July 13, 2024

Justin Wilcox entering year six with sense of urgency

California Golden Bears Football

California Coach Justin Wilcox addresses reporters at Pac-12 Media Day Friday July 29, 2022. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

LOS ANGELES — The Golden Bears have suffered through two-straight losing seasons, but their head coach feels positive about the talent he’ll be fielding this fall.

Justin Wilcox has yet to finish with a winning record in conference play during his entire tenure at California. And that has to change with the Golden Bears’ 2022 campaign. The pressure to get the team back to the postseason grows stronger after every loss.

However, California started to turn the corner down the stretch and won four of its’ last six games. That’s why Wilcox is feeling optimistic about his sixth season in Berkley, despite all of the new faces on both sides of the ball. His No. 1 goal is to win the Pac-12, regardless of the odds stacked against the Golden Bears.

“With the guys on the team, the people in our building, that’s what the goal is, where it’s been set,” Wilcox said. “We have conviction that if we take care of the things we can control, we give ourselves an opportunity to attain it.”

For the first time in four seasons, Wilcox will have a new quarterback behind center. Purdue transfer Jack Plummer is looking to replace four-year starter Chase Garbers, and Wilcox is excited about his upside. After all, Plummer threw for 3,405 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions over the past three seasons with the Boilermakers. The former three-star prospect also connected with receiver Marvin Anderson for a touchdown in California’s spring game. Wilcox understands the value Plummer brings to the offense, and plans on utilizing it all throughout fall camp.

“He’s probably a bit better than we thought, and we’re excited about where he’s going” the 45-year old coach said. “There still needs to be some chemistry and rhythm built, and it doesn’t happen overnight.”

Most of California’s receivers are young and inexperienced though. On top of that the offensive line is thin and lacking leaders. So Wilcox is anticipating an intense fall camp as the offense gels together. Wilcox understands mistakes are going to happen and there’ll be growing pains, but it’s all part of the learning curve.

On the defensive side of the ball it doesn’t get much better in terms of returning production. The entire front seven is depleted, besides last year’s third-leading tackler Muelu Iosefa. Still, Wilcox is excited about all of the young talent around Iosefa.

“The interior of the defense, the defensive line, the inside linebacker positions, we feel very strongly about,” he said. “We also have some younger players that we feel like have an opportunity to step up on the edge and in the secondary.”

The vibe around the program is positive in Wilcox’s eyes with fall camp in session. He’s holding a few events to bring back ex-players and alumni to make everyone feel welcome and familiar. Wilcox is hoping they can share their memories and experiences with the players. What’s important to Wilcos is the Golden Bears learn how to respond to adversity.

California was picked to finish ninth in the Pac-12 media preseason poll last week, but Wilcox and his players are ignoring the outside noise.

“We have conviction that if we take care of the things we can control, we give ourselves an opportunity to attain it.