This is it, the final season of football for Brandon Weaver, a senior defensive lineman for UC Davis.
Weaver, a 2013 Justin-Siena High School graduate who is from Vacaville, is putting everything he has into the season, which begins on Sept. 2 with the Aggies playing a nonconference game at San Diego State. Their home opener is on Sept. 9 against the University of San Diego at Aggie Stadium.
“I’m feeling great,” Weaver said following a night practice last week. “Physically, I’ve never felt better. I’m really prepared and I think this team is on the right path.
“I’m ready to do whatever the team needs me to do. We have a very dynamic defense this year. I hope to be able to do a lot of different things for them. We’re going to be a hard-nosed defense and we’re going to get after it in games.”
Weaver said he has been going hard at it since the offseason, preparing himself, both physically and mentally, for this, his fifth and last season in the program. He was a redshirt in 2013.
He has been studying film, working out in the weight room, and doing different drills that focus on position-specific technique work.
“I come to work every day and work as much as I can,” he said. “It’s just being in the right mindset.”
Weaver played in all 11 games during the 2014 season and made the start at Northern Arizona. He had 19 tackles, with a career-best four stops in the game against NAU, and was fourth for the Aggies with 4.5 tackles for losses. He had two sacks, resulting in 11 yards of loss, against Ft. Lewis, and had two unassisted stops against Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. He also had a six-yard sack against Cal Poly.
Weaver made starts against Hawaii, Southern Utah and Sacramento State, and played in all 11 games during the 2015 season. He finished with 36 tackles (22 solo) and had three sacks, two coming in the Causeway Classic against Sacramento. He also had two quarterback hurries, forced a fumble against Cal Poly and recovered a fumble against Weber State. He had a season-best six tackles in the game against Weber State and had five stops against Montana and Sacramento State.
He played in nine games last year and had starts against Oregon, Eastern Washington and Northern Colorado. He had 17 tackles (13 unassisted), and had 2.5 tackles resulting in losses of 11 yards. He had an assisted sack against Eastern Washington and broke up a pass against Southern Oregon.
UC Davis ended the 2016 season on a winning note, beating Sacramento, 48-30. The Aggies went 3-8 overall, 2-6 in the Big Sky.
“I know I can get better and I’m going to keep coming out every day, trying to get better,” said the 6-foot-2, 245-pound Weaver. “I definitely have been playing hard, and I think that’s important.”
Weaver is playing with the starting defense, in practice. Fall camp for UC Davis began on Aug. 5 and the Aggies had their first scrimmage on Aug. 12.
“I’m really looking forward to competing this season,” said Weaver. “We’ve had a tough couple of years, but it’s all in the past. I’m looking forward to showing what I can do and what l can do for the football team and where Davis is headed. I can tell that the team is very positive right now.
“There’s a lot of good energy with the players, with the coaching staff, and with the rest of the administration and faculty within the campus. I think everybody is excited.”
Weaver’s excitement stems from the leadership and organization that Dan Hawkins has instilled in the program since being named as the Aggies’ head coach late last November.
Hawkins played fullback (1981-82) for legendary UC Davis head coach Jim Sochor and then went into coaching. Hawkins was an assistant coach at UC Davis and is a former head coach at Willamette (Oregon), Boise State and Colorado. He was an assistant at Boise State and has also coached at College of the Siskiyous-Weed, Sonoma State, in the Canadian Football League, and Christian Brothers High School-Sacramento.
“Coach Hawkins understands the whole game in great detail. I think the guys have really bought into his philosophy and believe in what he’s doing,” said Weaver. “He understands what Aggie pride is. He has a good understanding of the tradition here.”
There has been a pipeline from the Napa Valley to UC Davis going back to the 1970s and ’80s. The pipeline has been rich in talent and experience, feeding the Aggie program with players such as Dave Clerici (Napa), Steve Clerici (Napa), Eric Tye (Napa), Greg Williams (Napa), Bret DelBondio (St. Helena), Kirk Hamilton (Justin-Siena), Andy Ryan (Justin-Siena), Tony Flores (Vintage), Matt Galios (Vintage), Jeff Bridewell (Vintage), Roger Wilkinson (Vintage), Ernie Ilsley (Vintage), Mike Wessel (Vintage), Steve Jones (Vintage), Dave Spinelli (Vintage) and Doug Gomez (Vintage).
As the years have gone on, additional athletes from the Napa Valley have played football at UC Davis – players like Matt Cia (St. Helena), Erik Lawrence (Vintage), Jay Suesens (Napa), Bryan Harrison (Justin-Siena), Charles Boyett (Napa) and Zach Jones (Napa).
“I really think the culture that what we’re building here right now fits the UC Davis tradition well,” said Weaver. “I think there is a lot of pride in the Aggie history and we’re starting to represent that this year.”
UC Davis was picked to finish 11th in both the Big Sky Conference media and coaches’ preseason polls, which were announced last month. The conference also has North Dakota, Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona, Cal Poly, Weber State, Montana, Southern Utah, Montana State, Northern Colorado, Portland State, Sacramento and Idaho State.
“I think we’re ready to prove to ourselves that we’re a school worth hearing about and talking about,” said Weaver, a mechanical engineering major, who will graduate in the spring of 2018. “I’ve got to remember that this is the last (season) and give it all I’ve got.
“This is definitely going to be one of the most exciting years of my life and I really look forward to it. Davis has been amazing for me. It’s been life-changing.”