It’s unclear what type of offense Justin Wilcox will want to run at Cal, but it appears that it’ll be a return to the norms that you see from many college offenses. It will probably be a mixture of West Coast and spread concepts.
With Jake Spavital heading on his way to West Virginia, it sounds like Cal will be fully divesting itself of its Bear Raid identity. Makes sense for a defensive-minded coach like Wilcox, who probably wants to do his best to avoid an offense that’s detrimental to his defense.
Here are a few list of names to consider. Aside from one, none of these names have yet to be confirmed as actual targets, but these are names that Wilcox can pluck from his coaching experience.
Mark Helfrich, former Oregon coach: Well. Let’s at least bring up the home-run name.
Helfrich was not good at running a program, but he is more than capable in terms of offensive capability and has recruited a good bunch of the offensive talent that ended up with the Ducks. Helfrich found and developed Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and made the national title game in his second season as head coach. Since arriving at Oregon, his offense have finished in the top 10 almost every season. He has coached his entire life on the West Coast. It feels like a natural fit.
There would be a few questions: Does Helfrich want to adapt to a non-Oregon style of coaching, or does he want to bring his system with him? How adaptable would Wilcox be to that?
Also, Helfrich is owed over $10 million by Oregon (according to the original buyout numbers). Is he really in a hurry to start coaching again or would he want to wait for a more plum candidacy to open up, either as an offensive coordinator or coach?
Scott Huff, Boise State co-offensive coordinator, offensive line coach: Huff has become a popular name early in this search, having worked with Wilcox at Boise State as the offensive line coach from 2007–2009. If playcalling isn’t something that interests him long-term, perhaps Huff could be an offensive line coach candidate if Brandon Jones parts with the Bears?
However, Huff does not call the plays with the Broncos. That falls on head coach Bryan Harsin. I’d imagine Wilcox might want someone with a bit more experience managing the offense. It’s unclear if Huff is more dedicated to coaching the line and the staff gave him some added titles. Huff has been at Boise for over a decade—does he really want to leave the area?
Bush Hamdan, Washington wide recievers coach/passing game coordinator: Is youth your flavor of the month? Miss Jake Spavital and want a similar youth injection in offensive playcalling? Enter 30-year-old Hamdan, who helped Washington produce one of the top passing offenses in the nation with John Ross III, Dante Pettis, and a host of other talents. Hamdan didn’t call the plays, but he’s had experience being an OC or a co-OC at Arkansas State and Davidson.
Wilcox was the defensive coordinator at Boise State when Hamdan was a backup quarterback there—Hamdan lost the job to Kellen Moore—but after throwing himself into coaching, he’s done quite well. Everywhere Hamdan has gone (wide receivers coach at Florida—Sugar Bowl; Arkansas State—Sun Belt title; Washington—playoff bid), his teams have won and his units have improved. If you want a wild card, he’s your guy.
Marques Tuiasosopo, UCLA passing game coordinator and quarterback coach: Tuiasosopo was the quarterbacks coach at Washington in 2013 and tight ends and associate head coach at USC in 2014–15 when Wilcox served as defensive coordinator for both teams.
Tuiasosopo served as quarterbacks coach this season for UCLA, but couldn’t do much without Josh Rosen and the worst run attack in the Pac-12. He would also be another excellent recruiter for the Cal coaching staff. With UCLA hiring a new offensive coordinator already, perhaps Wilcox could entice Tuiasosopo with full-time playcalling duties with the Cal staff.
Troy Taylor, soon-to-be Utah offensive coordinator: The former Cal quarterback took only one year at FCS to truly impress, as Eastern Washington amassed 500+ yards a game from scrimmage and beat Washington State in the first week of the season.
Obviously Eastern Washington has a lot of talent laden in already, but Taylor has produced fairly well at both the high school and lower college ranks. However, he’s taking his talents to Utah at the moment. The chances are low, but is there any chance that Wilcox can potentially flip Taylor before an official contract is inked? It’s unclear if Taylor has officially signed with the Utes as of this point.
Eric Kiesau, former Fresno State offensive coordinator: Bruce Feldman mentioned this name. Kiesau would make for a good wide recievers coach (he’s done it twice at Cal on Tedford’s original staff, and then again in 2011), but I’d be really distressed if they tried to make him a playcaller.
Kiesau had a decent stint as Washington’s offensive coordinator in 2012–13, when Steve Sarkisian was the head coach... and generally the one in charge of playcalling. When he called plays at Colorado, the Buffs offense was pretty unspectacular; and at Fresno State last season, the Bulldogs had one of the worst offenses in college football. If Wilcox wants Kiesau, it should be at the job he’s suited for—wide receivers.