Athlon Puts Jaydn Ott on All-America Team, Ranks ACC coaches

Justin Wilcox near the bottom in ACC coach rankings by Athlon Sports, which also provides anonymous quotes on Cal football from opposing coaches
Cal running back Jaydn Ott
Cal running back Jaydn Ott / Paul Karge/The Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

Cal running back Jaydn Ott was named to Athlon Sports’ preseason third-team All-America squad, making him the only Cal player on the site’s preseason first-team, second-team, third-team and fourth-team All-America squads released Monday.

Ott was listed as a running back/all-purposes athlete, and was one of four running backs listed on Athlon’s third-team All-America squad.  Ott was a first-team all-Pac-12 selection in 2023, when he rushed for 1,415 yards and also returned a kickoff for a touchdown against UCLA.

Cal and Ott join the ACC this coming season, and North Carolina’s Omarion Hampton was listed on Athlon’s second-team preseason All-America squad.

Athlon earlier ranked the coaches of the ACC’s 17 football programs, and Cal’s Justin Wilcox was ranked 14th, ahead of just three other head coaches. Here’s what Athlon said about Wilcox:

California is a tough job that's only getting more challenging in the ACC. Wilcox has compiled a 36-43 mark since taking over in '17 and guided the program to three bowl trips. Last year's six wins helped to end a bowl drought that dated back to '19. Under Wilcox, the Golden Bears have yet to post a winning mark in conference play (21-37 in the Pac-12) and the program's last winning season took place in '19. The defense (Wilcox's side of the ball) has declined in performance over the last two years and allowed 32.8 points a game in '23.

Athlon also provided anonymous comments about each ACC football program from opposing coaches. Here’s what those coaches said about Cal:

“Is there a tougher situation for a football program than these guys? They have to recruit California to play on the East Coast and fight with a school that doesn’t support football. [Justin] Wilcox could go work as a coordinator somewhere else and leave that headache behind."

"They really fell apart on defense last year, which is weird because the offense had been the obvious problem there for most of Justin’s time, and they’ve got to a decent place on that side."

"The running back is their best player, and they’re running a QB competition for the job through spring and summer." 

"Give that staff credit — they have to battle through a lot to make that program work.”

Finally, last month Athlon ranked the 17 ACC football teams after spring practice.  Cal was ranked 11th, with this comment”

11. California

Running back Jaydn Ott (1,315 rushing yards and 10 scores) is among the nation's most underrated playmakers. He headlines an offense under new coordinator Mike Bloesch that left spring with an unsettled quarterback battle between Chandler Rogers and Fernando Mendoza. The Golden Bears need to get better on defense after giving up 37.8 points a game in Pac-12 play last season. 

Lindy's Football magazine picked Cal to finish 12th.

But CBS Sports has more confidence in the Golden Bears, ranking Cal eighth in the ACC in its post-spring ratings, with this comment:

8. California

While SMU is slotted one spot ahead, there should be a lot of buzz about Cal exceeding expectations in their first year of ACC play. Getting Jadyn Ott back in the fold gives the Bears one of the top running backs in the country, and the portal has provided some high-end skill talent as they brought in Mikey Matthews from Utah and Tobias Merriweather from Notre Dame. Cal's portal class as a whole ranks 4th in the ACC, according to 247Sports, and Justin Wilcox believes he's got a group with good experience and improved team speed ready to hit the ground running in their new conference.

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Jake Curtis


Jake Curtis worked in the San Francisco Chronicle sports department for 27 years, covering virtually every sport, including numerous Final Fours, several college football national championship games, an NBA Finals, world championship boxing matches and a World Cup. He was a Cal beat writer for many of those years, and won awards for his feature stories.