With Sunday's big news out of Berkeley that Cal has canned Sonny Dykes, the Bears vacancy is an interesting one. The timing is challenging since recruiting heats up again this weekend in a three-week sprint to Signing Day.
Dykes' teams struggled on the field, but he did a lot of very good things off the field, especially shoring things up in the classroom. The program he inherited had major issues on that front.
Beyond that, this program has serious financial challenges and it's a stretch to say they're committed to playing football to the same degree many others are in the Pac-12, much less around the country.
There is one huge name looming (see the picture), and many thought he was the reason why Cal made this move now. I'm not so sure of that. Here's how we size up some of Cal's options.
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Justin Wilcox, Wisconsin DC
A former Cal assistant, Wilcox is high on the Bears radar, we've heard. He did a terrific job with the Badgers this season after struggling while running the USC D. The Badgers D ranked No. 7 in the nation.
The 40-year-old is from Oregon and was the Bears' LB coach for three seasons under Jeff Tedford.
There had been a lot of talk in the past that Wilcox may not want to be a college head coach and deal with many of the issues that come with running a program. And there certainly would be a lot of issues that'd come with this job at this time. Plus the Pac-12 North is pretty loaded right now. We'll see if he really wants this one.
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Tee Martin, USC OC
The former Vols star QB who led UT to a national title has risen up the ranks and done well on the west coast.
This season as the Trojans offensive coordinator, Martin led USC to No. 20 in total offense, up 18 spots from last year. The 38-year-old Martin's long been known as a good recruiter. He's had stops at New Mexico, Kentucky and now spent the past four seasons in the Pac-12 in addition to some time as a high school coach. Martin also spent one season up in the Bay Area as a back-up QB with the Oakland Raiders.
The question on Martin is, given that his team has a terrific young QB in Sam Darnold and a potential Top 5 team, is he better served to bide his time with the Trojans a little longer to see if he can get a better head coaching option than Cal?
Jake Spavital, Cal OC
He's only 31 but is a third generation coach and considered one of the sharpest young minds in football.
Spavital had a very impressive debut season with the Bears, taking over an offense that had to replace Jared Goff — the first pick in the NFL draft — and the team's top six receivers. The OC still produced the nation's No. 10 offense, which was only down two spots from 2015.
In his time at West Virginia, Texas A&M and Cal, Spavital has proven to be an elite recruiter, landing both five-star talent but also unearthing unheralded prospects who blossomed into stars (Kevin White, Josh Reynolds). He was also a big reason why Cal landed coveted grad transfer QB Davis Webb last year.
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Jimmy Lake, Washington Co-DC
He was a standout DB at Eastern Washington, where he earned a business degree and has a very impressive track record.
He's got two stints at Washington and the latter has nurtured arguably the best group of DBs in college football. He also has NFL experience from his time in Tampa Bay and Detroit. People inside the Huskies' program rave about this guy. Lake impresses everyone he meets. I'd be shocked if he's not a head coach before too long.
Cal has to at least ask if he has any interest at all. The 53-year-old Kelly was 46-7 in four seasons as Oregon's head coach with three of the teams finishing in the top four before jumping to the NFL. Kelly is a brilliant coach and his innovation went far behind just his X's and Os. As he told FOX Sports last week, "I evaluate all jobs individually. I wouldn't rule anything out." Because of his exit from the Eagles and 49ers and what they owe him, Kelly would be a huuuuuuuuuge bargain for Cal, and if they want to energize the fan base and donors, hiring him would do it more than any other guy.
My hunch, though, is he wouldn't take Cal. And that is just a guess. If he opts to stay out for the 2017 season, Kelly's going to have many options and that will include at schools much more committed to football than this one.