Mary Langenfeld / USA TODAY Sports

Five Takeaways: Cal football enters a new age, but an old one, as well, with the hiring of defensively-minded Justin Wilcox

Five takeaways from the introduction of Cal's newest head coach, Justin Wilcox, from farming to offensive scheme to defensive coaches to a (very immediate) return to local recruiting.

BERKELEY -- New California head coach Justin Wilcox was calm, collected, at-ease, honest, relaxed and, above all, owned the stage on Tuesday in his introductory press conference. His father, Dave, the Hall of Fame linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, would have been proud. "So, my dad's in the Hall of Fame, but before he was in the Hall of Fame, he was a Hall of Farmer," Wilcox said of Dave, who farmed wheat and cherries on the family farm in Junction City, Ore. "That's how I know him. I didn't grow up and we didn't talk about football, other than any normal conversation a father and son would have about football. He didn't make me watch videos or film or look at his trophies or anything. He was a farmer who had played football in the past, and in 2000, after I was out of college, a bunch of you (media) said, 'Oh, now he's good enough to be a Hall of Famer,' and then his life changed. It was a little bizarre, a sociology experiment you might find something like it right here."

Wilcox was genuine, with no frills, no pretension, and no, he doesn't even have a Twitter. The contrast between Wilcox's press conference, and that of his predecessor, Sonny Dykes, was stark. Instead of the smooth, pressed suit and white hat, Wilcox sported a textured look, the scrape of stubble on his chin and an intense spark in his eye. He talked about the challenges of switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. He easily fell into talking shop, when it came to recruiting the right body types to pay tight end and H-back. Five people in the room, maybe 10, tops, understood what he said, but he didn't care. He doesn't care. Dykes's presser was all sheen, no marble. Wilcox's was raw, rough-hewn rock, with nary a spec of polish in sight, and he pulled it off in spades.

He's every bit the son of a farmer: Simple, direct, and all business. So, with that, our five takeaways from the process so far, including a new hire that should be announced within the next two days:

Cal is back to recruiting local players.

From 2003-06, arguably the heyday of Jeff Tedford's success, 43 of his 101 total signees were from the so-called Triangle of the Bay Area, Sacramento and Fresno. Dykes's 2014, 2015 and 2016 classes, his three complete recruiting cycles, Sonny Dykes signed 12 players from that triangle, out of a total of 75 signees.

There's just a different level of play you get from players playing truly at home. When USC and UCLA are great, it's when they win the Battle of Los Angeles. When Cal was great, it was winning Northern California, and pulling a few from Southern California. Think of this: What if Cal were able to keep Boss Tagaloa and Devin Asiasi home? That's just last cycle, top of mind. Or, how about Adarius PickettIsaiah Langley or D.J. Calhoun?

One of the reasons that Dykes purported to go further afield was that, by 2018, the Bears will have to abide by new academic guidelines -- that 80% of student-athletes brought on under athletic scholarship will have to have had a 3.0 grade point average or higher in high school. There weren't enough talented players in the Bay Area, Dykes maintained, who met that criteria, so the Bears had to go national. It made sense, given Stanford's model. But, Wilcox maintains, local recruiting and academic fit can go hand-in-hand.

"Being familiar with the West Coast, we will start in recruiting in the West, we will start here in the Bay, in Northern California, and then move outward," Wilcox said. "That's not to say that we won't recruit nationally, in certain situations, but we will start our recruiting right here, in the Bay Area and move outward."

As soon as Wilcox left Memorial Stadium, he drove out to Danville (Calif.) Monte Vista and Oakland (Calif.) McClymonds (to see Paul Scott, and Marcus Peters) and is slated to visit Concord (Calif.) De La Salle on Wednesday, as he continues a tour of local high schools, just to drop in, regardless of whether or not there are players there still available for 2017, or prospects for the next cycle.

"We're going to go in there and talk about Cal and about the value of the education," Wilcox said of what he'd say to local coaches, like Babcock (a Monte Vista coach), who haven't seen much attention from the Bears as of late. "It's the same. It's the value of the education, looking for the right guy that fits in here, that wants the experience, wants to be challenged on the field, challenged in the classroom. What has or hasn't happened in the past is really not of concern to us."

Monte Vista, as it so happens, is home to USC tight end commit Erik Krommenhoek, as well as a Colorado linebacker commit (Nate Landman). Wilcox repeatedly said he wanted to recruit tight ends, and he will need linebackers. The fact that Monte Vista was his first stop is telling, both in the fact that Krommenhoek and Landman are there, as well as the fact that former Cal linebacker Matt Russi, and Thomas Decoud, both of whom played at Cal during Wilcox's first go-around, are on staff.

Defense first, but who will lead?

