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Cal Football

Cal Football at an Important Crossroads Entering December

November 29, 2022
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Thanksgiving and a disappointing 4-8/2-7 season have passed and it’s time to push away from the table and get down to work for head coach Justin Wilcox and the Cal football program.

The upcoming week or two represents one of the program’s most critical periods of decision-making in recent seasons with the convergence of several crucial factors, all of which could have a significant impact on the program moving forward.

Here are some of the critical issues of immediate concern facing the program as things stand now:

Offensive Coordinator

After finishing 10th, 8th and 11th in scoring offense and 10th, 7th and last in total offense the last three seasons, Wilcox let veteran NFL OC Bill Musgrave go after the Bears’ disastrous 38-10 shellacking at Oregon State after week ten.

The Bears OC search reportedly is focusing on younger, innovative and charismatic coordinator candidates who can move the needle with both current players considering their futures and with recruits making a decision on what type of offense they’d like to play in at the next level. Such a hire would and style of play would represent somewhat of a shift in Wilcox’s preferable ball-control style of offense though the O did take plenty of shots downfield with their talented trio of starting receivers in Jeremiah Hunter, J.Michael Sturdivant and Mavin Anderson this season, particularly after the game plan by committee scenario arose after Musgrave’s departure.

Offensive Line Coach

The Bears struggled to pass protect and open holes for QB Jack Plummer and Jaydn Ott and the Bears’ running back corps much of this season. After veteran OL coach Steve Greatwood was brought in as a consultant and particularly when he took over as primary OL coach the last two weeks of the season after the departure of former OL coach Angus McClure, the Bears’ pass protection improved, though the line still struggled to open many holes for the running game. Despite the late-season improvement, the Bears still finished 10th in the conference with 31 sacks allowed without even factoring in QB hits. They also finished dead last with just 1,139 rushing yards and 10th with 3.63 yards per carry. With Greatwood expected to head back to retirement after helping out the last six weeks, the Bears are searching for the right mix of coaching prowess and recruiting ability to significantly upgrade the team’s talent and performance in the trenches. As with OC, making the right hire is critical to the success of the program moving forward.

Portal Transfer Management

After largely being on the sidelines in the beginning of the portal cycle, the Bears were more active in ‘22, bringing in QB Jack Plummer, MLB Jackson Sirmon, OLB Xavier Carlton and Odua Isibor and OL TJ Session and Spencer Lovell. They also narrowly missed out on several portal targets but finishing second in recruiting battles doesn’t win games. The Bears will be aggressive on the portal front this season after watching programs like USC and UCLA completely turn around their programs almost entirely on the backs of double-digit key portal transfers. OT and edge rushers are the prime targets but few if any position groups couldn’t be enhanced with an addition or two as well.

The other end of the spectrum for portal transfer management involves the transfer out of players who are unlikely to make a significant impact going forward or at positions where younger, more talented players need more available reps to make a bigger impact. With only 2-3 players out of eligibility this season, the dominant majority of the portal additions will have to come from replacing players who depart through the portal along with those passing on their extra year of eligibility granted to all players in 2020 due to covid-shortened seasons or from medical retirements. Look for somewhere around 15-18 departures through one of those avenues to make room for new portal transfers in as well as 2023 recruits. Some will also come from players transferring out who the program clearly would like to retain who are looking for better fits from a personnel, coaching or program success standpoint or who receive NIL offers they just can’t turn down. There will most certainly be some players in the latter category who will test the portal process but who will ultimately choose to remain in the program.

Early Signing Period Recruiting Weekends

With early signing day looming on December 21, the second and third weekends of December (12/9 and 16) will represent a big recruiting push for the program after holding most of their post-summer visits till after the season. They fully plan to have both coaching decisions made and announced with the new coaches on campus for both recruiting weekends which will be a combination of current commits and others being pursued. Some may also be currently committed recruits from other programs who are open to being recruited before early signing day. With several of the Bears’ top targets being current Stanford commits, look for several to be pursued if open. There are no official visits planned this weekend.

