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Cal Football

Sirmon Talks About Move to Cal

February 8, 2018
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Named defensive associate head coach/inside linebackers coach at Cal last month. Peter Sirmon has rejoined Cal head coach Justin Wilcox after coaching with him for six seasons from 2010 to 2015 at Tennessee, Washington and USC before stints as defensive coordinator at Mississippi State and Louisville the last two seasons.

"It's good to be here," said Sirmon. "I'm glad to be a part of what Coach Wilcox is building."

Sirmon comes in with a strong reputation as a relentless recruiter and talent evaluator and a strong communicator and position coach.

"People in recruiting circles, including Steve Sarkisian, have told me that the guy's just a grinder. He never stops working to unmask and find guys," said Scott Ecklund, writer for Washington's dawgman.com. "He can go toe-to-toe and recruit really good 4 and 5 star guys but he's also going to find you a high 2 star, low 3 star guy that can really play.

'As a coach, with his playing experience -I talk to a lot of recruits and players who played for him and they said he just spoke their language and made it easy for them to understand. Things other coaches might not be able to make them understand, he can break it down for them in their language and make it sound like something they can work with.

"But as a recruiter, he's able to walk in with guys and identify who will fit in their system. Not all 4 and 5 star guys fit well in your system. He and Justin Wilcox are very similar in that. Those guys have worked together for a long time. One of their philosophies has rubbed off on the other because they're on the same page with that."

Sirmon and Wilcox's relationship began as collegiate players, as Sirmon arrived from Walla Walla, Washington and Wilcox from nearby Junction City, Oregon as freshmen at Oregon, playing together all four years from 1995 to 1999.

"We've known each other for a long time, prior to the coaching element, and we have similar personalities and styles in terms of how we coach, how we treat the kids and the type of kids that we're going to recruit at Cal," said Sirmon, who starred as a linebacker at Oregon and for seven years for the Tennessee Titans from 2000 to 2006.

"We were really close as players all the way through before we worked together later."

As for what shaped his philosophy as a coach, Sirmon made it clear that the influence of many of his coaches during his professional career played a clear role in fine-tuning his own approach when he came back to the world of college football.

"I think what it did was it exposed me to the very top level of our business, from player development to performance," said Sirmon. 

"I feel like I was really lucky, with three to four coaches I had really impacting me, like Jim Schwartz, who was the defensive coorinator for the Eagles this year when they won the Super Bowl. He had a big influence being my first position coach for my first couple years in the NFL.

Dave McGinniss was also my position coach later. Gunther Cunningham, with his almost 30 years in the NFL. Greg Williams, the defensive coordinator when I was there. Really a lot of great defensive minds. Guys that are all career NFL guys. All of them -Jim, Dave, Gunther and Greg -the common thread with those guys was they were unique to who they were. They didn't try to be somebody else. They all taught differently and had different ways of connecting with you but ultimately, they were very, very good teachers.

"Jim Schwartz was a little more cerebral. Greg Williams was a little more emotional. What it taught me is you have to be true to who you are as a coach but you have to have a way to reach players. You have to be able to have some personality and charisma to engage and motivate guys.

A lot of what we do is inspiration and motivation as coaches. Can I do it right every day? Can I be consistent as a coach and as a player? Consistency's a big part of the game in football."

On the collegiate level, Sirmon has taken what he's learned and applied it to his recruiting efforts to great success at several of his stops. Wilcox noted that Sirmon played a key role in his late involvement with the recruiting of recent linebacker signees Joey Ogunbanjo and Chris Fatilua with Cal.

"The last year as a recruiting coordinator at Washington, we searched high and low and we found some gems that I felt were a huge part of that junior and senior class that ended up helping Washington go to the playoffs in 2017," said Sirmon. "You look at SC in my years as recruiting coordinator and I think we signed the #1 or 2 class in the country and a lot of those guys went on to be all-conference players.

