The 2017 San Jose State University football staff will be among the youngest in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). New head coach Brent Brennan is adding six assistant coaches, four of them presently under 30-years old.
Joe Bernardi will coach the offensive linemen; Alonzo Carter, running backs; Kevin Cummings, wide receivers; Bojay Filimoeatu, linebackers; and Ryan Gunderson, quarterbacks. Andrew Sowder will be the offensive coordinator and coach the tight ends. They join new defensive coordinator Derrick Odum, hired in December 2016, and defensive backs coach Will Harris, who was retained from last year's San Jose State coaching staff.
Bernardi, Cummings, Filimoeatu, and Sowder have their 30th birthday coming up in the next three years.
BRENNAN ON THE NEW ASSISTANTS
"I want guys who can coach on the move, have great energy in the practice environment and create a practice environment that is highly competitive, energetic and enthusiastic," says the San Jose State head football coach who has his new assistant coaches focused on recruiting and the upcoming National Letter-of-Intent signing period starting on February 1.
"If I ever got a chance to be a head coach, I was going to build a program founded with competition and excitement in mind where kids look forward to going to practice, where they didn't dread it, but were excited about it and the opportunity to compete day in and day out. When you get that, it raises the level of play for everybody on the field. I was also looking for guys who are good teachers and I feel I got that across the board."
Bernardi comes to San Jose State after serving as the Fresno State tight ends coach last season. The Fresno State graduate began his coaching career in 2011 at the University of Tennessee as a quality control assistant for the offense line. After two seasons with the Volunteers, Bernardi spent the 2013 through 2015 seasons as a University of Oregon graduate assistant working with the offensive line and tight ends.
The new San Jose State offensive line coach is a second-generation football coach. His dad, Gary Bernardi, was the Spartans' offensive line coach during the 2010 through 2012 seasons.
"Joe Bernardi is a young coach with a lot of experience. He's been part of some really exciting offenses with some really creative people. He has a great background that way," says Brennan.
"He's a great recruiter. He has a great rapport with the kids he recruits and he's really good at following through."
Carter joins the San Jose State staff after compiling a 47-27 win-loss record and winning four conference championships and two bowl games in seven seasons as the head coach at Contra Costa College. As one of the most successful San Francisco Bay Area high school head coaches, his teams at McClymonds High in Oakland and Berkeley (Calif.) High combined for a record of 82-42-3 in 11 seasons, seven league championships and three Silver Bowl titles.
"Everywhere he's been he's been a winner. Every team he's taken over has won. I just know he'll be a dynamic recruiter for us and a real good mentor for the young men he is responsible for," Brennan says about the Spartans' new running backs coach.
TAPPING INTO BRENNAN'S BLACK & ORANGE CONNECTIONS
Cummings and Filimoeatu are two former Oregon State quality control assistants joining the Spartans.
Cummings was a wide receiver on the 2010 through 2013 Beavers teams. He spent the 2014 football season in the San Francisco 49ers mini-camp, with the Portland Thunder of the Arena Football League and the Edmonton Eskimos and Ottawa Redblacks of the Canadian Football League.
"...He's going to be incredibly demanding. As a player, he was a great technician and he's going to teach everything I believe in. With Kevin, I'm getting a young guy from Los Angeles who will give us great recruiting presence in L.A.," Brennan says about San Jose State's new wide receivers coach.
Filomoeatu was a quality control coach for the Oregon State defense last season. The 2012 Utah State graduate played two seasons for the 2011 and 2012 Aggies as a starting linebacker and helped them to two bowl appearances and a Western Athletic Conference championship. He played one season of professional football with the Oakland Raiders in 2014.
"Bojay is another young coach with tremendous energy. He was a great player at Utah State with some NFL experience. Working with him at Oregon State, I saw great energy in the practice environment. He brings it every day and I knew I was going to need that with somebody who will be coaching the defensive front," according to the Spartans head coach.
Gunderson was the University of Nebraska's director of player personnel the last two seasons. A quarterback at Oregon State during the 2003 through 2007 seasons, he stayed at his alma mater working in player personnel and as an administrative graduate assistant.
"'Gundy' is an outstanding young football coach. He was trained by (University of Nebraska and former Oregon State head coach) Mike Riley and (Nebraska offensive coordinator) Danny Langsdorf who are two of the best quarterback teachers in the coaching business," says Brennan. "He's been involved in the highest levels of the player personnel business in college football. He's a great evaluator, has a great understanding of recruiting and will bring a unique and creative approach to our recruiting efforts."
AIMING TO ADD EXCITEMENT & SIZZLE TO THE OFFENSE
Sowder was the wide receivers coach at Texas in 2016. The Longhorns were 16th nationally in total offense and featured running back D'Onta Freeman, the national rushing leader in average yards per game at 184.4. Sowder also was an assistant coach at Bowling Green, Eastern Illinois and West Texas A&M. The 2011 Baylor University graduate was a tight end for the Bears in the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
"Andrew Sowder is a guy I was interested in because of my relationship with (Syracuse head coach) Dino Babers. Dino is a mentor of mine. Andrew was with him as a player and a coach at Baylor, Eastern Illinois and at Bowling Green. I was excited about getting into some kind of Baylor thought process on offense, because I think it is exciting. It's new and those guys score points," says the San José State head coach.
TEACHING & MENTORING EVERY STEP OF THE WAY
"Everyone joining us as we put this staff together is a great teacher of technique and scheme and also will be a great mentor of young men. That's a huge part of my philosophy helping these young men grow and develop. That's a huge part of my philosophy helping these young men grow and develop. We need people who will be with them every step of the way, not just on the football field, but academically, athletically, socially, be involved in every part of their life in this critical time of their college years figuring out who they are," says Brennan.