NIL and Donor Support

A robust NIL collective and Caliber Fund war chest would go a long way toward securing the program’s best players and providing new opportunities for future players. The generosity of several donors has made the Caliber Fund a viable weapon in Wilcox’s arsenal to make program-changing hires and and additional moves but more is needed to be truly as competitive as needed. In addition, the athletic department absolutely needs to partner with major donors to fully fund the football program while acknowledging that the financial health of the football program drives the engine in overall athletic department solvency and excellence. The NIL collective is dependent on a far higher degree of broad-based fan and donor support if fans want to see the best players stay and for the program to be as competitive as possible in a conference that has only grown stronger this season.

How the program manages all of the moving pieces in each of the noted categories will be critical to their success moving forward. Missteps in any or all of them would bode ominously for future success potential but home runs in most or all could dramatically shift the narrative and future fortunes of the program going forward.

Discussion from...

Cal Football at an Important Crossroads Entering December

5,722 Views | 22 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by Rushinbear
calumnus
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Nice summary. Thanks.

Keeping my fingers crossed.
Bjorn91
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Good article. But, Cal and at crossroads in the same sentence never works out well. We have a long history of being behind the curve. The more changes afoot, the further we tend to fall behind.
Trumpanzee
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I think we "crossed the road" after the Colorado game and got hit by the bus......and now Colorado offers Deion Sanders the head coaching job...

Econ141
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Trumpanzee said:

I think we "crossed the road" after the Colorado game and hit by the bus......and now Colorado offers Deion Sanders the head coaching job...




Lol yes - crossed the road and hit by the B1G bus carrying the USC and UCLA mascots.
GoCal80
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With the conference on the upswing and half the teams currently ranked, seven bowl-bound, it seems the best Cal can hope for is to not slip further down into college football oblivion. Wilcox does not have a great track record picking assistants and I'm doubtful that relative to other fan bases, many Cal fans are rabid enough to contribute in an impactful way to NIL collectives. Recruiting against stronger conference teams is going to be quite an uphill battle and I think three other conference teams have an opportunity to create excitement with new head coach announcements.
KoreAmBear
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This is such a great statement:


Quote:

The Bears OC search reportedly is focusing on younger, innovative and charismatic coordinator candidates who can move the needle with both current players considering their futures and with recruits making a decision on what type of offense they'd like to play in at the next level
I just hope it's true. It has to be true. This is it.
calumnus
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KoreAmBear said:

This is such a great statement:


Quote:

The Bears OC search reportedly is focusing on younger, innovative and charismatic coordinator candidates who can move the needle with both current players considering their futures and with recruits making a decision on what type of offense they'd like to play in at the next level
I just hope it's true. It has to be true. This is it.


Agreed. Reason to hope! Lifeblood of a Cal fan!
southseasbear
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KoreAmBear said:

This is such a great statement:


Quote:

The Bears OC search reportedly is focusing on younger, innovative and charismatic coordinator candidates who can move the needle with both current players considering their futures and with recruits making a decision on what type of offense they'd like to play in at the next level
I just hope it's true. It has to be true. This is it.
Isn't that what everyone thought Baldwin represented.
Fire Knowlton!
Fire Fox!
Put Wilcox in a hot seat!
calumnus
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southseasbear said:

KoreAmBear said:

This is such a great statement:


Quote:

The Bears OC search reportedly is focusing on younger, innovative and charismatic coordinator candidates who can move the needle with both current players considering their futures and with recruits making a decision on what type of offense they'd like to play in at the next level
I just hope it's true. It has to be true. This is it.
Isn't that what everyone thought Baldwin represented.


Baldwin is 50, 4 years older than Wilcox.

Prior to Cal, he had been an OC for only 3 years, at EWU from 2003-2006. He was a HC for the next ten years.

Turns out, yes he is an energetic guy, a pretty good HC at EWU who hired good OCs like Troy Taylor and according to Taylor, let him do his job. Lucked out on future NFL stars like Cooper Kupp.

