Aug. 3, 2014
By Mike Robles, Asst. AD, Communications
News, notes, updates, musings and other football information from the UC Davis Aggies' preseason camp.
The most recent entries are listed first.
THURSDAY, AUG. 14
Former head coach Bob Biggs was a special guest at practice on Wednesday, relaxing in the stands to watch his former team practice before visiting with Coach Gould afterwards. He wasn’t the only one with a special invitation. The Davis Junior Blue Devils youth football team also kept a keen eye on things before meeting the players after practice.
MONDAY, AUGUST 11
There are two more scrimmages scheduled for later in camp.
FRIDAY, AUG. 8
Return to the Toom
Eight years after last playing a game at venerable Toomey Field, the UC Davis football team made its return to the stadium - some might use other words to describe it other than "stadium" - that was the home to the Aggies from 1949-2006. The Aggies practiced there on Friday which also happened to be their first full day in pads.
None of the players or most of the coaching staff – except former Aggie quarterback Kevin Daft – were ever part of a game at Toomey Field, and only a couple of staffers at practice on Friday were either. However, that didn't stop the current edition of the Aggies from embracing the long-standing tradition of chanting "TOOM....TOOM.....TOOM..." while gathered around midfield.
Some players had a hard time believing that college football games were played at Toomey Field but none could argue with the success through the years. Coach Gould loved the field, particularly the soft grass and how it was nearly game-ready, even today.
For the players, grass is a rarity nowadays. It was a notable occurrence to play on artificial grass until about a decade ago but now playing on natural grass almost seems like a special occasion. Only games at Stanford (Aug. 30) and Cal Poly (Nov. 15) will be played on grass this coming season.
A little more on the Toom
How much history is there at Toomey Field? Today's return brings back memories of when the field was nearing its final game in 2006. Legendary assistant coach Fred Arp, who roamed the sidelines for more than 40 years and still attends every game - usually on the sidelines - helped bring back those stories when he was interviewed by Aggie football broadcasters Scott Marsh and Doug Kelly.
How was he interviewed? Well, he walked the field from one endzone to the other, stopping every 10 yards or so to tell a story about some great moment that occurred on that particular spot. It was something only Coach Arp could do and became a Toomey memory in itself.
Final note on Friday's visit
Logistically, Friday's practice presented some challenges. The goal posts have long since disappeared so an old-style "H" standard that was the norm back in the day was wheeled out for use. A makeshift "training room" was set up beyond the south endzone and worked pretty well except for the random kick that flew by.
Filmers also scrambled a bit. One of two scissor lifts used by the team was driven over to Toomey Field, albeit it at about 5 mph, while the second one petered out somewhere in between. The bed of the athletic trainer's electronic vehicle was used to provide film from the opposite side. Still, Coach Gould was pleased with the film he watched later in the day, despite the bit of “MacGyver-ing” that had to be done.
With the Aggies’ locker rooms and meeting spaces now at Aggie Field more than a mile away, players had to do all their practice preparations on the west side of campus on Friday morning before being transported to Toomey Field.
As noted, Friday also marked the first day of full pads for UC Davis and players were itching to slam their shoulder pads into something after having limited equipment all week. While the hitting was hard, particularly along the line of scrimmage, there was no tackling, just a lot of "thud" contact.
Players continued to alternate between drills with their position groups and offense versus defense situations. The competition for the starting quarterback nod continued in earnest as did competition for spots throughout both sides of the ball. Camp is still just getting ramped up but the intensity is already there.
Saturday's practice is for the fans
UC Davis is conducting closed practices for most of camp but Saturday morning it'll throw open the gates for fans to come in and get a sneak peek of the team. Practice at Aggie Stadium will start at 10:15 a.m. and run for about two hours. Scrimmaging was on the original schedule but is being pulled as players continue to get used to practicing in full pads.
There is no cost to get in and watch - yes, some schools apparently do charge for practice – and parking in surrounding lots is free on weekends. There won't be any concessions open so be sure to bring some water and sit back and enjoy the team's efforts.
The Sports Network released the second of two primary FCS polls on Friday. TSN polls media and sports information directors – including yours truly – vote each week while the FCS Coaches do the same. The coaches' poll came out earlier this week.
The biggest different between the two is at No. 1. The coaches had defending champion North Dakota State while TSN lists Big Sky member Eastern Washington. (that’s who I voted for). There's not much difference in their point totals but the Eagles get the nod. Don't forget, they'll visit Aggie Stadium on Sept. 27 so it's quite possible EWU will be bringing in their top billing.
Other Aggie opponents in the poll? Montana is at No. 5, Montana State is No. 18 and Northern Arizona is ranked 23rd. Cal Poly has an unofficial ranking of No. 33 while Sacramento State is No. 52. As they say, "get your tickets", it's going to be a great home schedule.
Special guest appearance
Dr. Scott Carell, a professor in the Department of Economics, visited the Aggies during Thursday's practice and watched the team go through its workout. Dr. Carell has been a member of the faculty since 2007 and saw some pretty good football as an undergrad - and later as an instructor - while at Air Force.
Academics are high on the priority list for Coach Gould who is constantly checking on his players' progress in the classroom. One of the first rules he put in place upon his hiring in 2012 was that players must sit within the first five rows of their classes. They're also constantly texting him their grades and their hard work is paying off. The team had a B- average in spring quarter.
