And now some answers will come …
When the UC Davis football team’s nonconference outing at South Dakota kicks off on Saturday, it signals the dawning of the Ron Gould era.
The contest starts at noon inside the famed DakotaDome.
Aggie fans wonder what kind of impact Gould, the former Cal running backs coach, will have after eight months of working diligently under the hood of a football program in need of a major tune-up.
After back-to-back 4-7 seasons, former mentor Bob Biggs stepped aside — his 20 years at the reins filled with accomplishment. But his final years did not yield the kind of on-the-field success with which he and predecessors Jim Sochor and Bob Foster had spoiled Aggie faithful.
Gould’s tenure has been whirlwind, to say the least.
Within the month after being named head coach last December by UCD Athletic Director Terry Tumey, Gould weaved the best of Biggs’ old staff into a wave of new blood to form one of the Football Championship Subdivision’s youngest staffs.
He and his assistants scoured California looking for talent, signing an incoming class of 15 recruits, some of whom are expected to pay dividends now.
Gould asked his assistants and players alike to “trust the process” as spring opened.
“Trust” is Gould’s mantra.
In his 16 seasons at Cal, Gould displayed a Midas Touch with running backs, sending a baker’s dozen to the NFL. His reputation preceded him. Will his Football Bowl Subdivision experience, his no-nonsense practice approach and demand for excellence translate to the local campus?
A spirited summer camp behind them, speculation regarding who these new Aggies are ends Saturday.
Gould, 47, this week surprised no one when he named now-four-year starter Randy Wright as his quarterback.
Wright is fourth on the all-time Aggie list in both passing yards (7,092) and total offense (6,817). He’s third in attempts (1,046) and completions (600) and tied with former NFL standout Ken O’Brien for sixth on the roll call with 44 touchdown passes.
But Gould’s selection of Gabe Manzanares, a 5-foot-9, 200-pound junior, as his lead running back was surprising not because of who the City College of San Francisco transfer is, but because Manzanares was in camp only three weeks (he was not yet on campus last spring).
Splitting second-back duties will be freshman Manu Luuga (Long Beach Poly) and sophomore Tavior Mowry. Preseason All-Big Sky Conference selection Dalton Turay returns at fullback.
“Those … guys have earned it,” Gould explained earlier in the week. “I saw (Gabe) on film before he got here. I thought he was pretty good, but he’s exceeded my expectations.”
Manzanares played high school ball at St. Ignatius (San Francisco) before heading to CCSF. His numbers were hardly eye-popping — 138 yards rushing for a 10-2 Rams squad in 2012 — but Gould’s sense of what makes a good running back put Manzanares at the head of the Aggie class, at least for Saturday.
And these Aggies shouldn’t be a one-trick pony. Gould wants offensive balance.
Wright has veteran wide receivers like Danville’s Tom Hemmingsen (back from injury and looking solid in workouts), Concord junior Corey Galindo and steady tight end Taylor Sloat (Fall River Mills).
A veteran secondary led by senior corners Dre Allen and Jonathan Perkins and safety Aarynn Jones will be expected to stick and stay all season.
The trio’s first challenge comes against South Dakota QB Josh Vander Maten, a junior who passed for 1,662 yards and seven touchdowns while the Coyotes struggled through a 1-10 season in 2012.
Except for junior wideout Terrance Terry (53 catches for 567 yards and three scores), Vander Maten’s receiving corps is young, plus Vander Maten’s forte seems to be as a runner anyway. The 6-2, 215-pound Boyden, Iowa, native rushed for almost 700 gross yards and six TDs in 2012. However, Vander Maten took more than a dozen sacks and lost more than 200 yards in the process — giving him 495 net ground yards.
Gould said South Dakota’s paltry 2012 record means nothing.
He told assembled media after a recent practice that the Coyotes’ team speed — especially on defense where All-American candidate Tyler Starr lurks at linebacker — was a concern.
“On film … I watched these guys fly around on defense and they’re incredible,” Gould said. “There’s a lot of team speed, they get to the ball. They have a tremendous amount of passion. Offensively, they’re very physical and do a nice job running the ball.
“We’re going to have our hands full.”
Notes: While they rarely see each other at home, Ron and Teresa Gould will get to spend some quick face time together Saturday. Teresa Gould, who serves as Cal’s deputy director of athletics, is an Iowa native who will attend her husband’s debut as a head coach. “She’s going to have a large contingent there from Iowa. Siblings, cousins, friends,” the coach says, adding that there could be as many as 20 in the family group. In passing at home on Tuesday night, Teresa arrived at 10:30 p.m., followed by Ron’s 10:45 appearance. “It was like, ‘Hi, honey. Good night. See you in South Dakota,’ ” the coach recalled. … Gould is the 16th Aggie football coach in 95 years — only the fourth since 1970. Previous UCD coaches went 7-8 in their first games. … South Dakota, the Aggies’ former Great West Conference foe, is a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. … Since 2000, UCD is 4-4 in contests played indoors. … KHTK (1140 AM) will air the game, beginning with a pre-game show at 11:30 a.m. … Wright will be happy to have 2011 All-Great West first-teamer Hemmingsen back. The Monte Vista High grad was Wright’s favorite target that year, catching 50 passes for 622 yards and seven scores.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] 530-747-8047.