Very rarely can you call a coach a home run hire but so far Justin Wilcox seems to be doing his best Barry Bonds impression with his first hires as Cal head coach. Yet, Steve Greatwood might be a grand slam.
Greatwood had been a fixture on the Oregon Ducks staff, serving nearly 30 years under several different coaching regimes in Eugene. Somewhat of a coaching legend, Greatwood was let go after Oregon’s first losing season in over a decade and wasn’t contacted by the new Ducks coach Willie Taggart about staying on through the transition.
The Ducks’ loss is the Bears gain as they find themselves with more than an experienced coach leading their big men upfront, and someone who can recruit on both sides of the ball. Greatwood also has the benefit of knowing newly minted Cal coach Justin Wilcox since he was in high school and has a tremendous amount of faith in his ability to be successful at Cal. The faith Greatwood had in Wilcox made his decision to come to Cal even easier and the two have the makings of an excellent pairing going forward in 2017.
Arguably Greatwood’s greatest work came in 2014 when Oregon was dealing with a variety of injuries and was forced to use a ridiculous eight different offensive line formations throughout the season. Greatwood specifically prepares his players for injuries by forcing them to play across the offensive line in case of emergency. As (bad) luck would have it with injuries to his top three starters, it ended up being an excellent contingency plan. This was a key move as the Oregon Ducks lambasted their way through the Pac-12 and into the national title game where they eventually lost to Ohio State.
However Greatwood’s impact isn’t just felt with the offensive line. Many in Eugene credit the tremendous success of Oregon’s running game to Greatwood who managed to build the Ducks into the premier rushing team in the Pac-12. In the past four years, the Ducks have finished no worse than 27th in the country in rush yards per game and that includes a top ten finish and one top five finish. Greatwood should breathe new life into Cal’s rushing attack that has been less than stellar throughout the years in the Bear Raid.
What do Marcus Mariota, Jake Fisher, Cameron Hunt and Casey Matthews all have in common? In short, Steve Greatwood had some level of impact in each of them arriving at Oregon. One of them in particular left with a Heisman trophy and a performance center named after him. Coaching skill-set aside, Greatwood is a dynamic recruiter and has been instrumental in helping top athletes choose Oregon. He has the ability to recruit on both sides of the ball and played a role in superstar Marcus Mariota choosing the Ducks.
Early indicators look bright for Greatwood as the leader of the big uglies upfront. Greatwood hit the recruiting trail on behalf of the Bears just about when he was announced as the new offensive line coach and has already has made an impact on some key Cal targets. Poutasi Poutasi, one of the more sought after targets of the new Wilcox era, ended up deciding to flip from Louisville to the Bears.
With the NFL resume that Greatwood has with offensive lineman in college, it isn’t hard to imagine Cal as a destination for some of the top players looking to get an education while pursuing their football careers. Our rival across the Bay has established a pattern of bringing in top lineman and dominating their opponents in the trenches. It seems as though Cal has made a strong move to compete with them head on and can start shifting the scales back towards the Bears.