Sonny Dykes’ protracted offseason dalliance with, oh, every open head coaching position east of Reno put Cal’s athletic department in a tight spot. By the time Mike Williams had had enough of Sonny’s coquettish ways, most coaches had already committed to other schools and many top recruits had gone with them. Williams earned the approval of most Cal fans by wooing Justin Wilcox, but the matter of putting together a staff and a recruiting class remained.
Wilcox will have a bit of an extended grace period (or should, anyway), as he goes about filling up his program with “his guys.” Whereas most new coaches have some time to work through their rolodexes, Wilcox was forced to make creative decisions (Beau Baldwin) or work with what was available (Tim DeRuyter).
One new staffer who is definitely Wilcox’s “guy,” though, is new California Golden Bears DBs coach Gerald Alexander. Wilcox was a graduate assistant at Boise State in 2002 and the defensive coordinator there in 2006, bookending Alexander’s stellar playing career as a Bronco. Alexander was a four-time All-WAC safety during that span and helped guide Boise to an undefeated record in his senior season.
The Detroit Lions drafted Alexander in the second round and immediately put him to work: he started all 16 games in his rookie season, recording 81 tackles and two interceptions. He was relegated to a backup role in 2008 before being traded to Jacksonville, where he put up another solid season (55 tackles, 3 FF, 2 INT). Alexander bounced between the Panthers, Dolphins, and Jets in 2010 and 2011 before mounting injuries ended his playing career.
Returning to his hometown, Alexander took a volunteer coaching job at Rancho Cucamonga High School. He moved up to the college ranks as a GA at Arkansas State and then at Washington (though he didn’t overlap with Wilcox there). His one season with the Huskies coincided with Budda Baker’s All-American freshman season.
Alexander got his first full assistant job in 2015, as the secondary coach for FCS Indiana State. He then moved west to take the same job at Montana State under former UW colleague Jeff Choate.
Add in two stints with the NFL's Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship and that brings us to today. It’s a resume that puts Alexander roughly on par with WRs coach Nick Edwards, another young and unproven guy whose past relationships have earned him the opportunity to coach at Cal. It’s clear that Justin Wilcox thinks highly of him, seeing as there’s not too much quantitative data to explain this hire.
“Gerald has a tremendous understanding of the game and is rapidly developing into a top-notch coach and recruiter,” Wilcox said. “I knew he would be a special coach one day when I was coaching him at Boise State.”
Alexander certainly has a few things going for him. First and foremost, he knows his position well, having played in the league and studied under coaches at every level. Second, he has a reputation as a recruiter on the rise. He’s from southern California and was responsible for recruiting the Los Angeles area while at Montana State, so he should be able to help support this staff’s commitment to West Coast talent. Third, his Twitter game is top-notch. Will that be enough to turn around Cal’s much-maligned pass defense? With his mentor as head coach and nearly a century of combined defensive coaching experience on this staff, there’s reason to hope.