Dan Finn seems like a no-nonsense kinda guy.
In his playing days at Northern Arizona University, he was a two-time All-Big Sky offensive lineman and team MVP who went on to play in NFL Europe before having that proverbial cup of coffee with the Denver Broncos.
As a coach, he’s been much sought after since that 1998 season in Colorado. He knows how to push people around, and these days he’s teaching Aggies to grade the road as a first-year offensive line coach at UC Davis.
“He’s played the position at a very high level,” says UCD head coach Ron Gould, who signed Finn after two campaigns instructing the University of Utah O-line.
“He’s very technical and has great attention to detail. He cares about the young men. He really wants them to do great things. He is a great mentor.”
Finn comes to town replacing Matt Wiegand, who joined one-year-and-gone Aggie recruiting specialist Ben Steele with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Since being hired early in the spring, Finn, his wife Megan and their two dogs are acclimating to Davis.
“This is a nice town, downtown is cool. It’s a nice, little college atmosphere,” Finn says. “It’s a nice place to live. We’ve enjoyed ourselves immensely.”
Finn’s career has taken him on gigs from San Diego State to Utah and in-between he’s been on staffs that have played in four bowl games.
After a week of camp, the 6-foot-4 (you guess his weight) Finn likes what he sees about his front line. You could see he especially liked Friday’s workout — the first day of contact drills.
“So far, so good,” he told The Enterprise after Friday’s practice at Toomey Field. “The older guys I’ve inherited are doing a great job. And we’ve had a few young guys from spring ball and through the summer come along as I hoped they would.”
Finn’s “inherited” guys are a proven bunch that could form one of the Big Sky Conference’s top offensive lines. The returning four certainly showed their mettle last year as Aggie running back Gabe Manzanares rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Ian Joseph (6-6, 300) is back, as are center Jay Luchetti (6-4, 285) and guards Chris Schneider (6-4, 255) and Parker Smith (6-4, 290). Luchetti and Joseph are seniors, Smith is a junior and Schneider a sophomore. All started in 2013.
“We’ve got a couple guys locked in to being starters,” Finn says. “I’ve got six or seven competing for playing time. Hopefully, by the end of camp, we’ll feel good about numbers one through eight.
“I want to get my best five guys on the field and have three guys who can play multiple spots and back up where we need to.”
So what’s the difference between the players and atmosphere of Football Bowl Subdivision Utah and FCS Davis?
“It’s just a different level of football,” Finn responds. “You don’t have as many guys out (at camp) … and the guys at my last place were a lot bigger.
“The speed of the game was faster, more physical, but we still have Division I football (at UC Davis) We still have great players. There is a difference, but it’s not as drastic as some people might think.”
That’s good news for Aggie faithful as the clock ticks down to the season opener at No. 11 Stanford.
Notes: Someday soon somebody — this newspaper or a UC Davis football alum or a fan — will mention the first time the Aggies and Stanford played. Nobody in Davis has forgotten that UCD beat the Cardinal, 20-17, on Sept. 18, 2005. And certainly nobody at Stanford has forgotten. When the time is right, talking about that game will make for an interesting discussion. But it certainly won’t be Gould who starts it. … By the way, in the 16 years Gould coached at Cal, the Golden Bears went 7-9 against Stanford. … On Friday, no fewer than four people suggested to Assistant Athletic Director Mike Robles that the Aggies play a throw-back game at Toomey. UCD spent the day on real grass and observers could feel the old days creeping in.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-320-4456.