One of Ron Gould’s biggest challenges as UC Davis’ new head football coach was to put together a first recruiting class that would help the Aggies reach the top of the Big Sky Conference and stay there.
While training camp is still months away, Gould is confident that he and his staff have met that challenge by adding UCD’s 15 newest players on Wednesday.
All of the new Aggies are coming off of impressive careers at high schools throughout California and, in one case, Oregon.
“I’m very pleased with everything,” Gould said after the names of the recruits had been released on Twitter and the UCD athletics website. “The staff did a good job of scouring California and filling our needs.”
The class should give the team an infusion of talent and big-play ability on both the sides of the ball.
Running back Justin Williams (6 feet, 202 pounds), who rushed for 2,345 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior for El Camino High in San Diego, headlines the offensive recruits, while linebacker Anthony Saenz (6-0, 230), the Rivals Elite Showcase Linebacker MVP for 2012 and a two-time National Underclassmen Combine Linebacker MVP, stands out among the defenders.
Saenz, who helped lead Kaiser High to a CIF Southern Section Championship last year, could see early playing time next season as the Aggies saw both of their starting linebackers, Jordan Glass and Byron Gruendl, play their final games in the blue and gold last fall.
Williams may have a more difficult time making it onto the field as a freshman with the majority of UCD’s running back corps — Courtney Williams, Colton Silveria, Dalton Turay and Tavior Mowry — set to return in 2013.
However, Gould made it clear that playing time will be based on what he sees in training camp.
“We don’t pick and choose,” Gould said. “We let them come to camp and (we) see how they handle that environment, from an emotional and physical standpoint.
“We do anticipate a couple of guys (being able to contribute early).”
Gould and his staff bolstered the team up front by adding offensive linemen Kyle Sulka (6-4, 255 pounds, Notre Dame High in Santa Clarita), Chris Schneider (6-4, 245, Glendora High), Donnel Toliver (6-3, 255, Vista Murrieta High) and Dakota Dosch (6-4, 305, St. Bonaventure High, Ventura), and defensive linemen Brennon Krikava (6-5, 255, San Joaquin High, Fresno), Zak Pettit (6-4, 235, Truckee High) Inoke Raikadroka (6-0, 275, Serra High, Inglewood) and Jess Ayala (6-3, 273, Murrieta Mesa High).
Pettit, Raikadroka and Ayala are all proven pass rushers, amassing 18, 9.5 and seven sacks, respectively, in their senior seasons. Their arrival should make a defensive line that was solid last year, with Nick King and Walter Earnest coming off the edges, even more fearsome.
Darryl Graham, a 5-11, 180-pound safety out of Santiago High in Corona, and Xavier Griggs, a 6-1, 215-pound linebacker from Central Catholic High in Portland, Ore., round out the defensive recruits.
The Aggies also picked up a deep threat in wide out Chris Martin (6-1, 175, Otay Ranch High, Chula Vista), who posted 1,227 yards and 12 TDs on only 54 catches in 2012, and another running back in Manusamoa Luuga. The 5-10 Luuga ran for 115 yards to help lead Long Beach Poly to a 24-23 victory over Grant.
Garrett Bogart, a 6-3, 210-pound quarterback from Cathedral Catholic High in San Diego, gives the team another option behind starter Randy Wright and backup London Lacy.
Notes: Sacramento State signed 17 players to letters of intent on Wednesday, including a couple of names familiar to local fans. A couple of players who were part of tough Delta Valley Conference matchups against Davis High — DL Viliami Umufuke of Monterey Trail and Franklin DB Marcus Green — will join the Hornets for 2013, as will Jordan Vinson, a linebacker at Rio Americano, which also faced DHS in 2012. Another Sacramento-area standout — OL Kyle Evanski of Del Campo — is also a Sac State recruit.
— Reach Will Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org