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  • Brian Baer / Special to The Bee

    C.J. Spencer could be part of a wide-open battle for the quarterback job this fall at UC Davis.

  • Brian Baer /

  • Brian Baer / Special to The Bee

    C.J. Spencer realized as a junior that he might be a college-caliber quarterback. He led Inderkum to an upset over Pleasant Grove.

Inderkum’s Spencer to realize scholarship dream

Published: Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 - 10:28 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 - 10:53 am

Quarterback C.J. Spencer’s first recruiting letter came a few days before Inderkum High School played powerhouse Pleasant Grove in the fall of 2012.

But he didn’t open it until after the Tigers upset the Eagles 42-28, which Spencer called the “biggest win in school history” after the game.

The then-junior had a breakout performance that night, completing 14 of 19 passes for 172 yards against a team that had played in the previous two Sac-Joaquin Section Division-I championship games.

“That’s when I realized I might be a college-caliber quarterback,” said Spencer, now a senior and one of the area’s top college recruits.

The letter was from Arizona, and it would be the start of an avalanche of mail, phone calls and text messages from dozens of schools during the long and arduous recruitment courtship that also included camps, combines, games, workouts and official and unofficial college visits.

It all will end Wednesday when Spencer is expected to become one of the few high school athletes to earn a college scholarship by signing an NCAA national letter of intent with UC Davis. He will join teammate Jordan Thomas (Arizona State), a safety, in a noon signing ceremony at the school.

The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Spencer verbally committed to UC Davis on Dec. 12 after also receiving offers from Army, Montana, UNLV, Northern Colorado and Dartmouth.

He said he also received a late push from Fresno State. Spencer took an official visit to Fresno last weekend but decided to stay true to his UC Davis commitment and second-year coach Ron Gould.

“Fresno State plays at a higher level, but I just felt the chances of reaching my football and academic goals are better with UC Davis,” Spencer said. “It would be hard sitting and waiting for a chance to play that might never come and also maybe being moved to another position.

“Davis wanted me from the beginning and as a quarterback,” Spencer said. “I think coach Gould and coach (Kevin) Daft (the offensive coordinator) are trustworthy. Coach Daft is a great guy. He knows what he is talking about. I feel he can help make me successful.”

Spencer overcame a lot to land a scholarship at UC Davis. Inderkum coach Terry Stark admits he wasn’t overly impressed when he first saw Spencer as a sixth grader.

“He was a little guy back then, though he threw a good ball,” Stark said of Spencer, who was attending an Inderkum summer camp. “I never thought he’d be the guy for us because of his size.”

Spencer sat out football during his middle school years – instead focusing on basketball – because he was “stressed” being the leader of a football team and no longer was having fun.

When he started playing football again his freshman year, Spencer had grown a half-foot. He also grew to realize he wouldn’t throw the ball much as a quarterback on a wing-T offense for a program that in five years had won 54 games and five league titles.

But when Spencer joined the varsity as a junior, Stark tweaked his offense to accommodate some of the quarterback’s passing gifts.

“We went to a little bit of the Oregon-type offense, operating a spread from out of the shotgun,” Stark said. “It was fun for me, too, because it allowed me to experiment a lot. C.J. is real smart and real accurate.”

While leading the Tigers to back-to-back 10-3seasons, Spencer passed for 3,397 yards and 39 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. He rushed for 323 yards and seven touchdowns, numbers that could have been much bigger if the Tigers hadn’t built so many huge early leads.

Spencer credits his youth football coach – Terrance Leonard, now an Inderkum junior varsity coach – for helping him navigate the college recruiting maze and Lemuel Adams, who runs a Del Paso Heights training facility, for fine-tuning his mechanics and mental approach.

“It becomes a lifestyle, as far as trying to become a college quarterback and to get recruited,” Spencer said. “You have to put in a lot of time.”

With four-year UC Davis starting quarterback Randy Wright gone and sophomore backup Jimmy Laughrea no longer on the team, the Aggies’ quarterback job appears to be wide open this fall.

Spencer is amenable to whatever UC Davis has planned, whether it means playing as a true freshman or redshirting.

“I’m not sure what the plan is at quarterback – that’s in the coach’s hands,” Spencer said. “I’d like the chance to play as soon as possible, but if they want me to redshirt, I’ll agree with whatever the coach’s decision is.”

Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.

Read more articles by Bill Paterson

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