The biggest difference for UAlbany head football coach Greg Gattuso between getting his team ready for this unprecedented spring season as opposed to a normal summer preseason in advance of a fall campaign?
“Well,” Gattuso said Wednesday during a teleconference with reporters, “it’s definitely colder.”
But, all that’s meant is that the Great Danes have had to be a little like the U.S. Postal Service as they get ready to kick off their six-game CAA season Friday night at New Hampshire.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these Great Danes from their goal.
“Man, we’re ready for any weather we play in,” senior running back Karl Mofor said. “Whether it’s the freezing cold or blazing heat, we’ve been through it all.”
Freezing cold is probably a bit more likely, considering the forecast for Friday night in Durham, New Hampshire, calls for an overnight low of 15 degrees.
But even that seems like a walk in the park after some of the weather conditions the Great Danes have dealt with on their own practice field in the last month.
When the Capital Region was blasted by high wind and snow Monday afternoon and evening, Gattuso had his team outside — just as they have been for every preseason practice.
“We’ve practiced, pretty much, in every weather condition you can imagine,” redshirt senior linebacker Levi Metheny said.
Gattuso said he’s always been a proponent of outdoor practices, using them as an opportunity to ready his team for whatever weather conditions they might face on gameday.
When it comes to New Hampshire, especially in early March, that means wind and cold.
“New Hampshire’s a hard place to play,” Gattuso said. “I like to go up there, they’re a good team, one of the best programs out there, but one thing I know about New Hampshire is it’s got to be a great place to fly a kite, because it’s always breezy or windy. It’s going to be chilly and cold. It is what it is.”
But, the Great Danes say they’re ready for the elements.
Metheny, a rugged linebacker, will be going sleeveless.
And as for redshirt sophomore quarterback Jeff Undercuffler? He prefers to play while eschewing gloves entirely, to maximize his grip on the football — even in finger-numbing cold.
“I’m not really a guy that throws with gloves on,” Undercuffler said. “I like to touch that rock with my hand, just to have that feel.”
Gattuso said Undercuffler has made “a big step” in the way he deals with adverse weather.
“He’s sucking it up and he’s delivering the ball,” Gattuso said. “It gives me great confidence with how he’s adjusted to the weather.”
‘SOME BIG DUDES’
While there are some spots on the field where the Great Danes have plenty of continuity from the last time they played in 2019 — the offensive backfield, the defensive front seven — among the biggest question marks in terms of turnover is along the offensive line.
The five players projected to start Friday night — from left to right, Andrew “Critt” Johnson, Kassy Desir, Kobe Thomas, Dominick Lito and Parris Heath — are a mixture of newcomers to the program and returning players taking on expanded roles or moving into new positions.
They’re also big. Really, really big.
“It’s far and away the biggest offensive line group we’ve had,” Gattuso said. “Period.”
That’s especially true on the massive right side of the line, with 6-foot-5, 361-pound senior Lito at guard and 6-foot-4, 325-pound junior Heath at tackle.
“We’ve certainly got some big dudes up there,” Undercuffler said. “I love them to death.”
As a powerful running back, Mofor’s looking forward to those “big dudes” paving the way this spring.
“They’re going to be able to move people out of the way,” Mofor said, “or, just get in the way and I’ll just go around. It’ll definitely be fun to see how that all works together.”