Earlier this year, Turner Baty thought his football future would be on the eastern side of the United States, where he played his senior year of high school.
The City College of San Francisco quarterback had scholarship offers from Massachusetts, Florida International and Memphis.
But then he received an 11th-hour call from UC Davis after sophomore Jimmy Laughrea, the only returning quarterback with significant experience last fall, decided not to come back to the Aggies.
For Baty, it was a no-brainer, even though his other offers came from higher-level Football Bowl Subdivision schools.
“I was looking initially at going the FBS route,” Baty, 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, said. “The others were bigger football schools. But those schools couldn’t compare academically with Davis. I wanted to get a degree that meant something, and when I came up here to visit, I just loved all the guys.
“When you spend every day together, you want to be around people who will make you better and are truly good people. I felt like I fit in here – I just felt at home.”
Baty knows the importance of feeling at home.
He grew up in the Bay Area and played his sophomore and junior seasons at Menlo-Atherton High School in Menlo Park, then moved to New Canaan, Conn., because of his mother’s job change. After leading New Canaan to a state title, he transferred, while still a senior, to St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where his father lives.
In 2011, he returned to the Bay Area and led CCSF to an undefeated season and a community college national title. He then spent a redshirt season at Kansas in 2012 before returning to CCSF last fall.
While leading the Rams to an 8-3 season, he also kept a close watch on UC Davis. He knew coach Ron Gould and offensive coordinator Kevin Daft from their stints at Cal because he attended a Bears summer camp.
Running back Gabe Manzanares, a good friend from San Francisco and a former workout partner, was having a breakthrough season for the Aggies after walking on from CCSF during the summer. He rushed for 1,285 yards and scored 11 touchdowns to help the Aggies go 5-7 overall and 5-3 in the Big Sky Conference in Gould’s first season.
“Gabe told me they had something special going,” Baty said.
Most of all, there was the opportunity to have a shot at playing right away at a school known for successful quarterbacks.
Senior London Lacy and sophomore Ben Scott are untested returnees, and highly touted freshman C.J. Spencer of Inderkum won’t join the Aggies until the fall, so Gould says who starts at quarterback is a long way from being decided.
“All in all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised how the guys have been able to run the offense,” Gould said last week. “I’ve been pleased with London and his decision-making. Ben Scott has done some nice things.
“Turner Baty has only been here for 10 practices, but it’s exciting to see how much he’s already learned. He’s a real sharp guy.”
Baty may be the newcomer, but he has the most college game experience among the quarterbacks. He left CCSF as the Rams’ passing leader with 6,220 yards. He also threw 55 touchdown passes.
“Turner is a great quarterback,” Manzanares said. “He works hard, he’s real smart and can move outside of the pocket. On the field, he’s real fiery and takes on the leadership role. Off the field, he’s a fun guy who likes to joke around.”
Football runs in Baty’s family.
Father Greg is a former NFL tight end who played at Stanford. Younger brother Landon, a senior at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, has committed to play defensive back at Columbia. Eighth-grader Ramsey is a terror at defensive end.
But Turner Baty said his football career started modestly, as he spent his early years in youth football as a slow-footed backup quarterback.
“I wasn’t the most athletic kid back then,” Baty said. “My dad told me once, ‘It looks like you’re hurting when you run.’ But I loved football, I worked the hardest, and I always knew the plays.”
That’s why he likes working with Daft, a former Aggies quarterback standout who played in the NFL and is entering his third season as the UC Davis offensive coordinator.
“He’s awesome,” Baty said. “His offense is so meticulous that you know exactly where you are going on every play. Coach Daft tells you why you are doing it, and why it’s going to work. I’m really excited to play for him.”
Baty will use today’s final spring practice and scrimmage to continue to learn reads and formations while throwing to new receivers.
“It’s been good to get here early and get my feet wet,” Baty said last week. “Sometimes I’ve got to remind myself that this is my third week of running this offense. I feel I’m doing a pretty good job of getting acclimated.”
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.