Aggie Stadium at UC Davis. 9:44 a.m. Tuesday. From the dead quiet of the parking lot off La Rue Road, one already can hear the noise.
Walk closer to the facility gate, there’s little doubt what’s happening …
The muffled cheers and whoops now have definition:
“That a boy. Stay with your man! Faster, faster! Don’t wait. Go, go, go!” a coach imploress.
“Aggie, Aggie, Aggie!” comes the growl in unison from the collective squad.
A couple of clear pops echo in the background, then a young man in a red shirt runs for his life. Five guys in dark blue jerseys converge and stop just before harm comes to the flushed-out quarterback.
Once the play ends, it’s run back to position. Coaches shout encouragement, but there’s no dwelling on the good defensive stand. There’s only a couple of hours this day to work on things. Just 15 days to this three-times-a-week spring football practice.
There’s a sense of urgency. You see, this was UCD head coach Ron Gould’s first practice. Before Aggie fans know it, their local heroes will be packing their gear and heading for the 2013 season opener at South Dakota (Aug. 31).
Everything is new on the gridiron this spring. Everything except Aggie Pride.
“I thought they did well,” Gould, Cal’s former associate head coach, told The Enterprise on Tuesday. “They did a lot of learning. I told the guys I really appreciate the effort and sacrifice. I’m very, very pleased with the first day.”
Gould took over in December for retired coach Bob Biggs, who had been with the UCD program for almost 40 seasons. Biggs stepped down after 20 years at the helm.
Gould — whose touch with Golden Bear running backs sent almost a dozen of his protégés to the NFL — has quickened the pace in Aggieville.
He also has made Aggie Stadium a Davis Football Central of sorts.
Spring drills have been moved to the mornings so student-athletes can get their work in and get on with their campus lives, according to one UCD staffer. Player meetings, training-room services and other football-related gatherings are now all being held in one place — Aggie Stadium.
“It’s a blessing (having this facility) and will make (players’) lives a lot easier,” Gould told one campus official. “Again, not losing focus of the young men, we want to make it as convenient as possible for them to have a world-class experience.”
With QBs toiling in the south end zone and running backs working on the north goal line, linemen, linebackers and D-backs were learning their new roles in between. The first day of spring work was a beehive of activity.
“A lot has changed from previous years,” sophomore-eligible tailback Courtney Williams said after practice. “We’re pretty much starting from scratch. I’d say the biggest difference is the tempo change, how quick everything has been.
“It’s a lot more fast-paced … and, as well as being fast, you also have to be concise, know what you’re doing,” added the former Davis High footballer and record-setter sprinter. “It’s the first day, so while there were some mistakes, it was still a good day.”
Gould, who revamped the coaching staff while bringing a sense of urgency to the program (UCD is coming off back-to-back 4-7 campaigns), was buoyed by a text message on Monday from Cal women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb.
Gottlieb’s Golden Bears had just beaten Georgia that night to advance to the program’s first-ever Final Four. Yet, she took time to wish Gould luck on his first day.
“I got a great text from (Lindsay),” Gould said, smiling. “It was a wonderful text … it really helped me out.”
As his guys hustled to the locker room after their first new-wave workout — Gould and Company have no tolerance for walking off the field — the new Aggie coach assessed the morning …
“This is really exciting. To watch these guys compete? I didn’t sleep any last night.”
Judging from Day 1 of practice, Gould probably won’t be the only Aggie going into the school’s second Big Sky Conference season with his eyes wide open.
Notes: The 15 spring sessions end with a Spring Preview on April 27. … “There is a tremendous amount of education,” Gould told the media earlier in the week. “We’re implementing a totally new offense, a totally new defense (and) terminology is different. There’s going to be a lot of learning and a lot of teaching that will happen.” … When the defense finds a loose ball, it doesn’t matter how the pigskin hit the ground, defensive coordinator Bert Watts wants his guys collecting it, forming convoys and advancing it upfield. Not a minute is wasted in Gould’s tidy two hours of work. … Tuesday and Thursday practices go from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. with Saturday drills over by noon.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-747-8047.