Justin Wilcox on National Signing Day: Cal on "the verge of doing something really special"
Hope springs eternal in Strawberry Canyon.
Cal head coach Justin Wilcox fielded questions from the media yesterday after the Bears landed their last three commits of the 2022 recruiting class.
Below are some transcribed quotes, paraphrased.
On Fernando Mendoza
“He was a guy that we had been watching, and got more intrigued as the recruiting process went on. There was a connection with a coach with NFL and college background that had a relationship with him.
Bill [Musgrave] kinda dove into it and started getting to know him. We watched him on tape of course, see him in person, see him with the family. He came out on a visit.
We spent a lot of time with him. He’s very intelligent, real big guy, he’s probably 6-4, 210-215. He’s kind of an all-around athlete, can really throw the football. His demeanor lends itself to being a quarterback, he’s got that disposition, and we think he’s got a really bright future.”
On Jackson Brown
“Highly recruited, highly coveted guy, he’s a big strong guy, he’s still going to grow as a football player. A guy that we targeted early on, decided to have him join us. He was a guy here in San Ramon, right here in our backyard, someone we really prioritized early on in the process.
He has position flexibility. He could play in the interior potentially. He’d be great at left tackle. He’s still going to grow a lot. He’s got a huge frame…but he’s going to continue to develop with [strength] Coach [Brian] Johnson and [offensive line Coach Angus [McClure].”
On Cam Sidney
“Really liked early on in the recruiting process. Coming here from Mater Dei, Mater Dei players have done really really well for us. Very smart guy, very instinctive. We think he could play corner, we think he could be a real good nickel. He’s kind of a natural.
With Cam, you see the instinctive nature, a very competitive guy, play man-to-man, PBUs, interceptions. We’ve been recruiting him for quite a long time. Really great kid to talk with.”
On the transfer process
“There’s more players in the system this year because of the COVID year. It’s part of the new era in college football. It is different for everybody. We feel strongly about our positioning in it. We’re not going to be an outfit that will take 25 transfers every year. We’re certainly going to supplement our roster with transfers that fit our program. And we’ve done that. And we’re going to adjust and make it a net positive for us.
Those spots you’ve allotted to either JC or high school can now be taken by four year college players. Is it typical? I don’t know. It’s early on.
It’d be nice to put guidelines on the dates to make it easier to manage the roster. Right now players can go into the portal at any time.”
On Marshall Cherrington and recruiting organizational structure
“Marshall was with us a couple years ago. He was working down with USC. We were able to get him back. We’ve also elevated some other guys, Zac Bocian, Benji Palu, Derek Haithcock, etc. It’s kind of a horizontal structure. Ultimately I’m the one that makes the decisions.
We have a couple of coaches involved in organization, everyone does. Burl Toler has a large role, as does Peter Sirmon. We have a really good group of people.”
On Bay Area recruiting blitz to start 2023.
“We certainly want to continue to build those relationships in our area, some who we’re recruiting. Having Bay Area players on our team is important and we want to find the guys that fit us. We did that the very first day out. Every single coach was out there making stops, and it was great to see some people face-to-face.”
On the signees already on campus: Early entrees Mason Starling, Jaydn Ott, and the portal players
“They’ve been here for a few weeks. They’re just getting to know the team, their workout groups. It’s been great to have them here. There’s always an adjustment period. They’re settling right in. So much of those guys are like-minded, similar characteristics, so no surprise that they’re settling in.”
On the future of Cal football
“It’s not as big a number as last year. We feel really strong about the group. There is a transition. We do have three guys that have played Pac-12 and Big Ten football before. What’s important is that they get in here, understand how we do things. I feel really strongly all about them, and we’re glad they’re here.”
On the special teams coaching duties
“We will split up special teams on the offense and defense, and the guys that’ll be in charge of the respective units have all been special teams coordinators in the past or had those units at other places. We’ll break that up and when we start spring football, each of those coaches will shape those units.”
On the quarterback battle
“We’re going to get all of those guys opportunities in spring ball. We don’t have a timeline in naming a 1-2-3 pecking order. We want them to get a lot of reps.”
On the contract extension mentioning additional salary for assistants
“I think chemistry is important on a team, on a staff. Retaining talented people is important. We’re very thankful that our administration and our chancellor are supporting us and doing it the way we’re doing it. It’s a very competitive environment. Ultimately, we’re judged on wins and losses. Keeping that continuity is important. It doesn’t mean we’re going to be able to keep every assistant coach everytime, but it gives us a better chance.”
On Jackson Sirmon
“We’ve got a staff member who’s known him as long as a person can know someone. I was recruiting him at Wisconsin when I was up there. He’s tough, instinctive, a physical guy. Jackson can help our team. He was excited to come down.”
On the vision going forward
“It gives us the ability to talk to our recruits on the support we receive from our administration and the chancellor. We feel like we’re on the verge of doing something really special here.
Obviously last year, we had some very difficult close losses. And we need to make up those margins. We think we can accomplish some very lofty goals that we’ve set for ourselves. We have the right culture in the locker room. The players are bought in and they work extremely well together. Now we need to go find those inches that make the difference between winning and losing.
Everybody in the building has to find a way to be that much better. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to the team. We have a lot of goals left to achieve.”
Always inspiring to watch a Wilcox interview, and credit to Piotr for asking thoughtful big picture questions...Go Bears!
I think from day 1 Wilcox had a business plan written down, detailing every step he needed to take to build a successful program. For three years there was steady improvement with our program and then Covid fucked things up. We're back to normal and I expect the steady improvement to happen again. And considering where we are starting from now versus Wilcox's first year, I'd say he is well along with his plan and perhaps we are "on the verge of doing something great'. I'm optimistic. Roll on you sturdy Golden Bear!!