UC Davis ranks No. 18 in HERO Sports’ FCS Preseason Top 25.
The Aggies finished 6-5 overall last year, 6-4 vs. FCS opponents, and 5-3 in the Big Sky. They won five of their last six games, and three of their losses were by six points or less to Top 10 teams.
Here’s a look at this year’s UC Davis football squad.
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Returning 2022 FCS All-Conference Players (8)
QB Miles Hastings
DE Zach Kennedy
S Rex Connors
ST Lan Larison
OL Jordan Ford
DT Chubba Maae
LB Teddye Buchanan
CB Jehiel Budgett
KR Lan Larison
Players In 2023 FCS Positional Rankings (5)
Transfer Portal Movement
Transfers Lost To The FBS (1)
McCallan Castles (TE) to Tennessee
Transfers Coming In From The FBS (1)
Hunter Ridley (P), UNLV
UC Davis’ offense scored 35.9 points per game last year, ranking No. 15 in the FCS. The Aggies bring back their All-Big Sky First Team quarterback and leading pass-catcher from their No. 10-ranked passing attack (295.0 yards per game).
Miles Hastings had a breakout sophomore season, completing 69.8% of his passes (256/367) for 3,048 yards, 20 touchdowns, and six interceptions. The 3,048 yards are the sixth-most for a returning FCS quarterback.
UC Davis had nine players with at least 200 receiving yards. Six of them return, led by the top pass-catcher C.J. Hutton, who recorded 47 catches for 506 yards and four touchdowns.
RB Lan Larison finished No. 4 on the team in receiving yards with 25 catches for 335 yards and one TD. TE Josh Gale had seven receptions for 283 yards and four TDs. WR Justin Kraft totaled 18 catches for 250 yards and two scores. QB/AP Trent Tompkins had 28 catches for 224 yards and a score. And WR Chaz Davis tallied 21 catches for 206 yards and a TD.
The Aggies lose the program’s all-time leading rusher Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. But plenty of experience is back. Larison has 1,068 career rushing yards and 11 TDs, and Tompkins can also be utilized in the run game with 687 career rushing yards and 14 scores.
Gilliam was a major part of UC Davis’ offense with his running and receiving ability. But the Aggies look to still be explosive and creative with getting the ball into the hands of athletic playmakers like Larison and Tompkins.
The offensive line loses two All-Conference players, although it does return two All-Big Sky performers. Jordan Ford (6’2″ 273 lbs) is a multi-time All-Big Sky selection, getting named to the Second Team last season. And Jake Parks (6’3″ 285 lbs) is back after playing in only one game last year. He was a 2022 Stats Perform Preseason All-American after a 2021 All-Big Sky First Team season. Parks started 42 straight games from 2018-21.
UC Davis allowed 21.7 points per game last fall, ranking No. 24 in the FCS. The Aggies return seven of their top 11 tacklers, plus an All-Conference cornerback and an All-Conference defensive tackle.
Rex Connors became a star safety as a freshman, leading the team with 92 tackles and five interceptions. The First Team All-Big Sky selection is joined in the secondary by Third Team All-Conference cornerback Jehiel Budgett. Budgett totaled 23 tackles, one interception, and five pass breakups.
Teddye Buchanan leads the linebackers as a Third Team All-Conference pick, totaling 43 tackles, three tackles for loss, and three interceptions in eight games last fall. Nick Eaton is another veteran at LB, a sixth-year senior and four-year starter who recorded 34 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, and five quarterback hurries in 2022.
First Team All-Conference DE Zach Kennedy and Third Team All-Big Sky DT Chubba Maae are standouts on the defensive front. Kennedy (6’6″ 251 lbs) racked up 29 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, and four sacks in 2022. Maae may not have the impact on the stat sheet, but he is a total disrupter plugging the middle at 6-foot-2 and 347 pounds.
UC Davis allowed 157.5 rushing yards per game in 2022 (No. 61 in the FCS) and 233.5 passing yards per game (No. 76).
8/31 at Texas A&M University-Commerce
9/9 at Oregon State
9/16 vs Southern Utah
9/23 vs Eastern Washington
9/30 at Cal Poly
10/7 vs No. 16 Montana
10/14 at No. 11 Weber State
10/28 at Northern Arizona
11/4 vs Portland State
11/11 at Idaho State
11/18 vs No. 10 Sacramento State
HERO Sports’ rankings
Bold indicates Big Sky games