The first staff that Justin Wilcox assembled as head coach of the California Golden Bears was lauded, but after being together for less than a year, it may already be time for Wilcox to reload and replace.
Chip Kelly is officially looking to re-win some days with the UC Los Angeles Bruins after exploding onto the college football scene with the Oregon Ducks. Given that Wilcox also has roots in Oregon—and Eugene in particular—there’s a lot of overlap in whom they professionally know in the coaching circles, resulting in some shared personnel in their coaching squads.
Steve Greatwood, Cal’s offensive line coach, was hired three days after Wilcox officially took the Cal job. Greatwood was a mainstay at Oregon, where he spent two years as a graduate assistant and 30 (!) seasons coaching either the offensive or defensive lines. The two worked together as Ducks for the 2007 and 2008 seasons, leading to Greatwood working for Kelly in the 2009–2012 seasons. Kelly could be looking to reunite with his old O-line coach, but the fact that they did not work together at the Philadelphia Eagles tempers the possibility that Greatwood is Westwood-bound.
Unfortunately, there is a member of the Cal staff whom Kelly took to the NFL—defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro. Azzinaro and Kelly are both New Englanders and they both coached for the New Hampshire Wildcats, although it seems like they missed each other there by a year. Nevertheless, Azzinaro was a member of Kelly first Oregon staff in 2009 and the Professor followed Kelly to the Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers. These BFFles are so tight that the Eagles’ media guide listed Azzinaro as Kelly’s “coaching confidant”. Azzinaro did a great job reinvigorating our defensive line after some struggling years and I’m quite concerned that Azzinaro will instead be accosting our offensive line in 2018.
But if we flip from Oregon to Oregon State, there are pesky rumors that it’s all-but-official that the next head coach of the Oregon State Beavers will be Cal offensive coordinator and running backs coach Beau Baldwin. First things first—for this to happen, it would require for Baldwin to stop coaching at Cal. This would be problematic as it would result in our fourth offensive coordinator in as many years. A lot of fans are down on Baldwin because the offense has underwhelmed this year, but my personal opinion is that this is a bit harsh. We’ve been spoiled with two quarterbacks who went to the NFL and all of the injuries we’ve had on offense (starting running back, starting tight end, and top-two receivers) are staggering. Baldwin had great success at the FCS level and now that he has a year of FBS football under his belt, it’s not stunning to see another team poach him.
But if Baldwin goes, then we might lose another assistant coach with him. Nicholas Edwards is our wide receivers coach and has been with Baldwin since he himself was a wide receiver. Edwards was a walk-on for Baldwin with the Eastern Washington Eagles in 2008, where his career culminated as an FCS All-American in 2011 as a junior. Edwards spent 2013 on NFL offseason rosters and had a chance in the CFL, but began coaching at his alma mater instead. Though young, Edwards already has quite an accomplishment on his résumé as his protégé Cooper Kupp earned national recognition and is a target of Jared Goff’s. Based on Edwards’s connection with Baldwin, should the latter go to Corvallis, I would expect the former to follow. There is a possibility that the Beavers could afford a pricier assistant since former coach Gary Andersen walked out without a dime, but we can’t undervalue the importance of familiarity.
All we can do is wait and see which coaches will leave for less-blue-and-gold pastures. And if so, more time to tell which other coaches are in Wilcox’s rolodex. Perhaps these coaches will see the great potential in what’s being built in Berkeley and feel compelled to stay.