During last season’s grueling 12-game schedule, the UC Davis football team found its defense on the field longer than it wanted.
According to head coach Ron Gould, the problem was an inability to force turnovers — the Aggies collected only 14 in those dozen games. A stop here, a fumble recovery there and who knows how much better that 5-7 record in Gould’s first year would have been?
“That’s something we feel we could have improved on,” senior safety Charles Boyett told The Enterprise as UCD players navigated their first week of summer camp. “That’s something we work on every day, trying to come up with the ball.
“It’s a big point … something we can improve on and achieve greater success (in 2014).”
A good starting point for the rest of the Aggies might be to follow Boyett’s lead.
The 6-foot, 205-pound lightning strike led UCD in 2013 with 86 tackles (51 solo). On two occasions, he separated opponents from the football, and against Portland State he recorded his lone interception.
For good measure, Boyett was such an accomplished punt returner that he earned All-Big Sky Conference honorable mention for the efforts.
But Boyett thinks this he and his Aggie brethren can take a giant step forward in every regard — not just forcing turnovers — thanks to everyone being more comfortable in knowing what to expect in their second season with Gould.
“We don’t have to adapt as much as we did last summer,” says Boyett, remembering back to new staff members, different on-field language and a different pace in practice. Installing new schemes took additional attention.
“I wouldn’t say we’re comfortable. We’re always on edge. Everybody is trying (to win starting positions) — and we all want to improve.”
Gould, entering camp, said everybody is at square one and no one is given his position. Even a guy like Boyett has to prove himself again. However, defensive coordinator Bert Watts sees that as no problem for this former Napa High running back.
“What does Charles mean to the defense?” Watts repeats the question. “A lot, not just as a player, but as a leader. We challenged him early in the offseason to step up his leadership role — and he’s done that.
“All spring, all summer, he’s been a great mentor for those younger guys. When he gets on the field, he’s like a second coach out there. He sees things, he makes adjustments that we, as coaches, would make ourselves if only we could be out there.
“I can’t find the words to say how important his presence is out there on the field.”
Thanks to the graduation of safety Aarynn Jones and cornerback Jonathan Perkins, there are opportunities for some of the younger guys like freshmen Robert Taylor (Deer Valley High) and Jordan Robinson (Mesquite High of Arizona) and sophomore Keleen Culberson (Santiago High) — among others — to get their noses dirty.
Veterans Patrick Wells, Shamawn Wright, Mitch Casas, Zach Jones and Penn transfer Ade Jackson give these Aggies defensive backfield depth.
Boyett comes by his feel for defense honestly. It runs in the family. Older brother John was an All-Pac 12 safety at Oregon before being taken in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL draft by Indianapolis. John Boyett, who battled serious knee problems (playing but one game as a senior), is now on the Denver Broncos roster.
As a freshman at UCD, Charles Boyett appeared in 10 games and started three. His sophomore year took a downturn, but judging from his breakout 2013 campaign, the Woodland-born Aggie is ready to go out with a bang.
“I’m really glad I came here,” Boyett said of his decision to attend UCD. “I found (former Aggie coach Bob) Biggs to be a very genuine and character guy. The coaching staff is what drew me here. It’s a great group of guys and I feel very comfortable here.
“The guys on the team are of great character. The academics are terrific. It’s not going to get much better than at the University of California at Davis.”
Now, Charles, go figure out a way to get some more turnovers …
Notes: After two cloud-shrouded practice days Monday and Tuesday, Gould finally got his wish: Wednesday’s practice was hot. With sunny skies and temperatures in the low-80s by workout’s end, Gould — who wants to put his team through tough workouts to prepare them for the rigors of the season — was all smiles about the weather: “That’s more like it.” … Quarterbacks Ben Scott, the sophomore by way of Vanden High, Aggie senior London Lacy and City College of San Francisco transfer Turner Baty look stronger each day as Inderkum’s true freshman C.J. Spencer and redshirt freshman Garrett Bogart (San Diego) add spice to the competition for the starting spot. Graduate Randy Wright was a four-year starter at QB. … Running back Gabe Manzanares, the 1,200-yard rusher from a year ago, finally got the boot off his left foot. Gould says he’s on track to get back in the mix soon. … Boyett logged 14 tackles in a 34-16 loss to Cal Poly on Nov. 2, 2013. … Charles is a human development major, the son of Cindy and Dan Boyett.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-320-4456.