NCAA

Cal hires longtime Chip Kelly assistant, ex-49ers coach

Cal hires longtime Chip Kelly assistant, ex-49ers coach

BERKELEYCal head coach Justin Wilcox announced Tuesday that Jerry Azzinaro has agreed to become the Golden Bears' defensive line coach. Azzinaro has coached for 35 seasons at the collegiate and professional levels including the last four campaigns in the NFL with Philadelphia (2013-15) and San Francisco (2016). His most recent collegiate coaching position was at Oregon (2009-12).

"Jerry Azzinaro is regarded as one of the top defensive line coaches in the business," Wilcox said. "The success he had and expertise he gained in over three decades as a collegiate coach gave him the opportunity to work in the NFL the past four seasons and add to his vast knowledge of the game. I'm looking forward to Jerry bringing to our football program everything he has experienced at both the collegiate and professional levels."

"I'm excited to be joining the coaching staff at Cal," Azzinaro said. "Justin Wilcox is putting together a tremendous staff that will have the expertise and knowledge to capitalize on an opportunity to build one of the top programs in the Pac-12 and the nation."

Azzinaro has coached four first-round NFL Draft picks during his career in Arik Armstead (San Francisco, 2015), DeForest Buckner (San Francisco, 2016), Dwight Freeney (Indianapolis, 2002) and Dion Jordan (Miami, 2013).

Azzinaro finished his recent four-year NFL tenure in San Francisco in 2016, where he reunited with former Oregon defensive ends Armstead and Buckner with the latter earning a spot on the league's Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie team. Buckner finished the season with 73 tackles and a team-high-tying 6.0 sacks.

Azzinaro's three campaigns in Philadelphia began with a playoff season, an NFC East title and a 10-6 regular-season record that was a six-game turnaround from 2012. The Eagles tied for third in the NFL with 31 takeaways.

In 2014, the Eagles' matched their 10-6 mark of the previous campaign but fell just short of the playoffs despite a defense that tied for the second-most sacks in the NFL (49.0) and ranked tied for fourth in yards allowed per carry (3.7). Defensive end Fletcher Cox earned second-team AP All-Pro honors registering 61 tackles, 4.0 sacks and three fumble recoveries, while defensive end Vinny Curry had a career-high 9.0 sacks.

Cox had another big season in 2015 with career highs of 71 tackles and 9.5 sacks that led to a second straight second-team AP All-Pro selection and his first Pro Bowl pick.

During his four years at Oregon, the Ducks played in BCS bowls each season and in the BCS National Championship Game following the 2010 campaign. Oregon also won Pac-10 titles in each of his first three seasons, reached the Pac-12 championship game in his fourth and posted an overall record of 46-7.

Oregon led the Pac-12 in sacks twice (2009, '11) and tackles for loss once (2010) during Azzinaro's tenure that began in 2009 when the Ducks paced the Pac-10 and ranked tied for 14th nationally in sacks (36.0, 2.77 spg). Defensive end Kenny Rowe led the league and ranked tied for ninth nationally in sacks (11.5, 0.88 spg) while also earning Rose Bowl Defensive Player of the Game honors after his 3.0 sacks equaled the contest's single-game mark.

In 2010, the Ducks won their first 12 games before falling to Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game. Oregon led the Pac-10 and ranked seventh nationally in tackles for loss (97.0, 7.46 tflpg) while finishing second in the conference and 12th nationally in scoring defense (18.7 ppg).

Oregon led the Pac-10 and ranked fifth nationally in sacks (45.0, 3.21 spg) in 2011 when the Ducks finished 12-2 overall and defeated Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl with Jordan earning all-conference honors.

His final season at Oregon in 2012 ended with a Fiesta Bowl victory and a 12-1 record as the Ducks led the nation in takeaways (40) and turnover margin (1.62). Jordan earned first-team all-conference honors for the second straight season and was selected third overall by the Miami Dolphins in the 2013 NFL Draft after combining for 24.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks during his two all-conference campaigns.

Azzinaro also had three stints as a defensive coordinator at Duke (2004-06), Massachusetts (1994, 1997) and American International College (1987-91). He began his career as a graduate assistant on defense at his alma mater American International College (1982-84) and has also had other stops at Westfield State (1985), Western New England (1986), Massachusetts (1992-93), Boston College (1995-96), Maine (1998) and Syracuse (1999-2003).

Azzinaro mentored defensive end Freeney during an All-American career at Syracuse that would lead to seven Pro Bowl and four All-Pro selections as well as a Super Bowl XLI champion. Freeney was a unanimous All-American as a 2001 senior at Syracuse and earned first-team All-Big East honors in each of his final two campaigns in 2000 and 2001. The 1999 Syracuse team finished 10-3 overall and ranked No. 14 in the final national polls.

Azzinaro played linebacker at American International College (1978-81) and led his team in tackles as a 1981 senior. He received his bachelor's degree from the school in psychology in 1982 and his master's in educational psychology in 1985.

Cal Bears media services provided this report.

Pac-12 to experiment with ways to shorten football games

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AP

Pac-12 to experiment with ways to shorten football games

LOS ANGELES -- The Pac-12 will shorten halftime and reduce the number of commercial breaks during its non-conference schedule this season as part of a trial program to reduce the length of its football games.

Halftime will be 15 minutes long, cut down from the usual 20-minute break. The number of commercial breaks will be reduced and they will be shorter in length, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said Wednesday.

Scott announced the initiative as the Pac-12 kicked off its media days in Hollywood. The experiment is intended to shorten ballooning game times in an era of up-tempo offenses running more plays and the increased scoring that comes with it.

