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Davis

Davis, California

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Minimal pressure

When it comes to who will be UC Davis’ next starting quarterback, sophomore frontrunner Greg Denham has been left in the dark.

“I don’t know – no comment,” said Denham, who’s been competing for the spot with junior Daniel Alfaro and redshirt freshman Sean Maraz. “I don’t really have any idea or any say.”

Bob Biggs does. And on Saturday, after the Aggie football team held its final scrimmage of the spring, the head coach made his choice known.

“Denham’s our starter right now,” Biggs said. “His composure, his accuracy, his ability to make all the throws we need – [he] clearly is the guy right now. And with a young guy, I don’t even want to go into any kind of quarterback controversy or him thinking he’s not the starter. He’s the starter.”

So there it is. With Alfaro serving as his primary backup, Denham will be under center when UC Davis opens its season at San Jose State on Aug. 30.

On that day, Denham will make his first career start for a playoff-aspiring team looking to bounce back from its first losing campaign since 1969.

For most young quarterbacks, that would be a lot of pressure to handle. But Denham’s situation is not like that of most young quarterbacks.

“It’s not like some years where your quarterback has to be your playmaker as well as your leader,” Biggs said. “In Greg’s case, he doesn’t have to shoulder the responsibility and lead out there. He’s got a lot of other guys who can take leadership roles. He can just focus on being the quarterback and his decision-making.… That takes a lot of pressure off of him.”

Ranked as the nation’s 32nd-best high school quarterback prospect in 2006 by rivals.com, the Placer High School product spent last season learning under the wings of then-senior quarterbacks Tim Plough and Matt Engle. Plough has stayed on this spring and continued to assist Denham in his development.

“Both helped me a lot,” Denham said. “Tim’s coming back has been great. He’s been helping me out with the reads, and … he’s just so knowledgeable.”

Along with having Plough back and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello at his side, Denham has the luxury of being surrounded by an arsenal of weapons.

The offensive line is anchored by senior guard Jonathan Compas, a two-time All-Great West Football Conference First Team selection. He leads a unit that helped UC Davis pass for a league-best 297.2 yards per game last season.

In the backfield, Joe Trombetta returns for his sophomore season. Last year as a redshirt freshman, the Petaluma, Calif. native flashed his ability as a downhill runner, garnering 4.8 yards per carry. He is joined by sophomore Brandon Tucker, a speedy converted wide receiver, and redshirt freshman Corbin Cutshaw, the former All-San Diego Section Offensive Player of the Year out of Carlsbad, Calif.

The receiving corps is arguably one of the deepest in all of Division I-AA football, headlined by seniors Brandon Rice and Chris Carter. Junior Bakari Grant has big-play ability, as showcased in last year’s season finale when he caught nine balls for 180 yards and a touchdown.

It’s this all-around talent that puts Denham in what Biggs calls “the perfect position” next season.

“He doesn’t have to be ‘the guy.’ All the limelight doesn’t need to be on him. He’s got a lot of other guys the limelight can be on, and he can just relax and play quarterback,” Biggs said. “And if he thinks about it like that, like ‘Hey, I’m just one of 11 guys. I’m just doing my job,’ it will make the job a lot easier.”

 

MICHAEL GEHLKEN recommends people come out for baseball this week, particularly the three-game series against UC Irvine beginning Friday at 2:30 p.m. It’s the last home set of the season. He can be reached at sports@californiaaggie.com. XXX

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