Since the shocking late season firing of head coach Sonny Dykes, Cal has had two primary targets publically circulated as his replacement: Current offensive coordinator Jake Spavitals (now the interim head coach), who has interviewed; and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who will be interviewed.
A third name has entered the ring via 247Sports: Washington defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake is apparently a candidate. “Who”, you may ask?
Lake, like Wilcox and Spavital, is youngish. Like Wilcox and Spavital, he has a penchant for good recruiting. And like Spavital and Wilcox, he has no prior head coaching experience.
However, unlike Spavital and Wilcox, Lake doesn’t really have any coordinator experience either. He has been a secondary coach for his entire coaching career, which spans from the Bucs and the Lions in the NFL to Boise State and Washington most recently under Chris Petersen.
Lake earned the title of co-defensive coordinator, which gives him duties like “defensive pass game coordinator”, so I imagine he does some logistical gameplanning. But he probably still defers to Pete Kwiatkowski on gameday. It might be quite a leap.
“We don’t just learn techniques with our scheme,” Gardenhire said. “We focus on football — this split, each release, learning how to read formations, shot formations, just reading everything from splits to routes to concepts. … I feel like we’re one of the smarter secondaries in the country because of him, and our football IQ is there.”
Jones, a coveted NFL prospect, spends hours in Lake’s office breaking down film and credits Lake for his development.
“He’s experienced, he’s coached at the next level, he knows scheme, he’s very intelligent,” Jones said. “He connects well to the players, very energized. Has standards. Cool coach, but strict as well. He can have a discipline side to him, too.”
That being said, his coaching acumen and knowledge of football can hardly be questioned; Washington’s secondaries is one of the best in college football. From NFL bona fide targets like Sidney Jones to Budda Baker to JoJo McIntosh to up-and-comers like Taylor Rapp and Austin Joyner, Washington has stacked their secondary with Lake’s recruits. Cal’s pass defense would definitely improve quite a bit under his watch.
Washington coach Chris Petersen and Kwiatkowski believes he’s ready to be a head coach too. And to his credit, Lake sounds like he’s preparing himself for that day too.
Petersen said he “absolutely” thinks Lake can be a head coach some day.
“Totally,” Kwiatkowski said, asked the same question. “He’d be a real good head coach, for sure. Great communicator. Very organized. He’s extremely competitive.”
“I just know if I continue to do my job and try to do it with excellence, recruit, make sure my players are being productive, then to me, everything will take care of itself,” Lake said. “And what’s awesome is I feel like I’m beneath the best head coach in football, so every day for me is a learning experience. I have notebooks on notebooks of notes taken on how Coach Pete handles different situations, and to me, that will definitely help me down the road, if that opportunity ever presents itself.”
Could Cal take a chance and try and land Lake his first head coaching gig? We’ll see if he blows away athletic director Mike Williams in the interview table.
Cal fans, what do you think?