Just a bit of a dim bulb and definitely not a brilliant Xs and Os guy. What killed me most was his inability to see what a devastating weapon Malik McMorris would have been as an H back, both blocking for Laird and as a receiver, with people on this board defending Baldwin by attacking McMorris and claiming he had no stamina, despite the fact he was the MVP of the Mater Dei basketball team, sometimes going almost 40 minutes, and played both ways on the football team.
wifeisafurd
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calumnus said:

southseasbear said:

KoreAmBear said:

This is such a great statement:


Quote:

The Bears OC search reportedly is focusing on younger, innovative and charismatic coordinator candidates who can move the needle with both current players considering their futures and with recruits making a decision on what type of offense they'd like to play in at the next level
I just hope it's true. It has to be true. This is it.
Isn't that what everyone thought Baldwin represented.


Baldwin is 50, 4 years older than Wilcox.

Prior to Cal, he had been an OC for only 3 years, at EWU from 2003-2006. He was a HC for the next ten years.

Turns out, yes he is an energetic guy, a pretty good HC at EWU who hired good OCs like Troy Taylor and according to Taylor, let him do his job. Lucked out on future NFL stars like Cooper Kupp.

Just a bit of a dim bulb and definitely not a brilliant Xs and Os guy. What killed me most was his inability to see what a devastating weapon Malik McMorris would have been as an X back, both blocking for Laird and as a receiver, with people on this board defending Baldwin by attacking McMorris and claiming he had no stamina, despite the fact he was the MVP of the Mater Dei basketball team, sometimes going almost 40 minutes, and played both ways on the football team.
Gotta agree on the use of Malik. He really could have been a weapon.
Cal Strong!
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We were at a crossroads last offseason. We re-signed Wilcox.

Now we no at crossroads. We going in just one direction.
calumnus
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Cal Strong! said:

We were at a crossroads last offseason. We re-signed Wilcox.

Now we no at crossroads. We going in just one direction.


"When you get to a fork in the road, take it. " Yogi Berra
southseasbear
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calumnus said:

southseasbear said:

KoreAmBear said:

This is such a great statement:


Quote:

The Bears OC search reportedly is focusing on younger, innovative and charismatic coordinator candidates who can move the needle with both current players considering their futures and with recruits making a decision on what type of offense they'd like to play in at the next level
I just hope it's true. It has to be true. This is it.
Isn't that what everyone thought Baldwin represented.


Baldwin is 50, 4 years older than Wilcox.

Prior to Cal, he had been an OC for only 3 years, at EWU from 2003-2006. He was a HC for the next ten years.

Turns out, yes he is an energetic guy, a pretty good HC at EWU who hired good OCs like Troy Taylor and according to Taylor, let him do his job. Lucked out on future NFL stars like Cooper Kupp.

Just a bit of a dim bulb and definitely not a brilliant Xs and Os guy. What killed me most was his inability to see what a devastating weapon Malik McMorris would have been as an H back, both blocking for Laird and as a receiver, with people on this board defending Baldwin by attacking McMorris and claiming he had no stamina, despite the fact he was the MVP of the Mater Dei basketball team, sometimes going almost 40 minutes, and played both ways on the football team.
Thank you for the correction. He seemed younger to me. And you're right about McMorris who was a unique talent. (Does he still have some eligibility in basketball? ) He bungled.the Cheez-It bowl, having a 4th string QB who had not thrown a pass the entire season attempt a pass against a great defense in FG `territory.
Fire Knowlton!
Fire Fox!
Put Wilcox in a hot seat!
oski003
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calumnus said:

southseasbear said:

KoreAmBear said:

This is such a great statement:


Quote:

The Bears OC search reportedly is focusing on younger, innovative and charismatic coordinator candidates who can move the needle with both current players considering their futures and with recruits making a decision on what type of offense they'd like to play in at the next level
I just hope it's true. It has to be true. This is it.
Isn't that what everyone thought Baldwin represented.


Baldwin is 50, 4 years older than Wilcox.

Prior to Cal, he had been an OC for only 3 years, at EWU from 2003-2006. He was a HC for the next ten years.

Turns out, yes he is an energetic guy, a pretty good HC at EWU who hired good OCs like Troy Taylor and according to Taylor, let him do his job. Lucked out on future NFL stars like Cooper Kupp.

