Cal is hiring Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin as its new offensive coordinator, he announced Monday.
The Bears have just hired Wisconsin defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to be their new head coach. Wilcox is a defensive mind above all else, and he’s replacing an offensive thinker and air raid disciple in Sonny Dykes. Baldwin figures to have broad control over an offense that scored 37 points per game last season. Wilcox can devote more time to fixing the country’s No. 127 scoring defense.
Baldwin replaces young coordinator Jake Spavital, who left for the same job at West Virginia just as word was coming out that the Bears had hired Wilcox as Dykes’ successor. If Spavital’s replacement is Baldwin, that’s an exciting look for Cal.
Baldwin’s been the head man at EWU for the last nine seasons.
He went 85-32 at EWU. His teams made the FCS playoffs six times, including as the No. 2 overall seed this year. The Eagles’ season ended on one of the most preposterous college football catches ever, after they’d been 12-1. Their first game of the year was a three-point win against the Pac-12’s Washington State.
Baldwin’s teams have regularly lit up the scoreboard. The Eagles scored 42 points per game this year, third-best in the FCS. They had a top-20 scoring offense in 2015, after they were No. 1 in 2014 and No. 7 in 2013.
The passing game’s been a focal point. Under Baldwin, EWU receiver Cooper Kupp became an All-American and one of the most prolific receivers in college football history. This year’s team averaged 401 air yards per game, more than 30 yards more than the next-best team in the country. The Eagles had 54 passing touchdowns.
For the 2015 season, EWU quarterback Vernon Adams transferred to Oregon and turned in one of the best FBS quarterbacking seasons in history. Baldwin’s program banned Adams from using its facilities while he was on his way toward graduation, after he’d announced he’d transfer.
"For the next four months, he can't prep down there with them and he certainly can't be in our weight room or throwing with our guys ... and I talked to him about that," Baldwin told ESPN at the time. "I go, 'What's your plan for the next four months? How are you going to prepare for your senior year? I love you to death, but one, you're moving on, and two, you're moving on to who we're playing in Week 1.'"
Baldwin said he didn’t like the graduate transfer rule that permitted Adams to leave for Oregon without sitting out a season. He didn’t handle Adams’ transfer well, though Adams had nice things to tweet after Baldwin’s own departure.
Adams and Oregon beat EWU in that 2015 opener, with Adams throwing for 246 yards and two touchdowns, with 94 yards on 14 runs sprinkled in. The Eagles couldn’t stop the Ducks that day, but on offense, they cleared 40 points for the third of what’s now four games in a row against the Pac-12.
Beau Baldwin vs. Pac-12, last 6 years— Avinash Kunnath (@avinashkunnath) January 16, 2017
2011 L UW 30-27
2012 L WSU 24-20
2013 W OSU 49-46
2014 L UW 59-52
2015 L Oregon 61-42
2016 W WSU 45-42
Baldwin runs a spread offense, with an emphasis on quarterbacks getting the ball out of their hands quickly. He’s had good QBs and good receivers to make it work. Cal happens to have rising sophomore receiver Demetris Robertson, a former five-star recruit who’s probably more talented than anyone Baldwin’s ever coached.
Put everything together, and this seems like it’d be a really good idea.
Cal went 5-7 this season because it couldn’t play defense. So the Bears hired a defensive coordinator with a great track record to fix that as the head coach.
To run the other side of the ball, they’ve now gotten someone with his own proven resume. Baldwin is only 44, but he’s coached great offenses at EWU, and they’ve happened to lean heavily on the pass. Dykes ran a pass-happy scheme in Berkeley, too, so Baldwin could build upon that without requiring a total overhaul.
The Bears already had a pretty decent offense. If they can keep that up under Baldwin while Wilcox fixes the defense, the Pac-12 North will get considerably more interesting.
With Baldwin gone, EWU’s going with co-interim coaches.
With Beau Baldwin leaving for Cal, EWU will have co-interim head coaches with Run Game CO Aaron Best & DC Jeff Schmedding.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) January 16, 2017