Class In Session
BERKELEY – Since his first days on campus in February, Geep Chryst has been a source of knowledge for the Golden Bears.
There was little time for the Cal tight ends coach to settle into his new role, as his first day kicked off with a walk-through at 6 a.m. followed by spring practice an hour later. Lucky for Chryst – who has spent more than three decades coaching football, primarily at the NFL level – a head start wasn't necessary.
"It's a good thing I knew the offense," Chryst said with a laugh.
Chryst's understanding of the Bears' playbook stems from spending two seasons (2017-18) as the Denver Broncos tight ends coach under current Cal offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave. His relationship with Musgrave, and his respect for Cal's Travers Family Head Football Coach Justin Wilcox, who coached with Chryst's brother, Paul, at Wisconsin, were key factors in his decision to join the Bears ahead of the upcoming 2021 campaign.
Armed with an expert knowledge of Musgrave's playbook and consistent success at the NFL level – including a five-year stint (2011-15) as quarterbacks' coach and offensive coordinator in San Francisco in which he oversaw the transition of the starting quarterback role from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick – Chryst has cherished the ability to teach the game to more youthful personnel in his new role.
"He's quick-witted, his mind is always on," Musgrave said. "He's a deep reservoir of information for our entire program, both players and staff. He's interested in a lot of different topics, making him a great guy to have a conversation with."
Chryst last coached at the college level as the Wyoming quarterbacks' coach at the 1990 Copper Bowl, when the Cowboys suffered a 17-15 defeat to Cal in Tucson, Arizona. But family ties – his brother, Paul, is the head coach at Wisconsin, and his sons, Keller and Jackson, college quarterbacks and Stanford/Tennessee and Oregon State/Wisconsin-Whitewater – have kept him sharp on the college football landscape.
"We can put these guys through a heavy day and it's amazing to see how their bodies bounce back," Chryst said. "Those NFL players that are in their 30's, they might not bounce back as fast. We love that enthusiasm, and not just the ability to bounce back physically, but bounce back mentally. Though our coaching staff has to repeat more of the teaching principles at this level so [the players] truly understand, it's a really fun experience for me to go through as a teacher.
"I really think that there's a great opportunity to teach the game of football here. I think that the players here can really learn the game of football because of the opportunities we present them with."
As Cal hopes to open more of its playbook this fall in Musgrave's second year as offensive coordinator, Chryst has helped his tight ends visualize the different opportunities they can have within the scheme. Led by fifth-year seniors Collin Moore and Jake Tonges, as well as first-year standout Jermaine Terry II, the group provides talent and depth for Chryst. In return, Chryst's positivity has landed well with the tight ends.
"Coach Chryst's love for the game of football is infectious," Tonges said. "He's always happy, he's always in a good mood. Having that personality in your position coach makes it fun to be here, especially throughout the doldrums of fall camp."
With the season opener against Nevada on Sept. 4 quickly approaching, Chryst and company are full steam ahead.
"(Chryst's) work ethic is unmatched, he is a worker bee," Musgrave said. "He's there early in the morning, hitting it and getting it, both with his players and contributing to our staff meetings. He's a valuable resource for everyone in this program."