Cal Football: Notes and Quotes from the Redbox Bowl Press Conference
Justin Wilcox has had a busy week and half, as he circled around the country recruiting. He got back to the Bay Area this morning to conduct a joint press conference with Illinois head coach Lovie Smith, and recounted his flights to the assorted media in attendance.
"Started at UCLA, stayed there, LA, New York, Phoenix, Honolulu, SFO, that's week one, then the recruiting weekend, that puts me back here, there was two red eyes, so I got back here Friday morning, recruiting weekend, then Sunday night, starting (at) Fresno, Seattle, Salt Lake, Vegas, redeye to Honolulu from Vegas, then redeye last night, land this morning at SFO, you figure out the miles, but time well spent."
That's just over 17,000 miles for those wondering at home, as Wilcox and Smith sat down at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco to take questions from assorted media members. Wilcox and Smith had previously coached against each other, during Smith's first year at Illinois and Wilcox's only year at Wisconsin, and there's a mutual respect there.
"The chance to go up a great Big 10 opponent, coach Smith, who I have so much respect for," Wilcox said, "what they've done as a program, is exciting. I know our players are excited to get back practicing this Friday, after we finish finals next week we'll pour into the bowl game."
"It's been a long time for us bowl-wise," Smith added, "like coach Wilcox said, we're pumped up to play a very good Pac-(12) opponent. We have coaches on our staff, one coach who had a chance to go to school (at Cal), had a chance to coach one of the all time great players to play at Cal, Hardy Nickerson. An awful lot has gone into us being here and we can't wait to go play another football game."
Smith has a handful of players from the area, with former Bishop O'Dowd LB Milo Eifler, former El Cerrito DB Delano Ware, and former St Mary's College HS DB Dylan Wyatt on the roster. He also has defensive line coach Austin Clark, who spent 2009-14 on the Cal roster, in addition to spending 2015 as a recruiting assistant for the Bears.
"(For) Austin and his fiancee, who was also an athlete at Cal, it's always special when you come back home, there's no place like home," Smith said, "I know they love Cal, it's an outstanding school. They loved their time here. If he was drawing it up on what our destination would be, he would have definitely chosen to come back here. And not just Austin, I think we have about 8 to 10 people on our roster, either players or coaches with a tie (to the Bay Area), so that should be neat for them."
Assorted Other Notes and Quotes
- As he did a year ago, Wilcox discussed what a bowl game means from a development standpoint.
"There's the development factor," Wilcox said, "we're going to get almost a spring-ball worth of practices for the development for some of our younger players, which is critical, and also that fact that we're going to continue to practice through December, which is going to allow us to jumpstart back in January, because when you're at home all of December, it's tougher to get going."
- In addition, Cal will have Beau Baldwin, who was named the head coach at Cal Poly yesterday, around for the bowl practices post-signing day. The search for Baldwin's replacement has already started, though there's no timetable for a new hire
"We're excited to have him finish out the season," Wilcox noted, "and I know he is as well, we certainly appreciate Beau, who he is and what he's done, we've had some circumstances on that side of the ball which haven't always been easy, but he did an excellent job as a member of our and coaching our players and we couldn't be more happy for him. As far as naming a replacement, we'll name him at the appropriate time, that won't be today. There are initial discussions that have started, but I won't talk much more about it until we're ready to name somebody, and there won't be a timeline on that."
- Both sides will be going through the bowl events this week, and while there's a prevailing thought that this may not be a big trip for Cal, because they aren't traveling, Wilcox noted that there'll be a lot of new things to do for the Bears.
"They're going to do things before this bowl game that they wouldn't do in four years of living in the Bay Area," Wilcox noted, "and the same goes for the coaches."
- The game has two of the top tacklers in college football, with Evan Weaver and Dele Harding going head to head. Cal and Illinois also have taken similar paths to this game
"That should be fun for purists," Smith said, "defensive football people, to watch this game."
"In my coaching career, I've been on the defensive side of the football," Wilcox said, "I like to study football, and I've studied coach Smith and his career for a long time, I have so much respect for him and it's humbling to sit there next to him honestly. He is a football guy, to see his team transform, I was at Wisconsin when he first got there, to see his team transform, he does it the right way, they play with great fundamentals, you see that, that's what type of team you want to be. We both went through some kind of adversity, with what he was saying (about the QB injuries), I was sitting there thinking, 'yep, exactly, we've been through the same thing,' so it's two football teams that have been through some stuff, but have found our way to playing good football."
- Both sides have been recruiting as opposed to dissecting film of the other at this point, as Illinois finishes up their finals this week, while Cal finishes them next week.
- Cal will practice at home until December 26th, then practice at City College of San Francisco due to proximity to the team hotel in SF and for some of the events they're going to do (along with traffic issues on the Bay Bridge). Illinois will practice at Laney College
- Wilcox, when talking about the Redbox Bowl Trophy, also mentioned another piece of hardware they've been showing recruits on visits, which always comes with members of Rally Committee
"During our recruiting visits, we bring (the Axe) up," Wilcox said, "and they come with it, if it's not at its home base, they stay with it. There's six or seven of them, 135 total in the group, and when the Axe is not at home, they're the guardians. They tell me about the whole thing, and it's really cool."
Cal will return to practice tomorrow afternoon.