Enterprise staff writer
Not every college football coach can be as lucky as former UC Davis quarterback Chris Petersen, whoÕs Boise State Broncos bring back 22-of-24 starters from the 2009 season.
Aggie head coach Bob Biggs does have 16 returners, but that means that during fall camp, a number of positions are up for grabs. Among the starting spots open are right guard, two at linebacker alongside Dozie Amajoyi, both cornerbacks and strong safety.
On the offensive line, the right guard spot opened up because three-year starting center Tommy Hernandez graduated and sophomore Ray Wilburn shifted one spot to the left from his guard position. Also on the line will be Mark Tos (right side) and Robert Ayotte as the tackles and Sean Davies at left guard.
Biggs said that there are four players in the running, though the decision is likely to come down to a pair of redshirt freshmen in Al Doiron and Jimmy Kunkel.
ÒDoiron has been a nice surprise,Ó Biggs said. ÒHeÕs got good size and strength, but heÕs still learning the intricacies of the protections. He has shown some athleticism and some great balance. Even when he isnÕt quite sure, he seems to recover well, which is a positive.
ÒJimmy has great strength but heÕs got to finish his blocks. Sometimes he loses his feet and doesnÕt finish blocks like he needs to.Ó
Linebacker was a strength for the Aggies last year with Amajoyi and Mike Healey on either side of leading tackler Mike Morales. But the two Mikes graduated and Biggs slid Amajoyi to the center for his senior year.
On the strong side, Biggs said itÕs going to come down to junior Jordan Glass or senior Marshall Congdon, who made 33 tackles and forced a fumble in 11 games last year. Junior Neil Pierce, who saw action in all 11 games in 2009 and had five tackles, will start on the weak side and will be backed up by Byron Gruendl, a converted safety:
Ò(Glass and Congdon) are both good, strong guys,Ó Biggs said. ÒMarshall is mostly a run stopper and Jordan is probably a little bit better in space.Ó
Biggs also named sophomore Hunter Pahl and true freshmen Steven Pitts and Ryan Dimino Ñ a Del Campo graduate Ñ as players who could see time as reserve linebackers. Last year as a quarterback, Dimino torched Davis High for 421 yards combined passing and rushing in a game that was played at Aggie Stadium.
Cornerbacks Jeremy Scott (31 tackles, nine pass break-ups) and Kenny Brown (28 tackles, three interceptions, nine pass break-ups) both graduated and are likely to have their spots filled by senior Marcus North and junior Jonathan Calhoun.
Calhoun made 10 tackles and intercepted one pass in 10 games last year, while North missed the year with an injured knee. Junior Ryan Troy, sophomore Jonathan Perkins and redshirt freshman Andre Allen are all playing well in camp and are making their cases for increased playing time.
Senior Danny Hart returns as the starting free safety, while junior Pat Shelton and sophomore Kevyn Lewis will both see significant time at strong safety.
ÒAndre and Jonathan are really pushing Marcus and Jon right now,Ó Biggs said. ÒAndre had to have microfracture surgery last year and has recovered from it well and Jon made a lot of plays for us this year in spring football. He may not be our fastest guy but he has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.Ó
The starting tight end slot is locked up by senior Dean Rogers but a number of players have been playing as the backup, including fullback Ishman Anderson, junior transfer Michael Cody and true freshman Taylor Sloat. Redshirt freshman Cameron Sentance is out a couple weeks with a MCL sprain, while Nolan Sheldon has a nagging shoulder injury.
Ñ Reach Conor Tekautz at email@example.com or (530) 747-8049. Comment on this story or check out The Enterprise sports blog at www.davisenterprise.com