Conquest hopes riding on QB Cole

Quarterback Dan Cole will play a key role for the Albany Conquest this season.

Starting quarterback, unofficial coach and emotional leader. That’s only part of Dan Cole’s lengthy job description with the Albany Conquest.

The Bishop Maginn graduate and former standout signal caller at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute not only will be one of three local players on this season’s roster, but he will also be one of the keys to success for the Conquest, who open the arenafootballball2 season Saturday at the Mahoning Valley Thunder.

“Dan knows our system, and we have a good rapport,” said first-year head coach Jeff Hoffman. Cole set nearly every school passing record at RPI, completing 671 of 1,202 passes for 8,902 yards and 87 touchdowns in 32 games.

“I can start calling a play, and Dan will finish it. He can coach the guys, and the team looks up to him.”

All quarterbacks are unofficial coaches on the field, but Cole actually is an assistant coach for the quarterbacks at RPI.

“I’ll be the starting quarterback, but I would say my most important role is as a leader,” said Cole, who led the Engineers to the NCAA

Division III national semifinals as a senior.

“I’m going to make sure the guys do their job. It’s my responsibility to make sure everyone is on the same page. It’s funny, because when I’m on the field, I’ll be thinking like a quarterback, but when I’m off the field, I’ll be thinking like a coach. Being a coach has given me a lot of confidence. It gives me a different perspective on the game.”

This will be Cole’s second season with the Conquest. Last year, as the backup to Ryan Hart, Cole appeared in 10 games, completing 40 of 77 passes for 13 touchdowns and only one interception. His best game was July 27, when he completed 16 of 34 passes for 160 yards against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers. He also tossed four TDs the prev­ious week against the Manchester Wolves.

Cole, who went to mini-camp as a rookie for the New England Patriots in 2004, also served as the club’s long snapper after an injury to Kanan Sanchez.

The other two local players on the roster are a pair of University at Albany graduates, lineman

Jacob Hobbs from Schenectady and placekicker Jason Fralicker.

“I’m just happy to be here,” said Hobbs, who went to training camp as an undrafted rookie free agent last year with the Philadelphia

Eagles and also went to camp this year with the Arena Football League’s Columbus Destroyers.

“The reason I’m here is to get better. I’m not looking past this team. I want to help the Conquest win a championship. Sure, I want to go to the next level, and sometimes. I feel a little down that I didn’t make it in the NFL. But the reason I’m here is to get better as a player. I’m going to give it my all.”

The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Hobbs played left tackle for the Great Danes, but while trying out for the Destroyers, he learned to play both center and tight end.

“I never caught a pass in college, but we used to throw the ball around a lot in practice,” he said with a laugh. “It’s something I’m working on to make my game better.”

Fralicker, who was a second-team All-Northeast Conference selection with UAlbany, broke his own single-season record with 15 field goals last fall. He was second in scoring with 82 points.

Hoffman has high hopes for the Conquest, despite their 6-10 record last season. As the team’s associate head coach and defensive coordin­ator, his efforts helped the Conquest record a team-record 31 quarterback sacks.

“We will play hard every game,” said Hoffman, who also spent time as the Columbus Destroyers’ special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach in 2004 and 2005, as an assistant in the player personnel and scouting office for the New York Giants in 2001 and as an assistant coach for the New Jersey Red Dogs from 1997-99.

Besides Cole, Hoffman said the Conquest’s game-breakers offensively will be wide receivers Antwun Williams and Jared Jones.

“There’s not a player in this league who runs better patterns,” said Hoffman of Williams, who tied for 10th in the league in touchdown receptions (33) and was second on the team in both receptions (110) and receiving yards (1,242) a year ago.

Jones led the af2 in kick return average (24.2) and caught 13 passes for 152 yards in a backup role.

Season tickets range from $72 to $270. Individual tickets are $35 for “dream seats,” $32 for VIP seats, $18 for sideline seats and $10 for end zone seats. Call 487-2244 for more information.

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