Editor’s note: The following is a Q&A between William Cooke, football beat reporter at The Daily Californian, and Ryan Chien, former sports editor of The Daily Californian and current sports director at KALX. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
William Cooke: Can you give me a quick rundown on the Aggies and some of their important storylines this season?
Ryan Chien: Yes. So the UC Davis Aggies are coming off of a relatively successful season. They’re (ranked) number 25 in their respective polls within FCS (Football Championship Series) teams. Of course, FCS is lower level than FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision), which Cal is a part of. But if there’s any FCS school that will give Cal football a run for its money it would be a team like UC Davis, right? Because not only are you a top 25 team in the FCS, you did make the FCS playoffs (in which they got bounced out the first round). But you do have a good amount of experience. You have a good (head) coach in Dan Hawkins, and UC Davis has the weapons to be a threat to Cal.
WC: If the FCS team does pull off, which would be a huge week one upset, where do you see that coming from?
RC: Yeah, and I think this was summed up best by (Cal head coach) Justin Wilcox in one of his preseason media conferences. I think that it will come from special teams, if anything, in terms of UC Davis being well coached under Dan Hawkins. He specializes in those field goal attempts, those PATs, all those added extra things … Just a fun fact, Wilcox actually coached under Dan Hawkins a while back. Dan Hawkins actually hired him as a graduate assistant, I believe, back when Justin Wilcox was first beginning his coaching career. So it was Hawkins who gave Wilcox this kind of introduction into collegiate football at the coaching level. So of course, I think Wilcox sums it up the best for UC Davis. To edge out this victory though (Davis) will have to get those nice big chunk plays and then convert with those the special teams offerings as well.
WC: What are some of the names Cal fans should look out for on the away sideline?
RC: UC Davis does have two former Bears in McCallan Castles and Evan Tattersall … (Tattersall) was Cal’s starting linebacker for a minute and played four seasons in Berkeley. He actually transferred to UC Davis as a graduate student … You also have a great running back in Ulonzo Gilliam, Jr. for UC Davis. He’s a fifth-year running back. Right now he’s the program’s number two all time rusher, but he’s slated to surpass the program record. He needs 155 yards to break that career rushing record. So watch out for him to wreak havoc because he ran for 89 yards against Cal the last time they played back in 2019. And he scored a touchdown.
WC: Who is Cal’s new transfer quarterback, Jack Plummer, and what should Cal fans expect from him?
RC: The new transfer from Purdue is very seasoned, a redshirt senior. I think potentially he has a lot in store for him. I mean, he’s got a great arm and I think he’ll use that to his advantage … Jack Plummer transferred from Purdue, starter for Purdue in 2021 for a couple of games before being pulled. He has a lot of talent and all of his talent quite literally comes from his arm because this man does not run, or hardly at all … I mean, you compare him to someone like Chase Garbers who was definitely a dual threat quarterback.
WC: Who do you predict will fill the stat sheet for Cal on Saturday?
RC: Jeremiah Hunter can probably have a very good game. (He’s) wide receiver one, right, like at this point, the starting wide receiver for the Bears. He seems like that number one option. Hunter had a great sophomore season. He averaged over 18 yards per catch last season. He’ll definitely have a lot of good connections with Plummer, and that is definitely going to be a duo to watch throughout the rest of the season. Not just UC Davis, but throughout the rest of the season as kind of a determinant of how good this Cal offense really is. Of course you have Damien Moore as your running back, who also had a great season last year as a sophomore … He’s going into the season hotter than ever, but he had some games where he was injured last season. But now he is that running back number one again.
WC: What’s your score prediction?
RC: Score? Yeah, I’m going to say, let’s see. Four touchdowns for Cal, so 28 … I’ll go 31-13, Cal.