It’s only a week into spring practice, and the second edition of coach Ron Gould’s UC Davis football team seems to be getting an early handle on all things Aggie.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Gould said. “They’ve been managing all different formations. Guys are running around and playing fast … and that’s something we’re very excited about.”
The Aggies work out in closed sessions at Aggie Stadium on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Saturday practices (10 a.m.) are open to the public this week, April 19 and for the spring-drill-ending scrimmage of April 26.
Among the 70-plus players in camp are junior college transfers Travon Brooks and Turner Baty.
Brooks, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound linebacker by way of Contra Costa College, has been enrolled at UCD since January. The communications major is expected to provide a major presence in the middle of an already solid Aggie linebacking corps.
Baty, a quarterback who directed City College of San Francisco to a 12-0 mark and state title in 2011, has gaudy statistics and 20 victories in his two seasons in the Bay Area. In between, he redshirted at Kansas in 2012.
Gone is four-year starting QB Randy Wright, putting Baty with 2014 senior London Lacy, sophomore Ben Scott and redshirt freshmen Garrett Bogart and Mitchell Sheppard in a crowded group of signal-callers. Inderkum High quarterback C.J. Spencer also joins the Aggies this summer.
“He’s got a lot of wins under his belt,” Gould said of Baty, whose dad Greg played eight years in the NFL. “He’s very athletic, very mobile. He can come in and do a great job for us. We’re looking for him to compete for the starting job.”
In becoming CCSF’s all-time leading passer, Baty threw for 6,220 yards and 55 touchdowns. He also rushed for 19 scores.
Brooks, an All-Bay Valley Conference tackling machine who posted 55 stops (46 solo) last winter, drew Gould’s praise:
“The guy has a real nose for the football. He’s a very physical player and will be a great addition to our team,” the coach said.
So what drew Brooks and Baty to Davis?
“It’s a great campus. A great program,” Brooks, a former McClymonds High LB told The Enterprise. He added that his Contra Costa coach, Alonzo Carter, told him about the new-look Aggies, “about coach Gould and how good of a family atmosphere it was at Davis. I bought into that.”
Baty, who worked out most of last summer with UCD running back Gabe Manzanares and former CCSF teammate Zach Shuler, heard about the coaching change, the classroom reputation at UC Davis and its future in the Big Sky Conference.
The bottom line for Baty was simple:
“It was the academics. I wanted to go to a school where my degree would mean something. Also, when I came up on my visit, the guys were just awesome.
“I felt like I fit in. I felt like they were all good people and I just really hit it off with them.”
Chemistry means a lot to football players, and Baty is no different.
“That’s the important thing (feeling like you fit in),” said the 6-2, 210-pounder right-hander. “You’re with your teammates every single day. You want to be with guys that you get along with and that are good people — and that’s what I found here.”
Being in camp before their junior years begin should provide a jump start for Brooks and Baty.
“I found (the first week) was slow for me, being in a new program, learning a new defense,” Brooks said regarding the Aggies’ gap-responsibility scheme. “But it’s a good fit for me. It’s a good fit for the team.
“It’ll take a few more days to get it down, but I feel good about it.”
Baty, meanwhile, loves what he’s seen from assistant Kevin Daft’s offense.
“I love it,” the new QB explained. “The reads are very understandable. Coach Daft does a great job making sure that we’re comfortable with everything and that we know exactly where to go on each play.
“It makes the quarterback’s life really easy when you know specifically where you’re going on every play.”
No positions are a given for the start of next season — an Aug. 30 game at Stanford. Aggie fans know Gould gives starting assignments to those who’ve earned them on the practice field. Lacy has looked sharp early this spring and Spencer will come to UCD with lofty credentials, so Baty understands he’s battling for No. 1.
And as for Brooks, he joins an accomplished group of linebackers which includes returners Ryan Dimino, Steven Pitts, Jonathan Bias and Artice Nelson, among others.
Saturday marked the first day the Aggies practiced in full pads.
“This (was) what the team has been wanting to see,” Gould said with a smile. “They want to hit and clack and play everything live.”
But not everything will be live this spring.
“There will be some things that will be thud-tempo, which is a non-tackle drill,” added Gould, whose Aggies went 5-7 in 2013 (recovering from an 0-4 start). “But sometimes we’ll cut it loose and everything will be full-go.”
And you just know newcomers Brooks and Baty are champing at the bit for that “cut-it-loose” stuff to begin.
Notes: Baty played his junior and senior seasons at Menlo-Atherton High before moving to Connecticut with his mom Katherine, who worked at ESPN in Bristol. Baty’s dad Greg was in the NFL (1986-94), primarily with Miami as a tight end. … Brooks was on the dean’s list at CCC and redshirted with Washington in 2011. He played two seasons as Deer Valley High before heading to McClymonds for a 12-0 senior campaign. … The next three public-invited Saturday workouts begin at 10 a.m.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-320-4456.