Just a bit of a dim bulb and definitely not a brilliant Xs and Os guy. What killed me most was his inability to see what a devastating weapon Malik McMorris would have been as an H back, both blocking for Laird and as a receiver, with people on this board defending Baldwin by attacking McMorris and claiming he had no stamina, despite the fact he was the MVP of the Mater Dei basketball team, sometimes going almost 40 minutes, and played both ways on the football team.


I was disappointed when Malik finally got some key action and then lost a game changing fumble. He was an excellent blocker but didn't shine in his brief opportunities as a ball carrier.
HearstMining
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oski003 said:

calumnus said:

southseasbear said:

KoreAmBear said:

This is such a great statement:


Quote:

The Bears OC search reportedly is focusing on younger, innovative and charismatic coordinator candidates who can move the needle with both current players considering their futures and with recruits making a decision on what type of offense they'd like to play in at the next level
I just hope it's true. It has to be true. This is it.
Isn't that what everyone thought Baldwin represented.


Baldwin is 50, 4 years older than Wilcox.

Prior to Cal, he had been an OC for only 3 years, at EWU from 2003-2006. He was a HC for the next ten years.

Turns out, yes he is an energetic guy, a pretty good HC at EWU who hired good OCs like Troy Taylor and according to Taylor, let him do his job. Lucked out on future NFL stars like Cooper Kupp.

Just a bit of a dim bulb and definitely not a brilliant Xs and Os guy. What killed me most was his inability to see what a devastating weapon Malik McMorris would have been as an H back, both blocking for Laird and as a receiver, with people on this board defending Baldwin by attacking McMorris and claiming he had no stamina, despite the fact he was the MVP of the Mater Dei basketball team, sometimes going almost 40 minutes, and played both ways on the football team.


I was disappointed when Malik finally got some key action and then lost a game changing fumble. He was an excellent blocker but didn't shine in his brief opportunities as a ball carrier.
I have to say that when I focused on him blocking for the RB, he missed more than his share of blocks.
Bobodeluxe
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Facts always ruin a good argument.
GivemTheAxe
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calumnus said:

southseasbear said:

KoreAmBear said:

This is such a great statement:


Quote:

The Bears OC search reportedly is focusing on younger, innovative and charismatic coordinator candidates who can move the needle with both current players considering their futures and with recruits making a decision on what type of offense they'd like to play in at the next level
I just hope it's true. It has to be true. This is it.
Isn't that what everyone thought Baldwin represented.


Baldwin is 50, 4 years older than Wilcox.

Prior to Cal, he had been an OC for only 3 years, at EWU from 2003-2006. He was a HC for the next ten years.

Turns out, yes he is an energetic guy, a pretty good HC at EWU who hired good OCs like Troy Taylor and according to Taylor, let him do his job. Lucked out on future NFL stars like Cooper Kupp.

Just a bit of a dim bulb and definitely not a brilliant Xs and Os guy. What killed me most was his inability to see what a devastating weapon Malik McMorris would have been as an H back, both blocking for Laird and as a receiver, with people on this board defending Baldwin by attacking McMorris and claiming he had no stamina, despite the fact he was the MVP of the Mater Dei basketball team, sometimes going almost 40 minutes, and played both ways on the football team.


Agree with your criticism of Baldwin. BUT he was clearly better than Musgrave. He understood how to use Garbers in view of the poor blocking by the OLine.
In 2021 Cal would have gone 7-5 or 8-4 with Baldwin. Instead of 5-7 with Musgave who forced Garbers to stay in the pocket for the first games of the season. Resulting in a disastrous start to the season
GoOskie
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"The Bears OC search reportedly is focusing on younger, innovative and charismatic coordinator candidates..."

Yes, please!

I sure hope we can keep our WRs and Ott out of the portal.
calumnus
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HearstMining said:

oski003 said:

calumnus said:

southseasbear said:

KoreAmBear said:

This is such a great statement:


Quote:

The Bears OC search reportedly is focusing on younger, innovative and charismatic coordinator candidates who can move the needle with both current players considering their futures and with recruits making a decision on what type of offense they'd like to play in at the next level
I just hope it's true. It has to be true. This is it.
Isn't that what everyone thought Baldwin represented.