Cal has not had a defensively-minded head coach since Tom Holmoe. That may seem like the very opposite of a ringing endorsement, but it's not. When Jeff Tedford first arrived, he brought strong defensive coaches on to supplement his offensive acumen (plucking Wilcox himself from Boise State). As a result, those early defenses were the backbone of a program that produced the likes of Aaron Rodgers, J.J. ArringtonDeSean Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. As much star power as they brought, just as much luminosity was shone by Brandon MebaneZack Follett, Syd'Quan ThompsonDesmond Bishop,  and, yes, DeCoud.

It's actually what Wilcox is doing in reverse, on offense (more on that in a bit).

"We're going to play a certain style of defense, again, it goes back to doing what our team can do the best," said Wilcox, who takes over a roster that currently is built to run a 4-3, with just seven scholarship linebackers, and one more coming in, in the fall. "My background is in 3-4 defense in base and 4-2-5 nickel. We're going to implement those things, and at the end of the day, it'll be what we can do the best, that fits our players. Now, we may change the recruiting model a little bit, in terms of the type of positions we're looking at, but that would be over the course of the next couple years."

The defensive coordinator spot is still up in the air. Sources have said that Washington's Jimmy Lake's $500,000 contract has a substantial buy-out, and multiple sources have said he's the favorite to move up from co-defensive coordinator in Seattle, to the full DC in Berkeley. There's another option. Sources have said that Tosh Lupoi does not want to leave Alabama prior to National Signing Day. He could still come to Cal, but that depends on if Wilcox wants to wait. It was exactly five years ago that Lupoi left Berkeley on Jan. 16, 2012, and he may, according to sources, not want a repeat of that to leave a stain on his reputation, even if it's to return to his alma mater.

Being a defensive mind, the fact that Wilcox hired his offensive coordinator and offensive line coach first makes a lot of sense. While Wilcox has no family, and no hobbies and few interests outside of football, according to a source close to him, he can grind plenty on the defensive side of the ball, in terms of recruiting, but he can't do it all alone. Something has to give, and not being able to hire a defensive coordinator prevents him from assembling a defensive staff, because there are a lot of puzzle pieces that need to fall into place first. Former Oregon coach Don Pellum has been mentioned as a possible linebackers coach; should Lake come, he'd likely coach the defensive backs; should Lupoi come, he'd likely coach the defensive line. Something needs to happen soon, on that front, especially because of the late start Cal and Wilcox are getting.

"Every second is critical right now, but ... we will not sacrifice the long-term good of the program to appease what everybody wants, which is certainty in hiring," Wilcox said. "Things will happen quickly. I understand. Recruits have some anxiety about the situation. There's emotions involved, and that's totally understandable. I'd be the same way. It's important for us to communicate with them, talk about our vision of the program."

Offense won't be forgotten.

While defense may be the focus, the hiring of Beau Baldwin was, in the opinion of many observers, a master stroke. First, on the recruiting front, Eastern Washington, the program Baldwin guided for nine years, recruited far over its head.

"Baldwin recruited like a madman at Eastern," said Scout National Director of Recruiting, Brandon Huffman. "He has landed a number of players that had FBS offers over the years but loved what Eastern had to offer.  He also took a bunch of guys that should have had FBS offers and killed it with them."

One of those was Cooper Kupp, who in four years with the Eagles, piled up 73 touchdowns, 428 catches and the most receiving yards by any college player, at any level, in history, with 6,464. Reports on Tuesday night emerged that Baldwin would bring his wide receivers coach, 27-year old Nicholas Edwards, with him to Berkeley. Edwards, who went from walk-on to FCS national champion to FCS All-American in three years, has spent three years with Baldwin, and in those three years, Eastern has ranked first or second in the entire Football Championship Subdivision in passing offense.

Beyond that, Baldwin knows how to scout talent, and to get the most out of what he finds. He can break down film and find the Vernon Adams's of the world, to find the next  Taiwan Jones, as he did at Eastern Washington.

"I think the committee probably had that on their list, that maybe we needed to have someone who was more defensive-minded, but I think the committee also didn't want the pendulum to swing so far that you're on an offensive guy, and you go so far the other way, and I don't think we did that, actually," said former Cal quarterback J Torchio. "It sounds like this guy is very successful, and he's going to be somewhere in the middle [of pro-style and spread]. I'm biased. I'm an old-school guy, so I like having a tight end. I think it's important. I think play action makes the game harder for the defense, because it's a function that makes them think, but also I like excitement and up-tempo, and it sounds like, what Justin wants, and what he got, is a guy that can do a little bit of everything." is imminently adaptable in his offense, and his offense has given FBS teams -- including Pac-12 foes -- fits over the last several seasons.

The Eagles have only ever been as low as 26th in the FCS in passing, and have been as high as 39th in the nation in rushing during Baldwin's tenure. Baldwin's trademark is being versatile and adaptable. Yes, his offense is based in spread concepts, but he's fit his offense to the skill sets of his various quarterbacks, including Vernon Adams and this season's running QB, Gage Gubrud, who led the Eagles with 606 rushing yards, followed by former De La Salle running back Antoine Custer's 416.

