Campus Canvass

Hart springs onto the scene

Former Del Oro QB now making big plays as a safety at UC Davis
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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In a defensive scheme that frequently puts him in position to be a playmaker, Danny Hart has pounced on the opportunity. He’s pounced on plenty of opposing ballcarriers and loose footballs, too. Now a junior free safety at UC Davis, the Del Oro High graduate more than doubled his tackle total from 2008 on Oct. 3 against Boise State —one of the best teams in college football. Hart made 14 tackles in the Aggies’ 34-16 loss to the Broncos, who are currently ranked No. 5 among teams in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A). No Aggie has made more tackles in a single game this season. “He had an unbelievable game,” said Jeff Copp, UC Davis’ safeties coach. “We changed our defense from last year to this year and made it a little more safety-friendly, and he did some things where they threw the ball right at him and he made the plays he was supposed to make.” “That was just the way I rolled that game,” Hart said. “It doesn’t always happen like that. I was just in the right place at the right time.” Hart is now third on the Aggies in tackles with 27 after making just 12 last season. He also leads UC Davis in fumble recoveries with three. “We really preach running to the football and swarming the football,” Hart said. “When I get down there, good things can happen.” Copp credits Hart’s success this season in part to UC Davis’ newly installed 4-3 “Cover 4” defensive scheme. “We ask our (safeties) quite a bit to get downhill (run straight toward the ballcarrier) during the running game,” Copp said. “We also do a lot of safety blitzing.” “I (am) able to be in the box a lot during the running game and able to get after the pass on passing downs,” Hart said. “We switched our defense up so that my main responsibility is covering tight ends and receivers, so a lot of other teams’ passes come my way.” Hart’s experience as a former quarterback — he guided Del Oro to a 13-0 season and a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship in 2005 — often helps him anticipate what the other team’s offense will do before it happens. “It gives me an understanding of what quarterbacks are looking to do,” he said. “I know where the progressions are during the passing game. I know how running schemes are planned.” Copp calls Hart “one of the most intelligent guys we’ve got sitting in the meeting room.” “He’s a smart football player who puts himself in a good position to have the opportunity to make plays,” the assistant coach said. “Danny plays as hard as anyone I’ve ever had play for me. He goes hard down the football field and has fun while he’s doing it.” Ray Hacke can be reached at