White smoke finally came out of the Aggie football Vatican’s chimney Wednesday.
Three-year starting quarterback Randy Wright has been chosen to become fourth-year starter Randy Wright.
UC Davis coach Ron Gould made the announcement to area media after Wednesday morning’s practice, adding he’s made decisions about who his new-look backfield includes.
Wright being named was no surprise, although Gould had said during training there was a healthy competition for the QB spot.
Wright, Boise State transfer Jimmy Laughrea and junior London Lacy seems to be the pecking order going into Saturday’s season opener at South Dakota (noon).
But Wright has been sharp in practice and Aggie fans know the Santa Rosa native — given a good season — could move briskly through the UCD record book.
The 6-foot-4 Cardinal Newman product is fourth all-time in passing yards (7,092) and total offense (6,817), third in passing attempts and completions (600-for-1,046) and tied with Ken O’Brien for sixth on the Aggie TD list at 44. If Wright throws 109 passes and has 91 more completions, he’ll own both UCD career standards.
Meanwhile, City College of San Francisco transfer Gabe Manzanares is tabbed as a for-sure starter at running back, while sophomore Tavior Mowry and freshman Manusamoa Luuga — will split time as the other back. All-Big Sky fullback Dalton Turay continues to provide the convoy in Gould’s first Aggie backfield.
“I’ve been very impressed with Gabe,” Gould said of his new junior. “He’s been here, son a gun, what? Three weeks? And he’s been able to master the offense from a conceptual standpoint, his attention to detail is unbelievable, his work ethic is impeccable and his football IQ is off the charts.”
Gould adds Luuga (Long Beach Poly) and Mowry (Westlake, Agoura Hills) will be sharing duties in his two- and three-back offense.
And while long-awaited news about who is playing where was a big deal for Aggie fans, Gould and Company remained hard at work, squeezing out every quality second of practice in anticipation of playing a possible possum of an opponent.
The Coyotes were 1-10 a year ago. Gould isn’t buying that South Dakota is a poor team.
“We don’t have a lot of film on them, but I’ve watched these guys fly around on defense and they’re incredible,” Gould explained. “There’s a lot of team speed, they really get to the ball. Sometimes they get cut and they’re off the ground so fast that they still end up on the tackle.”
For its foes, South Dakota has one giant red flag in the middle of its defense.
Linebacker Tyler Starr, a 6-5, 250-pound heat-seeking missile has spent the past two seasons making life miserable for running backs and their QBs.
Last year, Starr blew up 11 plays behind the line of scrimmage (including four sacks). The 2013 College Football Performance Award winner accounted for 74 tackles. As a sophomore, Starr had 14 sacks and 19 tackles for losses. He is on several NFL radar screens.
If Starr doesn’t get you, second-year coach Joe Glenn hopes safety Devin Taverna (6-2, 205) will. The California product (Oceanside High) had 79 tackles and three interceptions in that 10-loss season during which USD dropped five games by a touchdown or less (four by three points).
On offense, the Coyotes were mediocre.
Then-sophomore quarterback Josh Vander Maten accounted for 2,157 combined yards and 13 touchdowns. Leading ground gainer Marcus Sims (639 yards) is gone and replacement Jasper Sanders will try to improve on his 297 rushing yards and three TDs.
So are the Aggies ready?
“We’re getting there,” Gould told The Enterprise. “We have to be ready when the lights and cameras come on Saturday. Right now, we’re focusing on the process. Get better today and let the chips fall where they may.”
Notes: Kickoff is scheduled at noon PDT with the KHTK (1140 AM) crew launching its pregame show at 11:30 a.m. Scott Marsh will again do the play-by-play with analyst Doug Kelly and sideline insight provider Bill Herenda. … UCD is coming off back-to-back 4-7 seasons. … After traveling to play Nevada (Sept. 7), the Aggies will kick off their home schedule with Northern Arizona on Sept. 14. Despite being against a Big Sky Conference colleague, the game with the Lumberjacks in considered nonleague. … Season tickets can be purchased by calling 530-752-1047. Single-game tickets are available at 530-754-2471.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047.