Randy Wright smiles when asked about the contrasting personalities of first-year UC Davis coach Ron Gould and former coach Bob Biggs.
"Oh yeah," says the Aggies' senior quarterback, mulling the differences. "Coach Biggs is a great guy, a class act. He was more laid-back. He let the (assistants) do the coaching, and (he) kind of overviewed things.
"Coach G, if he sees one thing wrong, he's out there letting you know about it. He's a motivator. He's going to push your buttons. He wants more out of you than even what you think is your best."
Added senior defensive end Nick King: "One word comes to mind with Coach G intensity. There is an expectation of greatness in everything we do. ... It's just not on the field, it's off the field, too."
The popular, professorial Biggs stepped down last season after nearly 40 years in the program as a player, assistant and, for the past 20 seasons, coach.
To Aggie alumni, Gould, who spent the past 16 years as an assistant at Cal sending an assembly line of running backs to the NFL, was a surprise hire. Renowned for spawning future college coaches and their plethora of talented quarterbacks, the Aggies traditionally have hired from within.
Gould, 47, is an outsider who was available after losing his job at Cal when coach Jeff Tedford was fired at the end of last season.
Though the former Oregon defensive back is doing things differently than Biggs, he appears to have won over players looking for a change after back-to-back 4-7 seasons.
"We feel like we have this clean slate, that there's new blood," King said. "Coach Gould put it out there that it's possible to do big things and be competitive in the Big Sky (Conference)."
Gould has been preaching conditioning and accountability since his arrival. Practices are fast and furious, players prodded to run at all times, and mistakes come with consequences.
Gould also is hands-on. In his first fall practice as coach Monday, he moved quickly from station to station offering encouragement, insights and, when he thought necessary, criticism.
"Well, I'm not going to bite my tongue," Gould said. "If I see something, I'm going to say it."
Even Wright, who has started for the Aggies since his freshman season, didn't escape Gould's demands for perfect execution and form with every throw.
"I was a second late in a check down and I hear him say, 'That's going to cost us two yards in a game.' And he's right. If you're not perfect, you're going to hear about it."
By the end of practice, Gould's voice was hoarse.
"I love the energy by the young men," Gould said. "Guys are flying around. There's a lot of enthusiasm. They feel good about themselves because they are in great shape now. We wanted to be able, if we were playing a game today, to be almost game-ready."
The sense of urgency is understandable for a team that opens Aug. 31 at South Dakota and last year went 3-5 in its maiden voyage in a Big Sky Conference that keeps getting better.
The Aggies return 45 lettermen and 18 starters.
Wright, a native of Santa Rosa and the team's offensive leader, has thrown for 7,092 career yards and 44 touchdowns as he climbs the Aggies' career top 10 in both categories.
Also back on offense are Big Sky honorable-mention senior tight end Taylor Sloat, junior wide receiver Corey Galindo, preseason all-conference junior fullback Dalton Turay and starting offensive linemen Jimmy Kunkel, a senior, and Ian Joseph (El Dorado High School), a junior.
King, who led the Aggies last year with 61/2 sacks and 14 tackles for losses, and All-Big Sky honorable-mention senior back Jonathan Perkins anchor a defense that returns seven starters.
Although Gould was recognized as one of the top running back coaches in college football while at Cal, he's circumspect about any offensive changes. There's no brash talk about the Aggies suddenly becoming a smashmouth ground team or any real talk at all.
"We'll be balanced," Gould said, smiling. "We're going to run it, we're going to throw it."
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 328-5506.