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UC Davis 2018-19 Football Season Preview: QB

DAVIS, Calif. — Every position group on the UC Davis football roster has its share of familiar faces and no-surprise inclusions, but put simply, the quarterbacks room boasts the most heralded name in senior quarterback Jake Maier.

Consider this: in the handful of months between the end of spring ball, the communication major from La Habra has made preseason All-America rolls from HERO Sports (June 6), Athlon Sports (June 11), STATS (June 30) and Phil Steele (Aug. 8). The Big Sky Conference media tabbed him as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while Maier has appeared on the watch lists for the Walter Payton Award and the CFPA FCS Performer of the Year.

“Too many people are going to judge him by the touchdown passes and the yards and the interceptions, and I hope he has a great year for that. I hope he wins every award,” said associate head coach Tim Plough, who mentors the Aggie quarterbacks. “But the special thing about Jake is that he just cares about trying to win a championship and being a part of the quarterback legacy here. He has really adopted that.”

Speaking of that legacy, Maier even wears the same No. 15 jersey as UC Davis alums-turned-NFL veterans Mike Moroski and Ken O’Brien. His career total of 7,600 yards puts him fifth all-time in school history – just ahead of O’Brien. 

As for the numbers, Maier’s major passing totals of 1,003 attempts, 670 completions, 7,600 yards and 60 touchdowns have him in striking range of the UC Davis career benchmarks. Randy Wright (2010-13) holds the records for attempts (1,289) and completions (755). J.T. O’Sullivan (1998-2001) owns superlatives for yards (10,745) and touchdowns (96). Maier’s career passing rating of 146.2 puts him third all-time behind O’Sullivan (168.8) and Chris Petersen (160.2) in Aggie annals.

“I’m a big historian of the quarterback legacy that we have and there is no doubt that Jake deserves his place within that group,” Plough said. “This year really means cementing that place and cementing that legacy. He has one more shot to win a championship, and he has put as much work into doing that as I’ve ever seen.”

For all of the plaudits surrounding Maier heading into the upcoming year, he is in fact part of a six-man unit under Plough’s tutelage. 

“This is the most talented quarterback room I’ve ever been a part of. That goes back to my first go-round at Davis and my time at NAU. We are truly six deep with guys who could win football games. I think the history of quarterbacks is part of the allure of playing here,” said Plough.

Junior Brock Johnson (6-for-9, 102 yards, 2 TDs) and sophomore Hunter Rodrigues (6-for-9, 64 yards, 1 TD) saw some reps in 2018. Johnson comes from a family of passers, with his grandfather establishing the Elite 11 academies, his father playing QB for UCLA and his uncle winning the 2003 Super Bowl. Rodrigues is a local product, originally from Whitney High in Rocklin, who earned conference Offensive Player of the Year accolades at American River College before making the short trek to UC Davis in 2018.

Redshirt freshman Gunnor Faulk has undergone a literal long, strange trip through his young football life. Raised in a military family, he was born next door in Dixon but moved to Georgia as an infant, then back to California, then lived in both Alaska and Georgia. In the Peach State, he led his team to a state championship – only to move back to California yet again for his senior year. Faulk threw for 2,904 yards and 48 touchdowns in his lone season at Christian Brothers High, and now waits his turn to show off his athleticism in a blue and gold uniform.

Plough also brought in two freshmen in Miles Hastings, an All-San Diego Section pick for San Marcos High; and Trent Tompkins, who guided Fresno’s Central High to consecutive CIF Central Section championships. Tompkins, like Maier, was largely overlooked by college recruiters because of his size, allowing UC Davis to swoop in and snare a prized recruiting opportunity.

In fact, all six quarterbacks share common traits that go beyond the physical, Plough says. They are humble and grounded, yet are competitors who know how to win, often hailing from championship programs.

“Sometimes on Twitter, you’ll see us put #DavisGuys,” said Plough. “We recruit guys who are competitors and who want to be great players. That’s the number one thing. But they have something else besides that, something that drives them to be great at everything. They want to be a great son, and a great husband and father one day. They want to be a great teammate, student and leader. Coach Hawkins does a tremendous job at pinpointing what we want here, and we specifically have to have that at the quarterback position. 

“We have to have Davis Guys, and Aggie Pride has to emanate from that group. We’ve done a good job selecting guys who are special players and also tremendous people.”

Such sentiments are par for the course for Plough, who early in his coaching career had Aggie legend Jim Sochor as a key mentor. “I’m a Davis guy, and that means a lot to me.”

Note: this is the ninth and final chapter in a series previewing each UC Davis position group, leading up to the week of Saturday’s opener at Cal.