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Davis, California

Monday, May 27, 2024

Football season preview

Last year, win or lose, the focus was on the Aggie football teams’ youth and inexperience.

Not anymore.

With 2010 behind them, head coach Bob Biggs and his staff are hoping that this still relatively young UC Davis squad is ready for another grueling 11-game season.

“I’m optimistic because so many of our players got so much experience last year. There’s no substitute [for that],” Biggs said.

Starting quarterback Randy Wright, now a sophomore, may have benefited the most from last year’s playing time.

Wright was the surprise starter last year, but struggled to begin the season, losing three of the first four games. As the season progressed, Wright settled down, upping his completions and finishing the campaign with three straight wins.

After a summer of hard work, Wright is ready to continue his development as a Division I quarterback.

“Better decision making, more accurate throws, move the chains, and we’ll have a better year,” Wright explained.

A revamped running game, led by an experienced offensive line, should help the Aggies move the ball more effectively this year. Senior Ray Wilburn, one of the team’s four captains, will anchor the line at center.

In the backfield, UC Davis will have multiple options, with a combination of experience and young speed.

On one side, the Aggies will get tough nose running from senior captain Josh Reese and junior Nick Aprile. Joining the two upperclassmen will a trio of redshirt freshmen with game-changing speed in Colton Silveria, Jonathan Maricic and Austin Edmonson.

“Any time they can break a play for big yardage,” said Biggs of the new backs. “We’re already seeing signs that we’re going to be able to run the football better.”

One of the soft spots on the offense is at the wide receiver position. With the departure of Sean Creadick and Dean Rogers, UC Davis is without an established receiving threat. Last year Rogers and Creadick accounted for nearly half the Aggies’ receiving yards and 11 of 18 receiving touchdowns.

The bulk of the pass-catching load will now fall to junior Anthony Soto and sophomore Tom Hemmingsen.

“That’s going to be the test, what the young receivers do,” Biggs said. “They’re very talented but that’s the one position we don’t have much experience.”

Defensively, the Aggies have had to revamp their line, and will be hurt by the loss of Eric Sacotka, last year’s leading sack-getter. Leading the defensive charge will be junior captain Bobby Erskine and seniors Victor Lee and Tommy Grillo.

“Our returners have played a ton for us and have really developed themselves. We’re expecting a lot from our veterans and we have some young guys who have popped up and impressed us,” said defensive coordinator Mark Johnson.

Playing behind the defensive line will be a powerful linebacker and defensive back core. According to Biggs, this group will be one of the best he’s had in nearly 20 years at UC Davis.

The group will be lead by senior captain Jordan Glass and junior Byron Gruendl.

“We’ve got much more team speed on defense,” Biggs said. “When you’ve got that type of speed you can run to the football and you have a chance to be pretty good.”

Regardless of who is on the field, offense or defense, seniors or freshman, the expectations for this UC Davis team are unchanged.

“We want to win every game,” Wright said. “No matter who we’re playing, that’s the expectation, to win every game.”

The head coach was more diplomatic. “We want to be better than [last year],” he said. “6-5 is not the goal this year. Our goal is to get better in every little thing we do.”

For the second year in a row the Aggies will face a Pac-12 opponent – this year traveling to Arizona State on Sept. 1 to open the season. The demanding schedule also includes an away contest against Hawaii, and the annual rivalry games against Cal Poly and Sacramento State.

“{The schedule] is challenging, no doubt about it,” Biggs said. “We’re a more competitive football this year. We’re going to go out and compete.”

The first chance for fans to see the Aggies in action will be the annual Blue-Gold Scrimmage on August 25 at 7:05 p.m. at Aggie Stadium.

CAELUM SHOVE can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.


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