Baldwin also produced a Walter Payton Award (the FCS Heisman) winner in Bo Levi Mitchell, who broke Eastern's single-season passing record wth 4,009 yards (leading the FCS), a tally that ranked him 17th in FCS history.

In 2010, Baldwin gave the ball to current Oakland Raider running back Jones 221 times (seventh in program history) for 1,742 rushing yards (third in program history). Two of the top 10 Eagles single-season rushing averages belong to running backs that ran under the pass-happy Baldwin. 

"What's important to us is that we do what's best for our players, and we're always going to put them in the best position to succeed, and be multiple enough to do that," Wilcox said. "If that means we're an 11 personnel team with one tight end, a 10 personnel team, a 12 personnel team, it's about utilizing our players. We will gravitate, and we will start recruiting some of those tight end and H-back body types, even in this recruiting class."

Dual-threat 2018 quarterback commit Adrian Martinez was certainly tickled by the hire. "I have yet to talk with him, but I am excited to see what his offense can do," Martinez said, via text. "He has a solid reputation and I think I would fit well in his system."

Martinez will make this offense sing, and it would be hard for anyone who's watched his tape not to get excited about the possibilities of him in Baldwin's offense. 

There will be a mix of power running, 11 personnel and spread concepts, all running behind an offensive line run by 32-year Oregon offensive line coach Steve Greatwood.

Greatwood brings a veteran hand.

Speaking of Greatwood, he brings a veteran hand to a young group of coaches (at least, the coaches we know about). Baldwin is 44, Edwards is 27 and Wilcox is 40. Whether it's Lupoi or Lake, both of the top candidates for defensive coordinator are under 40. He's a taskmaster, but has that perfectionism has pushed the Ducks to 10 straight conference rushing titles. Sources in the coaching community have given Greatwood rave reviews. It's a smart, savvy hire. The best comparison her is to former Cal offensive line coach Jim Michalczik.

Beau Baldwin brings experience.

Having a former head coach off of which to bounce ideas is a smart move for Wilcox, who's taking his first head coaching gig. He's been there before. He's seen things Wilcox hasn't, and he's seen them for nine years. That's experience you can't buy. "I've been extremely fortunate in so many ways, to work for people and with people who I've learned so much from, going back to my playing days at Oregon, again as a GA at Boise State with Dan Hawkins, coming here with coach Tedford, who taught me a ton," Wilcox said of how he's developed his head coaching philosophy. "Each step along the way, I've just seen it done a lot of different ways, and I'm not trying to be any of those people. I'm trying to just take pieces and make it my own. I never really though about, 'What do I got to do to become a head coach?' I never approached it that way. It was more just being in the moment, and doing the best job you possibly can, and I think when you do that, maybe opportunities come up, and maybe they don't. It wasn't like I was out on this mission to make these stops to say, 'This is what's going to put me in the position to be a head coach.' It was really just trying to do a good job and create some lasting influence on people I was around, and hopefully, I've done that to some degree, and then things come up and you make a decision."

Baldwin is just another source from which to pick things, and he'll be just down the hall.

"I think Justin's smart enough to realize, 'Hey, having guys who have been in my shoes, at whatever level, is important,'" Torchio said. "Bringing in a guy who's an ex-head coach is going to be able to say, 'I've seen this before,' or 'I haven't seen this before.'"

BONUS: Welcome Back: Former Players, Stakeholders Excited

Adam Duritz. Aaron Rodgers. The aforementioned DeCoud and other NFL alumni. What do they have in common? They're all back in the fold. Expect Rodgers to make an appearance next time he's in the Bay Area. To a man, every former player BearTerritory has spoken with has endorsed the hire, and they've also been very vocal about it on Twitter. One former player -- who didn't even play at the same time as Wilcox coached -- was in attendance at the press conference.

"We love the fact that there's a Cal connection," said Torchio. "I think that we're excited that Justin's young, and energetic and I know you guys were asking him about the different staffing, they're going to bring back Cal staffing. I think all that kind of stuff is important."

There's been mention from sources of the possibility of bringing Burl Toler and Ron Gould back.

"We all like traditions," Torchio said. "We're excited that Justin knows it, and understands it, and I think he'll develop it."

Ron Rivera, who was approached for the job, also endorsed Wilcox, openly on Twitter, and there's a reason for that.

"I just think Justin's travels have made him realize that there's more to college football than just going out and getting the best talent," Torchio said. "Obviously, talent's important, right? But, I think that it's a fit within a program, a fit within a team, and I mentioned, I think his experience at Wisconsin, it could potentially be a like-minded player [he would recruit there] that would be at Cal. [He knows] that talent is a big portion of what we need in our recruits, but we also need character, and a fit within the environment and diversity. I think he understands that, which is exciting."


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