Seeds for success are planted in spring

By the time summer training camp comes around, the University at Albany football staff will already
University at Albany football coach Greg Gattuso.
University at Albany football coach Greg Gattuso.

By the time summer training camp comes around, the University at Albany football staff will already know a lot about who will get the most playing time this fall.

That’s what spring football is all about.

On a relatively balmy Tuesday afternoon with the temperature in the mid-60s, UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso discussed how important spring football is to scholarship programs. His Great Danes still had six or seven practice sessions left in the spring session, but they were gearing up for Saturday’s spring game (3 p.m. on Bob Ford Field) that will be part of UAlbany’s Spring Stomp celebration.

“Spring football is part of the development for Division I or Division II football programs,” said Gattuso, who led the Great Danes to a 7-5 record (3-5 Colonial Athletic Association) in his first season. The Great Danes improved by six victories over the previous season.

“Football is now a year-round sport. You need to work on your strength, and you need to work on your speed year-round. The young players get a lot out of this, because they are vying for jobs and some attention. It’s a little harder on the older players, because they’ve been here before, and they know what to do. But there is no doubt that spring football is a major part of our program.”

Gattuso said he has noticed much more spring in his players’ steps as the weather finally got warmer. “We’ve had a cold, windy spring here, so the guys really appreciate the warmer weather. They’re excited about that, and they are excited to finally prepare for a game this Saturday.

“We’ve only got six or seven more of these practices, and we still have a lot of work to do. We’ve got guys battling for positions or back-up jobs. This is where we get the roster filled. And this is where we set the two-deep for training camp.”

Gattuso said he expects his defense, which was among the national leaders for much of last season, to be strong once again.

“Our defense last year was good, but we had trouble at the end stopping the good teams,” he said. “We were No. 1 in the nation for most of the season in turnovers, and that turnover ratio made up for our poor showing on third down and in the red zone, and those are the places you need to be strong at if you are a championship team. But we did have some gutsy defensive efforts.

“I think the biggest challenge will be on offense, because we have so many new players. When you are looking for a new quarterback, you are always under some pressure.”

The Great Danes graduated two of their top offensive performers in quarterback Will Fiacchi and tailback Omar Osbourne. Fiacchi completed 207 of 377 passes for 24 touchdowns and only eight interceptions, while Osbourne ran for 1,212 yards and seven scores.

One of the most intriguing battles this spring has been at quarterback, where Gattuso brought in a host of candidates to replace the reliable Fiacchi. Penn State transfer DJ Crook will be trying to fend off the likes of Will Brunson of Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Neven Sussman of Sandy Spring, Md.

Gattuso has also made some coaching changes and has a new defensive coordinator in associate head coach Bernard Clark.

“Saturday’s game will be kind of fun for the players and the coaches,” Gattuso said. “We are going to treat it like a real game, in terms of having the coaches who are supposed to be on the field be on the field and the coaches who are supposed to be up in the press box be up there. I know the guys will be excited to finally play a little football.”

Capital Region players on the roster include redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Matthew Champion (Still­water), freshman running back Elliot Crosky (CBA), redshirt freshman linebacker Ryan Griffin (Shaker), redshirt freshman linebacker Nate Hatalsky (Mechanicville), redshirt sophomore fullback Nic Ketter (Queensbury), redshirt sophomore punter/kicker Jon Martin (Bethlehem), redshirt freshman offensive tackle JP McCauley (Queensbury), junior quarterback Ryan Smith (Guilderland), who transferred from Colgate, and redshirt freshman cornerback Cameron Wynn (CBA).

Categories: College Sports

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