UCLA Football Preview: UC Berkeley's Justin Wilcox Looking for Third Winning Season
The UC Berkeley Golden Bears have a head coach who knows how to move a team down the road to improvement.
With the rescheduled Sunday game against the UC Berkeley Bears, UCLA now has the task of preparing for an entirely different coaching staff, led by fourth-year head coach Justin Wilcox. He started out in 2017 with a 5-7 losing record, but has improved every year since with seven wins in 2018 and eight wins in 2019. Imagine that.
In 2019, Wilcox and the Bears earned two signature wins against #14 Washington and one of the Pac-12’s few SEC opponents, Ole Miss. The Bears were ranked as high as #15 in the AP Top 25 in 2019 and their road record was an impressive 4-2.
Earlier this year, Wilcox was named as one of the new “it” coaches by writers at cbssports.com, largely because of the improvements UC Berkeley has consistently made during WIlcox’s tenure, and there is a high likelihood that we could see the Bears put together some 10-win seasons in the near future and be a true contender for the Pac-12 North Championship.
New to the Bears’ coaching staff is offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave, replacing Beau Baldwin, who left to take a head coaching position at Cal Poly. He has experience as an offensive coordinator at both the collegiate and NFL levels, including stops at Jacksonville, Minnesota, Oakland, and Philadelphia. The Raiders made the biggest offensive improvement in the NFL in yards per game and scoring in two seasons under Musgrave. He played college football at Oregon, where he notched 15 records, including passing and total offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, Peter Sirom serves as Berkeley’s defensive coordinator/inside linebackers/recruiting coordinator. This is his first season as the Bears’ defensive coordinator, starting out as co-defensive coordindator and the other two roles three years ago. Sirom works alongside co-defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, who is in his fourth year with the Bears, but his first as the team's associate head coach and co-defensive coordinator. He also continues work with the outside linebackers. These two teamed up to earn FootballScoop’s Linebackers Coaches of the Year in 2019 and have improved UC Berkeley’s defensive statistics in almost every category over the last two years.
The Bears picked up a new punter in Australian Jamieson Sheahan. He reached the second-highest level of Australian Rules Football as a member of the Essendon Victorian Football League team and was selected as top first-year player in 2018 for Essendon.
Redshirt sophomore Dario Longhetto will be assuming placekicking duties, replacing Greg Thomas, who made 23 of 34 field-goal attempts the past two seasons. In 2019, he took over as the team’s punter for the first five games due to an injury to the Bears’ starter Steven Coutts. He punted an average of 40.9 yards, but has very little experience as a placekicker. With the addition of Sheahan, Longhetto was moved to placekicking after making improvements from last year.
On returns, we will see junior Nikko Remigio. Last season, he returned 12 punts for 138 yards. He is the Bears’ active career leader in receptions, yards receiving, punt returns and punt return yards. So, he has definitely lived up to his 4-star ranking out of high school. He led UC Berkeley to finally snap a losing streak against Stanford in 2019 when he caught nine passes for 157 yards and a touchdown. His abilities as a returner are second to none and Remigio will be a key piece of the Bears’ field position game if he has the opportunity to actually field kicks. Touchbacks are going to be a must for the Bruins.
Wilcox and UCLA head coach Chip Kelly started one year apart, but it’s clear who’s leading their team in the right direction. There is definitely the potential for the Bruins to get out-coached in this situation, especially with the continued failed leadership of the Bruin defense by UCLA defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro. Even with the sudden game change and the uncertain situation, the Bears have a leg up in the coaching department.
Go Bruins! Beat Berkeley!!