Baldwin is 50, 4 years older than Wilcox.

Prior to Cal, he had been an OC for only 3 years, at EWU from 2003-2006. He was a HC for the next ten years.

Turns out, yes he is an energetic guy, a pretty good HC at EWU who hired good OCs like Troy Taylor and according to Taylor, let him do his job. Lucked out on future NFL stars like Cooper Kupp.

Just a bit of a dim bulb and definitely not a brilliant Xs and Os guy. What killed me most was his inability to see what a devastating weapon Malik McMorris would have been as an H back, both blocking for Laird and as a receiver, with people on this board defending Baldwin by attacking McMorris and claiming he had no stamina, despite the fact he was the MVP of the Mater Dei basketball team, sometimes going almost 40 minutes, and played both ways on the football team.


I was disappointed when Malik finally got some key action and then lost a game changing fumble. He was an excellent blocker but didn't shine in his brief opportunities as a ball carrier.
I have to say that when I focused on him blocking for the RB, he missed more than his share of blocks.


He was only in for a few plays each game and usually had at least one highlight pancake. Here are his 2017 Highlights



calumnus
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oski003 said:

calumnus said:

southseasbear said:

KoreAmBear said:

This is such a great statement:


Quote:

The Bears OC search reportedly is focusing on younger, innovative and charismatic coordinator candidates who can move the needle with both current players considering their futures and with recruits making a decision on what type of offense they'd like to play in at the next level
I just hope it's true. It has to be true. This is it.
Isn't that what everyone thought Baldwin represented.


Baldwin is 50, 4 years older than Wilcox.

Prior to Cal, he had been an OC for only 3 years, at EWU from 2003-2006. He was a HC for the next ten years.

Turns out, yes he is an energetic guy, a pretty good HC at EWU who hired good OCs like Troy Taylor and according to Taylor, let him do his job. Lucked out on future NFL stars like Cooper Kupp.

Just a bit of a dim bulb and definitely not a brilliant Xs and Os guy. What killed me most was his inability to see what a devastating weapon Malik McMorris would have been as an H back, both blocking for Laird and as a receiver, with people on this board defending Baldwin by attacking McMorris and claiming he had no stamina, despite the fact he was the MVP of the Mater Dei basketball team, sometimes going almost 40 minutes, and played both ways on the football team.


I was disappointed when Malik finally got some key action and then lost a game changing fumble. He was an excellent blocker but didn't shine in his brief opportunities as a ball carrier.


I did not want him to carry the ball (mostly), I wanted him as a blocker for Laird, who was great at following his blocks. Or as a receiver off of play action. That is mostly how Baldwin would use him. It would be effective, then he would leave the game. Baldwin treated him like a novelty, a "trick" for the red zone. I wanted him in all the time, as a feature of our regular offense.
calumnus
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Bobodeluxe said:

Facts always ruin a good argument.


This video is nearly every snap he was in the game in 2017. After most of these plays you see him leave the game.

Rushinbear
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WRT OL development, there still seems to be a lingering belief that OLs can be built at the training table and in the weight room. The current OL group shows, however, that this takes you only so far and that's not far enough.

Weight room strength, for example, must have natural strength as a foundation, otherwise, gains in the off-season tend to dissipate as the season goes along and some of that strength is gone by the time the most important and challenging games roll around. Weight room gains must be supported by a player's natural organs and connective tissue. Put 40 pounds of muscle on a body that is naturally 260# and you are asking his body to overtax itself. Overtaxing leads to a higher injury rate.

Also, OL players of a certain talent and strength level (as well as all other positions, really) can play their asses off to compete equally for a while with players at higher levels who don't have to play as hard to compete, but all-in play on a consistent basis increases injury risks, too.

We always have a few of the level of guys we need, but never enough. No matter how much the staff has emphasized OL recruitment, they must put even more into it. We need more and better from the new OC and OL coaches. Bear Bryant said that it's not who you didn't get, but who you do get who can't play.

Same can be said of DLs. There is always this moaning and gnashing of teeth that half the DL are injured after the 4th game. Happens every year. This is why.
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