One of the few silver linings in this cloud-covered season for the University at Albany football program has been the weekly all-out performances of junior tailback Omar Osbourne.
Although the Great Danes have struggled with a 1-10 record in veteran head coach Bob Ford’s final season, Osbourne has proved he belongs in the highly competitive Colonial Athletic Association. With one final game left on the schedule — Saturday at Stony Brook — Osbourne is third in the league in rushing with 1,149 yards, and he’s also third in scoring with 12 touchdowns. Two weeks ago, he became the 12th UAlbany player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season, and his 109 yards against New Hampshire last week gave him seven 100-yard efforts in his career and five this year.
With 1,881 career yards on the ground, Osbourne needs only 14 yards to move into the program’s top-10 with a full season to go.
“I call him Mr. Silky,” said Ford, who is first among active NCAA Division I FCS coaches with 265 career wins and is also fourth on the all-time FCS chart.
“Our running backs coach recruited Omar along with [quarterback] Will Fiacchi and [wideout] Cole King. That’s quite a recruiting class.”
Ford said that the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Osbourne, from Bishop Ludden in Syracuse, flew under the radar for a lot of college coaches.
“Recruiting is not an exact science,” Ford said. “It’s tough to get a handle on these young kids. Look at what happened in the NFL with Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. They went 1-2 in the draft. Peyton is a future NFL Hall of Famer, and Ryan went to jail after a very brief career.”
Ford appreciates Osbourne’s versatile skills and even-tempered demeanor during a frustrating campaign.
“He’s a solid kid whose specialty is the screen pass. He is very elusive and has good hip movement. He can move from side-to-side very well. Although he is not a speed-burner, he is definitely fast enough, and with all the strength training he did before the season, he was also able to go between the tackles for us,” said Ford.
For his part, Osbourne wishes the season went much differently in terms of wins and losses, but he’s not giving up, even with only one game to go.
“It’s been very frustrating, and it’s been a very long season for us,” he said. “We’re down to the wire now, with just a week left, but we’ve remained focused because of coach Ford. He won’t let us give up. We still think we have a chance to win on Saturday, and we would love nothing better than to give coach Ford a win in his final game.”
When tailback Drew Smith graduated after compiling one of the best all-around careers in UAlbany history, Osbourne immediately felt the pressure to help fill his large shoes.
“I’m never going to be another Drew,” Osbourne said. “He was a lot bigger than I am, and he was a great player. I just want to give everything I’ve got to help this team. That’s why I went to the weight room over the summer, and I really got a lot stronger.”
Osbourne bulked up because of the extra work, gaining 15 to 20 pounds of muscle, but he knows he still has even more work to do if he hopes to become a better player his senior season.
“I’ve got to work on my blocking, and my overall speed,” he said. “I need that second gear, and I need more explosion once I get past the line of scrimmage.”
Osbourne wishes the Great Danes had a better record in their inaugural CAA season, but he is satisfied that he has done as much as he could, individually, to help his team.
“Our coaching staff asked us to write down our goals before the season, and I wrote down that I wanted to be among the best rushers in the CAA,” he said.
“I don’t think people understand how much stronger a league the CAA really is. These guys are very athletic, from the defensive line to the secondary. When we were in the Northeast Conference, we could get to the edge and make a play, but in the CAA, everyone is a lot quicker and stronger. I’ve received a lot of pounding from those defenses, but I’ve been lucky, and I haven’t suffered any serious injuries.”
“I can’t tell you much Omar has done for us this season,” said Ford. “And he’s done it with a very young offensive line in front of him. We’ve had two or three red-shirt freshmen playing in front of him this year, and that’s very difficult with the level of talent on the other side of the ball.”
Osbourne said he owes Ford a lot.
“Coach Ford brought me in when not many other people were interested,” Osbourne said. “He’s a great coach, and he’s kept us all motivated, even when it became very difficult losing all those close games this year. We will miss him very much. I don’t even want to think about that right now. We just want to win our last game.”