"It's always rewarding, but I think most importantly, you need to find the right fit. Every school has a different feel and a different flavor and I think part of being a good recruiter is understanding what you're recruiting to. Just because they're good players doesn't mean they'll be a good fit.

"Sometimes on the recruiting side, you can make mistakes, trying to jam the wrong personality into the type of system or environment that might not be best for him. You can say, 'I think this kid's a great player but I don't think he's the right it for us.' That's hard for coaches to do sometimes. There's always a ceiling and a floor to everyone's talent but the intangibles, fit and personality are just as much a measure of their success in college as their physical tools."

Sirmon, like Wilcox, had the unique opportunity to observe the Cal program from the outside looking in from Washington and USC during his stints there in the last decade and he likes what he has to work with selling what Cal has to offer recruits.

"Cal, from the outside looking in, has always been an ideal location, with a great blend of academics and athletics," said Sirmon. "Through the years, when you've seen that blend be appropriate, you've seen some very talented teams.

"Again, it goes back to identifying guys that view that balance between athletics and academics as valuable. There's not a lot of schools that truly offer that potential like Cal does, with the location, the great degree and academic experience that leads you to be involved with some of the highest level of people shaping our country and to do it in a conference like ours. There are maybe 3, 4 or 5 schools out there that can truly offer that."

Discussion from...

Sirmon Talks About Move to Cal

TheSouseFamily
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Good stuff, MB.
petalumabear
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Thanks for the interview Jim. I didn't get a chance to talk with him last night but your physical description of him is spot on.. its the first thing my brain was telling me when i saw him during introductions...
TomBear
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Nothing to argue with in his remarks. But deep in the back of my mind, there are those remarks that were shared on this board by some who said his defenses didn't do the basics well. The Bears MUST continue with the rugby tackling......engage, wrap, drive......that is the only way to control the ball carriers fate. They took a big step forward this year with their tackling. If that declines one little bit, I'll be very unhappy. So.......let's see. He certainly received some nice remarks as far as recruiting is concerned.
MoragaBear
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Staff
He's been known as a very strong position coach. Just not so much as a coordinator.
NVBear78
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TomBear said:

Nothing to argue with in his remarks. But deep in the back of my mind, there are those remarks that were shared on this board by some who said his defenses didn't do the basics well. The Bears MUST continue with the rugby tackling......engage, wrap, drive......that is the only way to control the ball carriers fate. They took a big step forward this year with their tackling. If that declines one little bit, I'll be very unhappy. So.......let's see. He certainly received some nice remarks as far as recruiting is concerned.


Very important question I would like to ask is will Cal continue the same repeated practice on tackling techniques that they use so effectively last year?
hanky1
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Good interview. Thanks
MoragaBear
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DeRuyter's still the DC. Wilcox is still the HC.

They're not changing their tackling technique for the worst, I guarantee you, especially since Sirmon and Wilcox have worked together for so long with LBs.
XXXBEAR
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That was a great interview. Now I see the "way back" connection with Wilcox, and the professionalism of our new coach. Who wouldn't give a recruiter whose a former NFL linebacker a good listen to in the recruiting process? No wonder we picked up too good LBs. I think we'll see plenty more to come and we're lucky to have him.
run2win
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I wonder if Sirmon knows that one of his mentors, Gunther Cunningham, coached at Cal from 1977-1980.
http://www.joeroth12.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CaliforniaGridiron/
Bear19
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I really like Sirmon's observation that "Cal, from the outside looking in, has always been an ideal location, with a great blend of academics and athletics," said Sirmon. "Through the years, when you've seen that blend be appropriate, you've seen some very talented teams."

A tactful way of saying that recruiting kids who may be talented but have no intention of going to class or graduating, as Cal did during the years of Tosh Tedford, you end up with a disaster.
MoragaBear
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Or the other side of the coin -guys who went to class but didn't play very well.

The ideal is higher level players or players that are coached to or grow into a higher level player that still goes to class like in Tedford's prime years.
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