"Just because metrics show robust ratings and attendance doesn't mean we shouldn't be experimenting and piloting with formats that will keep the sport attractive," Scott said. "It's incumbent on us to look at the presentation of the sport and make sure the pace of play is moving as much as possible and without changing the fundamentals of the game."

Scott did not completely dismiss potential rule changes in the future to address the length of games, saying that the upcoming experiment was part of a larger, more comprehensive review.

Scott noted that Pac-12 games have averaged nearly 3 hours and 30 minutes, more than 30 minutes longer than NFL games. Some of that discrepancy can be attributed to stopping the clock after first downs in college football, a rule not used in the NFL.

The halftime reduction could be a significant incentive to keep television viewers tuned in. Scott said up to 30 percent of the audience is lost during that break.

The changes could also have a positive effect on stadium attendance since Pac-12 fans have complained about the increase in late starts under the conference's most recent television deal. Fans might be more likely to watch a game in-person on a Thursday or Saturday night if they have a chance to get home before midnight.

For Arizona and Arizona State, which hold their early-season home games after dark to avoid the desert heat, it could mean their fans spend less time in triple-digit temperatures.

Pac-12 coaches consulted about the change did not believe it would hinder their ability to make adjustments at halftime, Scott said.

"I was delighted to hear our coaches feel like 20 minutes is more than they need from a student-athlete health and rest and X's and O's perspective," Scott said.

Scott also announced the league's plans to operate a centralized replay center, joining other conferences in consolidating its video review facilities.

The Pac-12 title game will stay at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, through 2019, Scott said. The league also has the option to hold the 2020 game in Santa Clara.

New Cal coach Wyking Jones ready to prove critics wrong amid changes

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AP

New Cal coach Wyking Jones ready to prove critics wrong amid changes

Even the most passionate Cal fan might struggle to name a single player on the current basketball roster. The team's top five leading scorers from last season have all departed. Ivan Rabb and Jabari Bird moved on to the NBA, Grant Mullins graduated, and both Charlie Moore and Kameron Rooks elected to transfer.

But perhaps the most significant change is on the sideline. Out is Cuonzo Martin, who agreed to a massive seven-year contract with Missouri, worth a reported $21 million. Replacing him is 44-year-old Wyking Jones, a longtime assistant coach, who spent the past two seasons as Martin's top aide in Berkeley.

Jones' promotion was met with heavy criticism from many in the media, both locally and nationally. Skeptics believe Cal settled for the cheap option, rather than the best option. But why can't both be true? There's no denying that salary played a factor in the hire - the athletic department's financial troubles have been well documented in recent years. But Jones impressed Athletic Director Mike Williams in other areas too, reportedly acing his job interview with a detailed plan for the program moving forward. And unlike the other candidates, Jones already has direct experience dealing with Cal's unique set of circumstances.

“It's not something that you can walk into and just get a really good grasp of,” Jones explained. “It's a learning curve that, if you walk into this situation for the first time, it would take you a tremendous amount of time. Knowing who to go to when you need things, who's in charge of this, who's in charge of that, just having a familiarity of how to really get things done around here.”

Jones also discovered the challenges of recruiting at a school like Cal, where not every athlete can qualify academically. While many coaches would view that as a negative, Jones chooses to embrace it.

“In my mind, that's what makes this place special,” he said. “It's the number one public institution in the world for a reason. Your recruiting pool shrinks quite a bit, but that's okay because typically what happens is if you get a kid who has a lot of discipline on and off the court, you're not going to run into troubles on the weekends when they're in the dorms. They're usually kids who have a lot of respect for the community and other students.”

From a coaching standpoint, Jones has unquestionably paid his dues in the world of college basketball. Prior to joining Cal as an assistant in 2015, he made stops at Louisville, New Mexico, Pepperdine, and Loyola Marymount, where he also played from 1991-95. Now, after nearly 15 years in collegiate coaching, Wyking Jones is a head coach.

“I think initially it's very exciting to have an opportunity to coach, have your own program at a storied program like Cal, to follow in the footsteps of some great coaches,” he said, smiling. “But now the smoke has cleared and it's time to get to work.”

That work has already begun. As previously mentioned, Jones will have to replace his top five scorers from a year ago, who accounted for nearly 56 points per game. The Bears will count on increased production from senior center Kingsley Okoroh and junior guard Don Coleman. They will also rely heavily on redshirt senior forward Marcus Lee, who sat out last season after transferring from Kentucky.

“It's an adjustment, for sure,” Jones admitted. “But you have 13 scholarships for a reason. It's just an opportunity for the guys who are still here to earn their scholarship. It's an opportunity for them to make a name for themselves and have an impact on this program.”

Under Cuonzo Martin, Cal established itself as one of the best defensive teams in the country. Last season, the Bears ranked 18th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 63.4 points per game. Jones hopes to continue that trend while also implementing a full-court pressure defense, similar to the one he coached at Louisville, which resulted in a national championship in 2013.

“It's a process,” he acknowledged. “In year one, hopefully we can be good at it. In year two, look to improve. In year three, hope to be great at it... It's a type of defense, when you're talking about pressing, it's reading all the other guys on the court. It's never scripted. It's being able to read when is the right time to go trap, when is the right time to go switch, when is the right time to bluff and stunt at a guy to slow him down. So there's a learning curve in it.”

Jones knows there will also be a learning curve for him personally as a head coach, especially with such a young and inexperienced roster. He expects his team to be overlooked and undervalued by much of the college basketball world, but that's just fine with him.

“I think a lot of people will probably guess that we won't be very good, and that's motivation right there. That's motivation for my staff, for our managers, for the support staff. It's motivation for everybody that's a part of this program to exceed those expectations. So I think that makes for an exciting season.”