Can lightning strike twice for the UC Davis football program?
When 15 new players made their commitments to the Aggies on National Letter of Intent day Wednesday, two names — quarterbacks Turner Baty and C.J. Spencer — popped off the list.
Baty (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) is the City College of San Francisco signal-caller who set the school’s career passing record with 6,220 yards. In 2011, he led the Rams to a 12-0 run and the national junior college title.
Aggie fans will recall that Big Sky Newcomer of the Year and former CCSF backup Gabe Manzanares — a junior running back — got his shot with UCD and delivered 1,285 yards rushing in last fall’s 5-7 campaign.
After that big 2011 season, Baty transferred to Kansas.
It’s a long story, but Baty didn’t get a snap with the Jayhawks and returned to CCSF last fall, where he threw for 3,120 yards and 30 TDs as the team went 8-3.
Now, Baty (pronounced BAY-tee) joins Inderkum High’s Spencer and four other Aggie QBs already on the roster in a may-the-best-man-win competition for starting honors.
“Lots of wins under his belt … very mobile,” UCD head coach Ron Gould says of Baty. “I like his ability to … make plays when (things) break down, keep plays alive.”
Meanwhile, Spencer adds to the intrigue …
In back-to-back 10-3 prep seasons, Spencer’s statistics were almost mirror images of each other. In 2012, he threw for 1,673 yards, 16 touchdowns and only three picks while completing 53 percent of his passes. Last fall, he hit on 55 percent of his attempts, good for 1,724 yards and 23 TDs (only five interceptions).
“The young man is very athletic,” Gould says of the 6-2, 190-pounder. “He has a great, great football IQ. He understands the game, understands coverages and we’re looking forward to having him come in and see what he can do early.”
Both quarterbacks were in the mix for offers from Football Bowl Subdivision schools — Baty at Vanderbilt and Memphis, among others, and Spencer with a last-minute visit to Fresno State — but each comes to Davis none too soon.
Four-year starter Randy Wright is gone and Rocklin’s Jimmy Laughrea, who started three games in the Aggies’ 2013 campaign, remains a UCD student but has hung up his cleats, according to Gould.
So does anybody have a leg up to start under center?
“We don’t promise any starting position to any player,” Gould explains. “Current players understand we don’t have any starting positions nailed down. Even though you started last year, you have to earn the right to start this year.”
The Aggie staff knows it needs some spark at QB, but it also looked at the wideouts and secondary for speed.
With recruits like WR Jermale Jefferson of Dorsey High (Los Angeles) and cornerback Isiah Olave of Eastlake High (Chula Vista), Gould got that speed.
As seniors, Jefferson caught 41 passes for 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Olave intercepted three passes and made 36 tackles for Dorsey.
Of the 15 new Aggies, 12 are listed as two-star recruits by Scout.com — and Gould is delighted that many of his new players chose his FCS program over bigger schools.
“We’re not ever going to compromise academics, character,” Gould adds. “We want it all.”
Pick a position. There is new blood everywhere. Here’s a look at the rest of the new Aggies:
Anthony Baumgart (6-1, 220, DL, Antelope High): Seventy tackles and eight sacks underscored an award-studded senior season. A selection for both the Sacramento Optimist Game and the West Coast Bowl, he was an All-Sac-Joaquin Section selection by MaxPreps and the Capital Athletic League’s Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Travon Brooks (6-3, 245, LB, McClymonds of Oakland, Contra Costa CC): “He is a very, very physical guy when he plays the game,” Gould says of his Ray Lewis look-alike. “Passionate … his bite is tremendous.” Gould says Brooks can play any linebacker spot, but look for him in the middle. He had 46 solo tackles and eight for losses while making all-league for Contra Costa.
Keelan Doss (6-3, 185, WR, Alameda High): The Aggie staff sees much upside to the speedster who caught 12 touchdown passes in three years as a prep player. He missed most of his junior year with an injury, but came back to be named MVP at an Arizona State camp.
Jordan Hoyt (6-4, 265, DL, Chandler of Arizona): In winning the Wolf Award at CHS, Hoyt earned one of the school’s most prestigious all-around citizenship awards. A team captain, Hoyt is ticketed to help bottle up opponents at the line of scrimmage.
Ramsey Hufford (6-3, 300, OL, Newport Harbor High): An All-CIF Southwest Division and All-Orange County first-team player, Hufford contributed on both sides of the ball. Despite his 120 tackles over the past two seasons, it looks like offensive tackle will be the spot for this newest Aggie.
Amonai Itaaehau (6-0, 225, LB, Desert Ridge High in Mesa, Ariz.): With a real nose for the ball, Itaaehau had 101 tackles as a senior and another 95 as a junior. He accounted for 11 sacks and picked off three passes in his career as the Jaguars went 22-4 over the past two falls.
Sean Johnson (6-1, 185, S, Burroughs High of Burbank): The kind of play-the-run, hard hitter Gould likes in the secondary, Johnson forced five fumbles at Burroughs while playing both ways and earning academic accolades.
Michael Layton (6-0, 200, RB, Woodcreek High): Layton laid some serious tracks down in a 285-yard game against state powerhouse Folsom at the beginning of 2013. He was All-Sierra League Offensive MVP in 2012 with 886 yards and nine TDs, then was hurt during his senior year, but still averaged 112 ypg.
Jordan Robinson (6-1, 195, S, Mesquite High in Gilbert, Ariz.): This business major was all that on the field — as evidenced by his 37 tackles, of which 17 were solo. He had four interceptions and dabbled on the offense, where he scored three times.
Robert Taylor (5-11, 170, CB, Deer Valley High in Antioch): Another seek-and-destroy defender, Taylor had 64 tackles last fall — including 10 stops in a 45-34 loss at Vacaville on Oct. 4. He also caught 24 passes for 458 yards and six touchdowns. Deer Valley went 11-2 before losing a playoff game to De La Salle. Talk about attention to academics, Taylor plans to enroll as a pre-med student.
Nolan Tooley (6-2, 235, TE, Bishop Diego of Santa Barbara): Another recruit who is solid on either side of the ball, Tooley caught 16 passes for 331 yards and three TDs while recording 60 tackles to earn All-CIF Southern Section and all-state. Bishop Diego went 33-6 during Tooley’s three varsity years.
“We brought in a very athletic group of young men at all positions,” Gould says. “That was a need that we had to address. We wanted to become more athletic overall. We felt like we’ve addressed those needs.
Notes: UCD’s four returning QBs are senior London Lacy and sophomores Garrett Bogart, Ben Scott and Mitchell Sheppard. … Baty’s father, Greg, played eight years in the NFL. … Spencer is coming off a semester during which he maintained a 4.0 grade-point average. He’s also a pretty good golfer. Spencer holds the Inderkum record for nine holes, a 34. … Brooks redshirted at Washington in 2011 and will join the Aggies as a junior. He’s eligible for spring ball. … Gould says others may join the roster, but for now it already feels like Christmas in February for Aggie Nation.
— Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047.