A number of questions surrounded the UC Davis football team heading into spring practice.
“How will the team defend its first Great West Conference title?”
“Who will replace last year’s stars?”
“How is the team equipped to handle the possibility of a major injury?”
The answer to all of the questions is simple: the program will succeed utilizing the same mentality that aided it in its ascent from Division II to Division I-AA.
While past teams have relied heavily on the play-making ability of a few key individuals, this squad may not have one star. As a result, the new-look UC Davis football team does not shy away from anonymity. In fact, it embraces it.
“This team is a blue-collar team that really isn’t seeking a lot of notoriety,” said coach Bob Biggs.
Biggs believes that this anonymity entails being able to rely on a variety of up-and-coming athletes to make plays and spark both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
“We have a lot of really good football players,” he said, “and with the additional scholarships over the last couple years since we made the move to [Football Championship Subdivision] play, we finally have depth in just about every position.”
Unfortunately, the physical nature of the game lends itself to frequent injury, something Biggs keeps in mind when assessing the ability of his players to step in and contribute.
According to Biggs, the key to depth is assuming someone will get banged up or injured.
That’s why he’s pleased with the team’s effort in all facets of the game.
“The depth is probably as good as we’ve had around here in a long time,” Biggs said. “A lot of the players that people may not know about are really going to make an impact and become household names when we’re done.”
Additionally, the increasing success of the program has helped Biggs narrow the divide between his starters and backups.
“Because of the fact that we’ve been recruiting better and better players for the last few years,” Biggs said, “we’re now starting to see the fruition. So many of them made major contributions to our winning season and conference championship as redshirt freshmen last year.”
Last season’s youngsters will be sophomores this year and Biggs is convinced that a handful of them are ready to step up.
However, the Aggies do not solely attribute their depth to added scholarships and recruiting. They also give credit to their overall personality.
“These are good kids,” Biggs said. “It is a very close team with great chemistry and a very good work ethic. Every day they come out, they have a purpose and they work really hard. They want to be pushed. They want to be good.”
From this work ethic, free safety Danny Hart feels as if he’s gained an enhanced element of trust in his teammates.
“You develop a lot of respect for each other when you see someone out there working hard,” Hart said. “When you can tell he comes out every day, dedicates himself and really cares about how he plays and how it’ll affect the team, you can trust that person and know he’s going to be there for you.”
This trust gives them comfort because any player can step in for a starter at a moment’s notice.
To reinforce this has been the focus of spring camp to this point.
“We have a lot of time to spend on our individual jobs,” Hart said. “It’s exciting to be able to improve ourselves, which will ultimately help the team. That hard work and blue-collar mentality comes with that.”
The public will have the opportunity see the team in action this Saturday as the annual Spring Game kicks off at 2 p.m. at Aggie Stadium. Admission is free.
GRACE SPRAGUE can be reached at email@example.com.