Cal Adds John Lovett to Coach Cornerbacks
On Monday, California head football coach Sonny Dykes announced the second offseason restructuring of the staff in as many years.
The Bears add John Lovett to the defensive staff, where he will coach cornerbacks, while former defensive backs coach Greg Burns focuses perhaps on the most crucial aspect of the defense going into this season – the safeties.
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There will now be five full-time coaches on defense, and while offensive coordinator Tony Franklin will now coach the quarterbacks and the running backs (following the dismissal of former running backs coach-cum-wide receivers coach Pierre Ingram), and Jacob Peeler will coach the inside receivers, Dykes himself will coach the outside receivers – returning to coaching a position he was in charge of for nine seasons, including while offensive coordinator at Arizona and Texas Tech.
“By hiring John it allows us to put needed resources into our defensive coaching staff to work with a young group of players that we know need to continue to improve,” said Dykes, who brings in six new defensive backs this season. “I am especially excited to have a pair of highly-respected coaches like John and Greg working together with our defensive backs. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the improvements our defensive staff has already made in our defense and hiring John should help us speed up the process even more.”
Cal is bringing in JuCo safeties Derron Brown (who enrolled in January) and Antoine Albert, freshman safeties Billy McCrary and Evan Rambo, and freshman cornerbacks DePriest Turner, Jaylinn Hawkins and Malik Psalms this season.
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“We are thrilled to be able to add someone with John’s level of experience and expertise to our coaching staff,” Dykes said. “He is a proven coach who has had success at the highest level of football. His addition to our staff certainly makes us better as a unit.”
Lovett is a veteran college and NFL coach with nearly four decades of experience that include 18 seasons as a collegiate defensive coordinator and 14 as a defensive backs coach at the collegiate and NFL levels. Lovett has coached 10 bowl teams and one NFL playoff squad over the past 18 seasons.
“I’m excited to be joining a Cal program on the rise and a tremendous coaching staff led by Sonny Dykes,” Lovett said. “I’m also looking forward to working with Art Kaufman again. We have worked well together in the past and it’s exciting to renew our relationship.”
Lovett spent the last two seasons as the defensive backs coach for a Philadelphia Eagles squad that put together back-to-back 10-6 campaigns, winning an NFC East Division title and playing in the NFL Wildcard Weekend round of the NFL Playoffs following the 2013 regular season.
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Lovett was the defensive backs coach under Kaufman when both were on a Texas Tech defensive staff in 2012 after the two previously spent four seasons together at Mississippi from 1995-98 with the Rebels playing in bowls during each of his final two campaigns.
“It is critical that our coaching staff is a cohesive unit,” Dykes said. “Art and John have an excellent history of success together. They work well with each other and their experience in the game helps them bring out the best in young defenses like ours. I’m confident that they will be able to do that with our team this season.”
In addition to his work in the NFL and with Kaufman, Lovett also has extensive experience as a defensive coordinator for six teams most recently for two seasons at Miami (Fla.) from 2009-10. He earned his first job as a defensive coordinator at Maine (1985-88) and returned to the school for one season in 1994 before beginning his four-season stint with Kaufman at Mississippi. He has also been a defensive coordinator at Cincinnati (1989-92), Auburn (1999-2001), Clemson (2002-04) and Bowling Green State (2005-06).
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In his most recent position with Philadelphia, Lovett’s defensive backs helped the Eagles to 19 interceptions during the 2013 campaign to rank tied for fifth in the NFC and tied for eighth in the NFL, with cornerback Brandon Boykin’s six picks ranking tied for second in both the league and the conference. The team’s 2013 defense was also fifth in the NFC and eighth in the NFL with a touchdown percentage of 3.7.
