The enthusiasm was palpable.
The cheers of encouragement from Aggie Stadium rattled the windows at greenhouses across Hutchison Road and rippled the water at nearby Schaal Aquatic Center while drawing the attention of those Aggie cows across the street.
It was the first day of summer camp for UC Davis footballers, and there was confidence aplenty.
“I feel everybody is on the right page,” wide receiver T.J. King told The Enterprise, adding that veterans like the senior knew what to expect in coach Ron Gould’s second season. “We’re more comfortable going in. I feel a lot more comfortable, and knowing what to expect has done a lot for all the guys.”
Under cloudy skies that kept temperatures in the 60s, Gould and his staff greeted more than 90 Aggie hopefuls for the Monday-morning session.
Camp will go six days a week until late August when things wind down before a regular-season opener at Stanford (Aug. 30).
UCD, 5-7 a year ago, wades into the contentious Big Sky Conference on Sept. 27 with league champion Eastern Washington coming to Aggie Stadium.
Last year’s leading tackler Charles Boyett said every player on campus is aware of how difficult this season’s schedule could be.
“Playing the best … that’s something we look forward to, but not as of now,” the senior safety explained after the spirited two-hour workout. “As of now, we’re focusing on today … getting better today.”
Apparently the Aggies took a step forward on Day 1 …
“There was a lot of energy,” Gould explained. “Guys were excited about being out here. Overall, I thought great energy. I am really, really pleased. There were no false starts, nobody jumped offsides.”
Last year, penalties hurt UCD in two of its early losses (the Aggies started 0-4 in Gould’s debut). The team also was short on forcing turnovers (only 14 in 12 games).
But on this day, sophomore Keleen Culberson and freshman Jordan Robinson — both safeties — had interceptions, bringing a huge grin to the face of defensive coordinator Bert Watts.
Boyett said that’s one of the team goals for 2014 — taking the ball away more often: “That’s something we feel we could (improve) on from last year. That’s something we’ll work on every day, like the other aspects of our defense.”
Assured Gould, “We’re making getting turnovers a big point of emphasis.” He added that he was delighted with the picks from his two youngsters.
Meanwhile, Gould said everyone in camp starts at square one — “No starting jobs are assured.”
That philosophy — and evidence on the first day of practice — provide hints that the Aggie energy will continue throughout 2014.
With five quarterbacks in the fold, newcomer C.J. Spencer (Inderkum High) and Turner Baty (City College of San Francisco) battle senior London Lacy and underclassmen Garret Bogart and Ben Scott for The Call.
While Lacy emerged during the spring game, all five signal-callers had their moments on Monday.
An aside: It was strange not to have four-year starter Randy Wright (who graduated last season) chatting about his challenger du jour. Gould, however, is not ready to talk about where this QB competition is leading.
“We’ll find out more when we get the pads on,” added Gould, pointing to evolving drills later in the week as keys to a quarterback pecking order.
Notes: With Big Sky Newcomer of the Year and 1,285-yard rusher Gabe Manzanares sidelined (wearing a precautionary boot on his left foot), running backs Manusamoa Luuga and Colton Silveria made impressions. Luuga quickly hit the openings at tackle and Silveria went 70 yards to “score” on a mid-practice sweep left. “The boot’s coming off in a couple of days. Gabe is fine,” said Gould of the now-senior who injured his foot during the spring. … Lacy is a 6-foot-3, 210-pound standout from Kingsburg High. Sophomore Scott hails from Vacaville by way of Vanden High and redshirt freshman Bogart is from Cathedral Catholic High (San Diego).
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.