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Cal Coaching Search Wish List: 8 Replacements For Sonny Dykes

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A Cal coaching search wish list with eight potential replacements for Sonny Dykes. Are all of the chips on the table for the Golden Bears?


The coaching carousel seemingly never stops spinning.

While Western Michigan looks for its replacement for P.J. Fleck, Cal will begin its own search for a new head coach after dismissing Sonny Dykes on Sunday.

The 47-year-old Dykes went 19-30 in four seasons (10-26 in the Pac-12), including a 5-7 campaign this season. The Golden Bears headed into 2016 having to replace star quarterback Jared Goff and their top six receivers.

Dykes, who was making nearly $3 million per season, interviewed for multiple head coaching jobs over the last few seasons—including Houston and Baylor—which likely did not make the Cal administration happy. The Texas native arrived at Cal after going 22-15 in three seasons at Louisiana Tech.

We’ll see which direction Cal takes in its search, but the Bears will likely try to have a new head coach in place sooner than later for recruiting purposes.

Let’s take a look at some names that ultimately could emerge as potential head coaching candidates for Cal.

Chip Kelly, Former Oregon Head Coach

Cal made this move roughly a week after the San Francisco 49ers fired Kelly. The former Oregon head coach is on record as saying that he would not be opposed to returning to the college game for the right opportunity. We all witnessed what he was able to do at Oregon, which went 46-7 overall and 33-3 in Pac-12 play in his four seasons while flirting with national titles. Will money be an issue, though? Cal is in debt after its stadium renovation.

Jake Spavital, Cal Offensive Coordinator

Expect Spavital to at least get an interview. Despite losing his star quarterback and a slew of receivers, Spavital headed up an offense that was No. 4 in passing (358.8 yards per game), No. 10 in total offense (513.2 yards per game) and No. 22 in scoring offense (37.1 points per game). He’s also a very good recruiter. Promoting from within would not be a bad option for the Bears, and Spavital has the respect of his players.

Philip Montgomery, Tulsa Head Coach

Montgomery took the Golden Hurricane to the Miami Beach Bowl this season, making it his second straight bowl appearance since taking over the program before the 2015 season. Montgomery’s squad suffered just a loss to Ohio State and then two setbacks by a combined nine points to Houston and Navy on its way to a 9-3 record in ’16. He’s one of the nation’s brightest young head coaches, as the 45-year-old program-builder saw his star rise as offensive coordinator at Baylor, which had one of the most prolific offenses in college football under Art Briles.

Justin Wilcox, Wisconsin Defensive Coordinator

The former USC defensive coordinator may get strong consideration for this vacancy after reportedly being in the mix for the San Jose State gig. The 40-year-old completed his first season as the Wisconsin defensive coordinator after serving in that role at USC, Washington, Tennessee and Boise State. He led one of the best defenses this year, as the Badgers had strong numbers in scoring defense and total defense. Wilcox is ready to lead his own program.

Troy Calhoun, Air Force

Calhoun is 77-53 with the Falcons, including a pair of 10-3 marks in the last three years. He is coaching in a Group of Five league, and he may not get many more opportunities to jump to the Power Five. This would be a good fit for him as a veteran coach knowing that the gap between the Power Five and Group of Five schools will remain wide. Air Force is his alma mater, but he has an offensive background and is a former NFL OC.

Dave Aranda, LSU Defensive Coordinator

Aranda has a pretty solid situation going on with LSU right now, but he’s a California native. Sooner or later, he has to make the leap and take a head coaching job. Why not head home and try to re-build a broken Cal defense? In 2016, he had Ed Orgeron’s Tigers ranked at No. 10 in total defense (314.4 ypg) and No. 5 in scoring defense (15.8 ppg). Aranda would be a nice change of pace for the Golden Bears.

Pete Kwiatkowski, Washington Defensive Coordinator

As big of a hire as Aranda would be, luring Kwiatkowski from Seattle would be even bigger. Not only would it be a hit for a Pac-12 rival, but it would test the theory that great coaches produce great coaches. Kwiatkowski was hired by Chris Petersen in 2006 to coach Boise State’s defensive linemen. He’s orchestrated one of the country’s best defenses at Washington, too. The Huskies ranked No. 12 in total defense (316.9 ypg) and No. 9 in scoring defense (17.1 ppg). He also knows Pac-12 recruiting quite well after three years at Washington.

Jonathan Smith, Washington Offensive Coordinator

The same principle applies with Smith. Hiring him would be benefitting off of the Huskies’ success. Smith played a hand in helping get Jake Browning to the Huskies, and we’ve all seen the improvement the sophomore quarterback had this season. Washington ranked No. 33 in total offense (456.9 ypg), No. 40 in passing offense (258.8 ypg) and No. 8 in scoring offense (41.8 ppg). And, again, Smith knows the lay of the land out west. He also helped recruit K.J. Carta-Samuels and current 4-star quarterback commit Jacob Sirmon (2018).

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