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Photo by Wayne Tilcock -- Davis Enterprise
Cal Football

Davis Preview: Aggies QB Could Present Some Problems

August 28, 2019

Based on history Cal’s season opener Saturday against UC Davis looks like an easy one for the Bears. But it might not be such a walkover.

This is the tenth varsity meeting between the two schools and the Bears have won the previous nine, by a cumulative score of 351-23. 

A little perspective: the first eight of those games were in the 1930s when Davis’ program was not the equivalent of Division I. The Bears had so little regard for Davis that those games were played as part of doubleheaders when Cal would take on not only Davis but another foe the same day. 

The series was interrupted for seventy years until Davis came to Berkeley in 2010 and absorbed a 52-3 shellacking at the hands of a team coached by Jeff Tedford.

It very well might be closer this time. This Aggie team, which has been revitalized by coach Dan Hawkins, who took over in 2017, is coming off a 10-3 season in which they shared the Big Sky Conference title and won a first-round game in the FCS playoffs. Most preseason polls have them in the FCS top five. Yes, it’s FCS, but top five is top five.

The Aggies are led by senior quarterback Jake Maier (15, above), Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year in 2018. 

“He’s not real big (6-0, 200) stature-wise, but he’s got a live arm,” Cal defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter said. “He’s really accurate, knows their system very, very well. Really does a nice job distributing the ball and running the offense. He doesn’t get fazed.”

Maier’s size, or lack of it, could be one reason he was not heavily recruited despite a stellar high school career at St. Paul HS in La Habra, Ca. He initially enrolled at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut in 2015. But one east coast winter was enough to send him back to SoCal, where he enrolled at Long Beach City College and set multiple school passing records in 2016

Then it was on to Davis, where he continues a grand quarterback tradition that includes the likes of Mike Moroski, Ken O’Brien, Kevin Daft, and Scott Barry.

“He runs our team, he really does,” Hawkins said in his press conference this week. “His dedication to the process…..He is a very talented player. Had a challenge coming in here. You are starting to get into an era where everybody looks at 6-feet-5. He’s a great player. He’s not 6-5, but he’s a great player.

“At lot of it is just preparation. The guy works so hard, he works every day. He runs all our players run practices. ….He’s smart, dedicated, all of the above.”

His numbers last year certainly bear Hawkins out. 

Overall the offense scored 39.7 points per game last season with 488.9 yards per game. Individually Maier was No. 2 in the FCS in passing TDs (34), No. 3 in passing yards (3,931) and completions per game (28.00), No. 7 in completion percentage (.654), No. 4 in passing yards per game (302.4), No. 6 in points responsible for (230), No. 8 in points responsible for per game (17.7), No. 12 in total offense (301.1 ypg), No. 23 in passing efficiency (141.2) and No. 52 in yards per pass attempt (7.06). 

Wayne Tilcock -- Davis Enterprise
Dan Hawkins

Most of those yards came via the hands and legs of Keelan Doss, generally regarded as the best receiver in school history. He is now with the Oakland Raiders, but Maier still has plenty of targets.

Wide receiver Jared Harrell is a preseason All-Big Sky pick. He had 62 catches a year ago for 896 yards and five touchdowns. At 6-2, 200, he has ample size and is plenty fast. He was a high school teammate of Cal’s Traveon Beck at. St. John Bosco High in Southern California.

Junior Kris Vaughn is also swift and he started 11 games last year.

Sophomores Justin Kraft and Carson Crawford showed enough last year to make Hawkins confident they can emerge as quality wide receivers. Crawford even started the final game of the year, the playoff loss to Eastern Washington. 

At 6-5, 240 Wes Preece looks like a tight end, and he certainly plays like one, When Davis gets close to the goal line, Cal defenders better keep an eye on this guy.

The Aggies also have some versatile running backs, featuring Ulomzo Gilliam, and and Tehran Thomas. Gilliam,, 5-9, 185, is a shifty runner who is adept at finding a running lane and making defenders miss in the open field. He netted 976 yards on 186 carries as a freshman last year. Thomas weighs 215 and is a power runner. Both are excellent receivers, especially on screen passes. 

“I think they do as good a job as anybody of getting the balls to their playmakers in space in different ways,” DeRuyter said. “Their backs run hard, they can catch the football out of the backfield. They’re threats, unlike most teams we are going to see because they do so many different things.”

The Aggies return four offensive line starters from a year ago and have plenty of depth. “We have eight or nine guys we can run in there,” Hawkins said. Justin Wilcox should be so lucky.

“Their offensive line runs a lot of schemes and with their experience they mix their protections up a bunch,” DeRuyter said. “They’ve got some big, long guys and they do a really nice job. It’s a nice answer for a multiple defense. They are not going to be fazed by the things we do.”

On defense, the Aggies have lost linebacker Mason Moe, safety Vincent White and cornerback Isiah Olave, all key performers, who graduated. They also will be without sophomore linebacker Montell Bland, who had 78 tackles a year ago. That was the most of any returning Aggie until Bland was declared ineligible for the game. No reason was given for Bland’s ineligibility, but he is not listed on the Aggies depth chart. 

Linebackers Nas Anesi and Eric Flowers are back and are the leaders of the defense. Anesi is one of the team captains.

Wayne Tilcock -- Davis Enterprise
Nas Anesi (11)

The front line’s top performers are nose tackle Jordan Franklin and defensive end  Roland Ocansey both seniors. Like Cal the Aggies use a base 3-4, but jump in and out of it, sometimes from down to down.

The secondary might not match Cal in talent, but the Aggies have a lot of experience. Devon King, Connor Airey, Erron Duncan, Tiger Garcia, Jordan Perryman, Jaylin White and Isaiah Thomas all have considerable game experience. They will be a challenge for Chase Garbers and the inexperienced Cal receivers.

If the game is close is could come down to a punting duel between Cal’s Steven Coutts and Davis’ Daniel Whelan. The latter averaged 41.1 yards on 67 punts a year ago, none were blocked, only three went for touchbacks and 31 were inside the 20.

This game will be a test for both sides, whether Davis can again hold its own with an FBS team and whether Cal’s much-hyped secondary can handle a quality quarterback. Maier is not the last one the Bears will see this year.

Related Stories:

Depth Chart Released, Guard Williams Out for Year

Bears Have Sluggish Tuesday Practice


Discussion from...

Davis Preview: Aggies QB Could Present Some Problems

3,056 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 4 yr ago by MTBAggie
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Punting duel? If this game is close at the end then the outcome can be decided by the punters? I know Davis is a decent team but Cal spends millions on a stadium renovation and facilities to attract recruits to come to a school that could get into a punting duel with UC Davis? Something aint right here.
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If he was that good he would be playing D1
Go Bears!
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@oskirules - "I know Davis is a decent team but Cal spends millions on a stadium renovation and facilities to attract recruits to come to a school that could get into a punting duel with UC Davis?" Sure would be a bummer to lose then, wouldn't it ;-) I remember the shock in 2005 at Stanford. That was a great game to watch. 2010 in Memorial Stadium, not so much... That was a tough one to sit through.

@oskidunker - FCS is D1. People get overlooked for various reasons.

All kidding aside, I'm looking forward to going to the game Saturday as an alumni of UC Davis. My mom and all of her siblings went to Cal, and I grew up going to Cal games. And after a flag football tournament last summer at Memorial Stadium, including a tour of the locker room and training facilities, my son says, "I'm going here dad!" I don't expect Davis to win, but I'm always happy to show support when they play in the Bay Area. Should be a great game!
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