Paul Creighton, assistant football coach, is new to UC Davis but learned something very fast once he arrived in the spring, and that's academics are taken very seriously by the Aggie players. He told Bruce Gallaudet of the Davis Enterprise during an interview on Thursday evening that in his previous stops, study hall wasn't always used for what it was intended. He said the first time he monitored study hall at UC Davis, he was expecting much of the same but instead was met with three hours of dead silence as Aggie players took care of business with the books.
WEDNESDAY, AUG. 6
Tempo, tempo, tempo
Coach Gould has been mostly pleased with the team’s tempo through the first three practices. Tempo means sprinting between plays, drills and other activities during practice. As he reminds the team often, work hard by conditioning that way and there’ll be no need for post-practice conditioning.
Mother Nature took a hint from Coach Gould, who said after practice on both Monday and Tuesday that the pleasant temperatures needed to make a turn for the moderately unpleasant. Gould compared the first two days to a being “like a country club.”
Tickets are still available in the UC Davis fan section for the 2014 Aggie opener down at The Farm against the Cardinal but you’ll need to go through the Stanford Ticket Office to purchase them.
MONDAY, AUG. 4
A string of triple-digit temperatures leading up to the start of camp were nowhere to be found on Monday during the first practice. In fact, it was darn right pleasant. Overcast skies, a hint of a breeze during the latter part of practice and 68 degrees made the first drills of the season very bearable for the team. Well, except for one person.
Gould will likely be getting his wish. Temps are slated for a high of 82 on Tuesday but then will reach into the mid- and upper-90s the rest of the week although the Aggies should be done with practice by the time the heat gets turned on too much.
It's called "tempo" and it's how Coach Gould prefers the team to get in most of its conditioning. How does tempo show itself during practice? Between drills, players sprint from one part of the field to another. After a play is over, the defense - coaches included - sprint to where the ball ended up and then run back and get ready for the next play. The offense sprints back to its huddle as well.
So, how did the team do the first day?
"I was very pleased with the tempo," said Coach Gould. "There was a lot of energy out here today. Guys were flying around. One of the things I'm excited about is we have an opportunity to have our system in place for another year. It allows guys to play that much faster which is what we want to see. Anytime you see guys play fast, they're starting to understand from a conceptual standpoint what we're trying to get across on both sides of the ball."
"It feels good," said King, who caught 25 passes for 356 yards and a pair of touchdowns last year. "You go through winter (conditioning) with no ball, in spring you're limited but to be able to come out here today and run around with your brothers feels good."
Boyett, who had a team-high 86 tackles, shares that excitement.
"The beauty of camp is we come off a long grueling offseason of hard work and not being able to suit up as much as we'd wish," he said. "We get to come out (now) and run some plays. It's very exciting."
But Monday was also the first "first day" for newcomers, including freshman quarterback C.J. Spencer who comes from nearby Inderkum High School in the Natomas area of Sacramento. It didn't take him a long time to see a difference to what he was used to at Inderkum.
"It's definitely a lot faster pace," he said. "I like the pace. You're a lot more involved. You have to be involved. Even though you're not getting reps maybe, you're still being involved in the team."
The FCS Coaches Poll has four Big Sky teams included. Actually, it's probably more correct to say it has four UC Davis opponents included. Eastern Washington is ranked No. 2, Montana is No. 5, Montana State is ranked 19th and Northern Arizona is 25th. For good measure, Cal Poly is among teams receiving votes.
The Sports Network puts together the other major FCS poll, taking the pulse of the media and sports information directors. Those rankings come out on Friday.
SUNDAY, AUG. 3
Today is reporting day for the 95 Aggies who will be here for the start of camp. The first meetings for the entire team were scheduled for the early evening but newcomers got a jump on things by checking into their dorms and learning about all the do's and don'ts of their new living arrangements earlier in the day. They also had their first meeting with Coach Gould. You better believe that'll be the first time they learn the importance of eye contact.
The first meeting for the entire team will introduce them to athletics training, academic, communications staff and others before the compliance staff comes into provide the bigger picture do's and don'ts. For freshmen, it's always interesting to watch them try to digest a TON of information that will be tossed their way. Welcome to college!
A team dinner, a team meeting with Coach Gould and then a facility orientation will help end the day.
What also ends on Sunday is a lot of decision-making by the players on how to spend their time because for the next few weeks, that's already been done for them. An hour-by-hour schedule will let them know exactly where they need to be and when. From getting taped to position meetings to practice to more position meetings to lifting weights to meals, it's all figured out for them. Even some of their social activities (gotta love bowling night!) are lined up.
The whole idea - as you can guess - is for the Aggies to be able to focus on the job at hand. It's crazy to think but the Aggies will be on campus nearly two months before they start fall quarter classes on Oct. 2. Of course, once the season actually starts, then they'll fall into their usual game-week routine.
There'll be a lot of anxious bodies tossing and turning Sunday night, anticipating their first foray onto the Aggie Stadium turf on Monday morning.
The Davis Enterprise - in particular, masterful and veteran writer Bruce Gallaudet - is living its name during the preseason by being, well, enterprising. Beginning today, they'll run an Aggie football-related story everyday they publish leading up to the Stanford game.
Player features, coach interviews, team updates and a host of other great coverage items are on the menu. Bruce kicked off this expanded coverage todayby catching up with Coach Gould about his excitement and plans for the preseason.
Visit the Davis Enterprise for all the stories or go to www.ucdavisaggies and look at "Around the Web" on the right side of the front page where we'll link to them.