Quarterback Randy Wright has started 32 of UC Davis’ last 33 games.
As a redshirt freshman, the Santa Rosa native had his best numbers — 2,432 yards passing with 17 touchdowns. The Aggies went 6-5 in 2010.
Each of the past two seasons, Wright has been effective, but his statistics were static: a combined 4,660 yards through the air with 27 scores while UCD endured back-to-back 4-7 marks.
As the locals weaved their way through Football Championship Subdivision competition — and a handful of FBS powerhouses like Boise State, Cal and Arizona State — Wright and Company encountered a Brave New World.
Now Wright’s a senior. He’s spent the past eight months digesting a new offense. He’s working with Aggie Hall of Famer and offensive coordinator Kevin Daft, a UCD coach who knows a little something about flinging the ball.
Wright has a new head coach, former Cal assistant Ron Gould, who wants his team to find a balance when in possession of the ball.
Gould promises a better ground game, which in turn will aid Wright — or whomever is the Aggie signal-caller. There’s a QB battle in practice with Boise State transfer Jimmy Laughrea and junior London Lacy throwing their helmets in the ring. But just five days before Saturday’s opener at South Dakota, close-to-the-vest Gould has yet to name a starting quarterback.
So what does the staff change and 11th-hour competition in practice mean for the Aggies? For Wright? What improvements can Aggie Nation expect? How important are home crowds?
The personable student-athlete took some time this week to talk with The Enterprise and answer some of those questions:
Q. What has been the difference between camp under Gould and coach Bob Biggs’ 20th and final season?
Wright: “The intensity level and tempo which we practice at. We’re flying around from drill to drill. No walking anywhere. Practicing fast and the attention to detail is much greater from position to position.
“It’s good. Our position requires a lot of detail-oriented stuff. Just taking vigorous notes in the meeting room and I think you’re going to see some results on the field.”
Q. Has the team established goals for this year?
Wright: “Not really. Coach G is big on the process that we’re taking it day-by-day, so — obviously we want to win every game — right now we’re focused on South Dakota finally. And we’re excited about that.”
Q. Any personal goals?
Wright: “Honestly, no. I just want to win games this year. We’ve been 4-7 the past two years. If I’m playing well, or whoever’s the quarterback, then the team’s going to be playing well. It goes hand-in-hand: team with personal goals, and personal with team goals. If we’re winning, people are playing well.”
Q. What areas of the offense do you sense are improving?
Wright: “I would say all aspects. I see a lot of improvement in the pass game … and especially in the run game. We have really good running backs this year. Our transfer Gabe (Manzanares of San Francisco City College) and a lot of freshmen stepping in, we have Tavior (Mowry) back this year. They’re running really hard and the O-line is doing a good job blocking for them.”
Q. How does an improved running game help you as a quarterback?
Wright: “It’s huge. It keeps us in manageable downs to get first downs. (We can be in) second-and-5 instead of second-and-11. Our play-action can feed off of that. It helps everything.
“If they can’t stop the run, they’ll have to put more people in the box — and that’s easier to pass in and that makes everything easier.”
Q. Are these Aggies legitimate contenders for a Big Sky Conference title?
Wright: “Oh yeah. If I said we weren’t, I shouldn’t be on this team.
“We’re excited to be in the Big Sky. Last year it was fun. We had some close battles with a lot of good teams. We’re excited to finish some of those teams this year.”
Q. Having allowed only 20 points more than you scored, having scored more points than your opponents in the first half and having won the turnover differential, is a tweak here and a tweak there going to make a world of difference in 2013?
Wright: “Absolutely. Just attention to detail — the small things that you can’t really see until you flip on the film — makes all the difference. This is the team sport of all team sports. If one guy messes up, it can ruin the whole play.
“It’s the attention to detail … And I think we’re going to surprise some people.”
Q. Big crowds at home — what does that do for Aggie players?
Wright: “I want to say it doesn’t do anything, but it does. Last year we had Montana State here … we were down 17 at half (and in the) third quarter we scored a touchdown and the crowd got back into, pumping us up. We got two turnovers on defense and took the lead by seven in the fourth … and this place was rocking.
“It was a great feeling. We feed off that energy. We put on a good show, but I wish we could have finished that one because it was a big deal.”
Q. As a freshman, your campus bio said the moon and Alaska were two places you’d like to visit. Have you done either since 2009?
Wright: “I have not. I actually thought coming into college, those questions were a joke and that nobody would read it. I was just kinda throwing those in there. I haven’t had time to visit Alaska — although I would still like to, those would be pretty cool. I’d still like to go there.”
Q. You’re an accomplished QB with pretty good size. Any thoughts about what you want to pursue upon graduation?
Wright: “I want to continue doing something with football: whether that’s playing in the NFL, overseas, Arena or getting a (graduate assistant) job and starting a coaching career.
“But I’m not really worried about that right now. I still have to take care of this season whether I’m third-string backup or starter.
“To talk about (postseason) plans would be unfair to my team and to myself.
“I just want to help us so we’re playing in December.”
Notes: Through Monday, Gould had yet to name his starters at any position. … Wright is a Cardinal Newman High grad who threw for 2,702 yards and 30 touchdowns in his senior prep season. He was picked off but three times. … His parents are Rhonda and Lance Wright and he has a brother Kyle, who played at the University of Texas, El Paso.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.