and themselves they’re working towards.”

Another new addition were a couple key hires to the coaching staff, including Heyward, who replaced OLB coach and co-defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter and new Head Football Athletic Performance coach Brian Johnson.

Did the hiring process move quickly?

“Very quick,” said Wilcox. “We’ve had these talks before, kind of always have relationships with people we know and think would be a good fit here. So I’ve known Keith for a really long time. He’s an excellent football coach and that’s the root of it. But even moreso, he’s a super human being. He’s got great relationshps with his players. I’ve seen that firsthand. It’s noted since he’s joined us. He’s a real humble guy who’s extremely smart. Great teacher. So we were really fortunate that Keith decided to join us. He’s had a number of other opportunities. 

“He’s been around different positions and he’s recruited to different places. He’s a really good staff member. Every box you’re looking to check, Keith’s one of those guys. I’ve had the luxury of knowing him and working with him before and have always kept up with him. He’s got a great reputation in college football as a coach and recruiter. 

“When these things happen -there’s turnover in college football. We all know that. We’ve had a couple positions, with Coach Heyward and also Brian Johnson. 

“I have the luxury on a daily basis getting to see the staff working with our players and get to see them in the staff meetings, the recruiting meetings, the player meetings, the practice -everything that it entails. When there’s turnover, we always look at it as an opportunity to improve our program. We feel like who we are, our strengths and weaknesses and we feel really, really fortunate to have Keith and Brian joining us.”

The staff also had a couple other recent openings with the departure to USC of Director of Recruiting Strategy Marshall Cherrington and Creative Director Nick Mitchell.

“We had a couple positions in recruiting where we had an opening,” said Wilcox. “We filled one of them internally with Brendan McInerney who was a student here and has done a great job for us in a volunteer role with us before now. He’s an extremely hard worker and knows how to do things. So he’ll fill one of those roles and we’re in the process of filling another.

“We’re looking to grow that department. Recruiting departments in the last five years have really exploded, especially when it comes to creative content and social media and it’s a really important part of college football, interacting with the recruiting base. So we’ve definitely made some strong strides there and some of the guys who were with us did a great job. We’re going to look to build on that and be better in the future.”

One of the things to look for in spring ball will be the battle for backup QB and to see if anyone could potentially push returning starter Chase Garbers to start after the departure of senior QB Devon Modster to the transfer portal.

“There’s some inexperience at the quarterback position other than Chase now,” said Wilcox. “There’s going to be a number of opportunities through spring ball and fall camp for those guys to get reps, valuable reps to put on tape. Some guys are younger (rs frosh QBs Zach Johnson and Jadon Casey) and some guys like Robby (Rowell) and Spencer (Brasch) have a little bit more seasoning. Kai Millner‍’s going to get an opportunity when he gets here. He’s a very talented young man. So we’ll let that present itself when it does.

“We don’t really have a timeline on naming the backup quarterback. What we’re more interested in is just their improvement throughout this offseason, spring ball, summer and fall camp.”

Another question yet to be answered is when spring ball will start. The staff originally hoped to start in late February but the timeline has been pushed out due to uncertainty.

“We have a couple scenarios and we’re waiting for clarity from the state,” said Wilcox. “I was just on a call this morning with the administration. We’re just trying to get some clarity on when we can have the whole team practice at one time. 

“We’re in deep with winter workouts, which is really what we need. Both scenarios would work for us. One of them finish before spring break and one would finish after spring break. It’s all dependent on the allowances made to have the whole team practice at one time. What we don’t want to do is split them up like we needed to in fall.”

Stay tuned for features on OC Bill Musgrave and OLB coach Keith Heyward coming soon.

Other stories:

Moore Rounds Out 2021 Class With Commitment to Cal

Keith Heyward Named Outside Linebackers Coach

Discussion from...

Wilcox Talks New Staff, Returning Players, Spring Ball and More

7,769 Views | 6 Replies | Last: 3 yr ago by GivemTheAxe
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Great news. I am especially happy that Kekoa Crawford and Marcel Dancy are coming back for a 5th year. Setting up for a Fall where Cal under Wilcox finally makes that jump to the top half of the conference with a shot winning it.
How long do you want to ignore this user?
It was an interesting zoom call last nite. Much appreciated. Jim, I believe you meant to write that Drayton is returning not Bynum.

The number of seniors returning speaks volumes about the character of our program and the students athletes. I'm hoping for a big year.
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Yes, thanks!
How long do you want to ignore this user?
That's an incredible number of key players back and it will soften the blow of losing WR Polk. Our OL and DB units will be much better now. And I am so glad to be able to watch Dancy for one more season. I really think he's fun to watch.
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Assuming the ten returning players, who would have exhausted their eligibility had it not been for the "COVID extension", are on scholarship in 2021, Cal could have up to 95 guys on scholie for the upcoming season. Given the possibility that any number of non-seniors may also choose to extend their careers by an extra season, it will be interesting to see how Wilcox brings the number down to 85 before the 2022 season. This could wreak havoc with the number of available scholarships for the recruiting class of 2022.

Of course, this is not a problem unique to Cal. It is an issue that coaches across the country will have to address.
How long do you want to ignore this user?
StillABear1 said:

It was an interesting zoom call last nite. Much appreciated. Jim, I believe you meant to write that Drayton is returning not Bynum.

The number of seniors returning speaks volumes about the character of our program and the students athletes. I'm hoping for a big year.

I totally agree that it was an interesting and informative program.

One aspect that I felt was missing from the program was the Q & A that usually follows the end of the formal presentation by the coaches. I usually found that the Bear Insiders who regularly attend the annual recruiting programs ask very intelligent questions.

I know that the audience was quite large but the questions themselves would not have to be live. Questions could be submitted in advance and the moderators could select among the best questions.
And the speakers could answer them. (In fact the email that is sent to all registrants can ask for email questions by a certain date).

This is a format that has been followed in many Zoom conferences.

If there are time constraints, the interview with a famous Cal alum (in this case Lorenzo Alexander) could be eliminated. I enjoyed that interview, but I would have preferred to hear questions from the Bear Insiders.

But all in all. It was a worthwhile program.
Page 1 of 1
subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.