Lovett played a key role in the complete overhaul of the Texas Tech defense during his single season in Lubbock in 2012 as the defensive backs coach under Kaufman. Inheriting a 2011 unit that ranked 114th nationally in total defense (485.58 ypg), the Red Raiders improved to 38th (367.31 ypg) while ranking second in the Big 12 Conference. Texas Tech was keyed by a pass defense that led the league and ranked 15th in the country (192.00 ypg). The Red Raiders finished 8-5 overall and were victorious over Minnesota at the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Texas Tech defensive backs Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson were named second-team All-Big 12 while Davis was also a first-team Capital One Academic All-America® selection and one of 15 finalists for the prestigious William B. Campbell Trophy also known as the “Academic Heisman”. Davis led the team in tackles (101) and interceptions (3), including one that he returned 88 yards for a touchdown, while also totaling seven pass breakups, 10 passes defended and 3.5 tackles for loss (-8 yards). Johnson was second on the squad with 90 tackles, including 69 solo tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss (-13 yards), two interceptions, four pass breakups and six passes defended.
Before rejoining Kaufman at Texas Tech, Lovett spent two seasons (2009-10) as the defensive coordinator at Miami (Fla.) with the Hurricanes playing in bowls both season at the Champs Sports Bowl and Sun Bowl. Lovett tutored a defensive unit that ranked 29th nationally in total defense in 2009 and featured four players that would eventually be selected in the 2011 NFL Draft in second-team All-American and two-time Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist defensive back Brandon Harris, first-team All-ACC defensive lineman Allen Bailey, and second-team All-ACC linebackers Darryl Sharpton and Colin McCarthy. Harris ended up a second-round selection of the Houston Texans and is currently a member of the Tennessee Titans. Bailey was a third-team pick of his current Kansas City Chiefs. Sharpton was a fourth-round choice of Houston and is currently a member of the Arizona Cardinals. McCarthy played four seasons with the Titans after being drafted by the club in the fourth round before announcing his retirement from football in 2015.
During his two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Bowling Green State he also coached linebackers in 2005 and defensive backs in 2006. In his first year with the Falcons, Lovett's defense ranked 20th in the country in turnover margin. In his three-season tenure as the defensive coordinator at Clemson from 2002-04, Lovett spearheaded the development of one of the ACC's top defenses. In 2004, Clemson was 11th in the nation in pass efficiency defense (103.39) and 26th in total defense (327.27 ypg) while his 2003 defense allowed just 19.2 points per game to rank tied for 20th in scoring defense as the Tigers finished the season with nine wins, a top-25 national ranking and a Peach Bowl victory over Tennessee. Defensive backs Brian Mance (All-American) and Justin Miller (Freshman All-American) both earned national honors in the first season of his stint, while Miller also played for six seasons in the NFL after being selected by the New York Jets in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Lovett also helped Tye Hill transition from a running back in his first campaign at Clemson into a defensive back who earned consensus All-American honors and was a finalist for the Thorpe Award in his senior season before being selected in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft and playing five campaigns in the NFL.
As the defensive coordinator at Auburn from 1999-2001, Lovett helped lead the Tigers to bowl games each of his last two seasons with appearances in the Florida Citrus Bowl and Peach Bowl.
Lovett coached the secondary all four years he was at Mississippi (1995-98), including the 1997 season when the Rebels had an 8-4 overall record, including a victory over Marshall in the Motor City Bowl. The Rebels were 7-5 and victorious over Texas Tech in the Independence Bowl in his second campaign. Lovett’s two stints as the defensive coordinator at Maine (1985-88, 1994) were highlighted by a 1987 squad that won the Yankee Conference and qualified for the Division I-AA playoffs. He also coached the team’s defensive backs during his first four seasons at Maine.
Lovett began his coaching career as an assistant at St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, N.J. (1976-77) and was also an assistant at Union College (1978-82) and Brown (1983) before spending the 1984 season in a defensive quality control role with the New York Jets that launched him into his first defensive coordinator position at Maine in 1985.
Other stops during his career have included one season as the defensive backs coach at UNLV (1993) and two campaigns in the role of special teams coordinator and defensive assistant at North Carolina (2007-08).
Lovett graduated from C.W. Post (now known as LIU Post) with a bachelor’s degree in education in December of 1973 and was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in the fall of 2008. He initially was a walk-on, but quickly earned a scholarship and served as the team's co-captain as a senior in 1973. At the completion of his career, he enrolled in graduate school at Denver and earned his master's degree in physical education in 1975.
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