Cal has hired former 49ers coach Jerry Azzinaro to coach defensive line

Cal has officially announced the hiring of former San Francisco 49ers coach Jerry Azzinaro as the Bears' new defensive line coach under defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter.

California has hired former San Francisco 49ers defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro to take charge of the Golden Bears' defensive front.

Azzinaro, 58, has spent 35 seasons coaching, and most recently coached in college from 2009-12 at Oregon, opposite another current Cal assistant, Steve Greatwood, who coached on the offensive line. After that, Azzinaro served as the assistant had coach and defensive line coach under Chip Kelly with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2013-15. In his final season at Oregon, Azzinaro was the point man in recruiting two future first-round picks in Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, who went on to play for him in San Francisco. He's also coached two other first-round picks in Dwight Freeney and Dion Jordan.

“Jerry Azzinaro is regarded as one of the top defensive line coaches in the business,” new head coach Justin Wilcox said in a statement. “The success he had and expertise he gained in over three decades as a collegiate coach gave him the opportunity to work in the NFL the past four seasons and add to his vast knowledge of the game. I’m looking forward to Jerry bringing to our football program everything he has experienced at both the collegiate and professional levels.”

Azzinaro experienced in a 3-4 system, which is what new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter will be running, and has utilized four-point stances with nose tackles and 2-gap players while with the Ducks. He's also made a point of wrapping up ball carriers -- something the Cal defense has been constitutionally incapable of doing for several seasons.

“I’m excited to be joining the coaching staff at Cal,” Azzinaro said in a statement. “Justin Wilcox is putting together a tremendous staff that will have the expertise and knowledge to capitalize on an opportunity to build one of the top programs in the Pac-12 and the nation.”

While in Eugene, Azzinaro helped to recruit Jordan, who was selected third overall by the Miami Dolphins in the 2013 NFL Draft, after earning consecutive First-Team All-Pac-12 honors (2011-12), after registering a combined 12.5 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss. Ducks defensive end Kenny Rowe earned Second-Team All-Pac-12 honors in 2010 after collecting 7.0 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. 

During Azzinaro's first two years in charge of the defensive line, Oregon led the conference in sacks in 2009 (36) and 2010 (45). In 2009, the Ducks were 42nd in the nation in rushing defense, 40th in tackles for loss per game (6.31) and 14th in sacks per game (2.77). In 2010, Oregon had the 27th-best rushing defense in the nation (128.08 ypg), was seventh in tackles for loss per game (7.46), and 21st overall in sacks per game (2.54). 2011, the Duck were 54th in the nation in rushing defense (142.79 ypg), good for fourth in the Pac-12, were tied for second in the nation in sacks (45) and were 33rd in the nation in tackles for loss per game (6.71). In 2012, Oregon was 50th in sacks (28), eighth in the Pac-12. The Ducks were, however, 39th in the nation in tackles for loss per game (6.38), and 45th in rushing defense that season (144.92 ypg).

During his time in Oregon, Azzinaro went to BCS bowls in every season, and the BCS National Championship following the 2010 campaign. The Ducks also took home three conference crowns, and reached the Pac-12 championship game in his fourth season.

In Philadelphia, Azzinaro's 2014 line helped the Eagles tie for the second-most sacks in the NFL (49.0) and rank tied for fourth in yards allowed per carry (3.7). Defensive end Fletcher Cox earned second-team Associated Press All-Pro honors that season, tallying 61 tackles, 4.0 sacks and three fumble recoveries. Defensive end Vinny Curry had a career-high 9.0 sacks that season.

In 2015, Cox set a career high with 71 tackles and 9.5 sacks, once again earning second-team AP All-Pro honors, adding a Pro Bowl trip to his resumé.

A graduate of American International College, where he played linebacker, Azzinaro spent 30 years in the college ranks before heading to Philadelphia with his old boss, serving as Duke's defensive coordinator from 2004-06, as DC for Massachusetts in 1994 and 1997, and as the DC for his alma mater from 1987-91. He is also the third coach on Justin Wilcox's staff to have a head coaching stop on his resume, along with offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin and DeRuyter. In 1986, Azzinaro served as the head coach of Division-III Western New England University. Azzinaro has served as the defensive line coach at Marshall University in 2008 and at the University of New Hampshire in 2007. Top Stories