He’s gone a full cycle at UC Davis. So have second-year coach Ron Gould’s Aggie players.
The locals fought their way back from an 0-4 start in 2013 to finish in a fourth-place tie in the rugged, 13-school Big Sky Conference.
UCD showed flashes of defensive brilliance while following the lead of shock-the-world running back Gabe Manzanares on offense. It was enough to finish 5-3 in league while pasting rival Sacramento State, 34-7, in the finale.
Still — with all the positive signs — Big Sky coaches and media aren’t convinced that these new-wave Aggies are for real. UCD has been voted to finish seventh in league by the media and ninth by the coaches.
Gould doesn’t read that stuff. Nor does he care. He’s just happy the first year went relatively well and that the learning curve won’t be so steep this second time around.
“The focus is always on us,” explains Gould, adding that it isn’t quite time to start talking about Big Sky play — or even the Aug. 30 opener at No. 11 Stanford.
Oh, did we mention UCD starts 2014 in Palo Alto?
“Right now we have (another month) to put our stamp on who we want to become,” the coach explains.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for Stanford. They’re one of the pre-eminent football powerhouses in the country. They (finished) ranked No. 6 in the country, and rightfully so. They’ve earned it.”
Gould says his team hasn’t earned anything, yet — except maybe some in-house respect.
The former Cal associate head coach tells anyone who will listen about how proud he is of his first Aggie team, which finished 5-7 overall.
He told The Enterprise that last May’s camp went “very well” and that he expects the almost 100 Aggies who reported Sunday to be in game-day shape on Monday when summer sessions start in earnest at Aggie Stadium.
Those spring workouts told Gould a lot about what to expect this fall …
“The players are more confident. They’ve had an opportunity to be in the system now. That (first camp) they were learning on the job. Now to see the kids play faster with more confidence is (a sign) of them buying into them system, doing what we’re asking them to do.
“It was a joy to see how they continue to enjoy the game. It’s very rewarding as a coach.”
Gould said his players weren’t the only ones learning to adjust. When asked what the differences were between Cal and UCD and what he has learned being named to his post in December 2012, Gould didn’t hesitate to answer:
“Patience. When I talk about this being a process, that’s exactly what it is. Learning all the little nuances that come with being a head coach … even outside of football. There was a lot of growth and maturity that came on my part — and I’m still learning a lot.”
Gould applauded the quality of student-athlete he’s encountered at UCD:
“We had good kids in Berkeley, but getting young men in here (as it relates to grades) is a lot tougher … which I love.
“I love the grade requirements; I love the environment, the family atmosphere, the community here at UC Davis. I love that fact that you see people (you know) walking around on campus, in town.”
Gould and his wife Teresa Kuehn Gould (deputy director of athletics at Cal) just bought a house in Davis and coach Gould says the rough part of the move-in is behind the couple, just in time for fall sports.
Gould, who was a standout in the Oregon secondary during his playing days, says it’s too early to talk about who is starting where. He says he’ll know more about where the position battles are as camp plays out, adding: “No one is guaranteed a position.”
CB Charles Boyett, the team’s leading tackler a year ago, leads a defense that some experts believe has the deepest linebacking corps on the West Coast. Touted junior college transfer Travon Brooks (Contra Costa) joins the likes of Steven Pitts, Ryan Dimino, Jonathan Bias and other veterans.
Freshman Robert Taylor (Deer Valley High) has yet to earn his bones, but he comes to campus with a nationwide reputation as a prep cornerback.
Wide receivers Jermale Jefferson (Dorsey of Los Angeles) and Keelan Doss (Alameda) burst onto the scene, too, but Gould is mum on his freshman tandem.
“They have a lot of speed,” Gould said, letting the cat out of the bag. The coach went on to say that overall team speed has improved dramatically. How will the Aggies use it? Stay tuned.
There’s a logjam at quarterback, something Gould hopes will provide some spirited practice play.
Senior London Lacy, little used under four-year starter Randy Wright, had a break-out showing in the spring game. He was joined in March by City College of San Francisco transfer Turner Baty and Sunday by Inderkum High incoming pocket passer C.J. Spencer.
With six QBs in camp, assistant Kevin Daft will have a lot to review before some lucky Aggie makes the start versus Stanford.
Practices normally are closed to the public, but Gould says a couple of dates will be open to the fans. There also will be a Blue-and-Gold scrimmage about 10 days before the opener.
Assistant Athletics Director Mike Robles says details of those events will be announced.
One thing is for sure about 2014… With Stanford (Aug. 30), at Colorado State (Sept. 13) and Big Sky champion Eastern Washington (opening the conference schedule on Sept. 27 at Aggie Stadium), UCD will know quickly just how much it has improved.
“It’s easily the toughest schedule in our program’s history,” Robles offered.
Notes: Junior kicker Brady Stuart is drawing a lot of preseason attention. He and UCD reigning Big Sky Newcomer of the Year Manzanares are All-Big Sky Preseason first-team selections. Stuart also made the College Football Performance Award Placekicker Watch List and is on the Fred Mitchell Award radar. Stuart hit a second-record 17 field goals last season (including 10 straight). FB Dalton Turay, a senior, is a Sports Network third-team All-American selection (Football Championship Subdivision). Meanwhile, second-year Ag Colby Wadman joins Stuart on the CFPA list among punters. … Two new coaches — Dan Finn (by way of Utah) will coach the offensive line and Paul Creighton (Colorado State-Pueblo) takes over with the tight ends. They replace Matt Wiegand and Ben Steele, who joined Gould’s former Cal boss Jeff Tedford at Tampa Bay of the NFL. Former Aggie wideout Anthony Soto is back in the fold as the offensive quality control assistant. He replaces Quinn Tedford, who also joined his dad with the Buccaneers. … Get Your Tickets Dept.: Season and single-game tickets are on sale by calling 530-752-2471 or through www.ucdavisaggies.com.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.