It’s an age-old question for retooling your team in many different sports: Talent versus need.
New University at Albany head football coach Gary Gattuso strongly believes in former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll’s philosophy of drafting, or in this case recruiting, the best talent available, regardless of position.
But the Great Danes have a lot of needs as they prepare for their second season in the challenging Colonial Athletic Association.
Gattuso and his staff are confident they chose both the best talent available and the answer to many different positional needs in their first recruiting class, completed Wednesday on national signing day. Gattuso and the rest of the UAlbany football staff held a press conference Thursday at UAlbany’s Hall of Fame room to discuss the 20 new recruits who signed a national letter of intent, as well as two spring-semester transfers.
Six states are represented, as well as the District of Columbia. Gattuso is bringing in six players from Maryland, where he was an assistant coach. There are also six players from Pennsylvania, three from New York, including Capital Region standout Elliott Croskey of Christian Brothers Academy, four from New Jersey and one each from Florida and Alabama, a place where the Great Danes have never recruited from before.
“We’re very excited about this class,” said Gattuso, who is taking over the UAlbany program from the legendary Bob Ford, who retired last fall after guiding the program since its inception.
“Recruiting is the life blood of your football program. We went out looking for players who will make us better immediately. We want the best 44 or 46 players that we can get on our roster.”
Gattuso said he felt the need to diversify the regions in which he recruited.
“We’re also trying to identify good students with great academics and a great football background,” he said. “Fourteen of our 22 new players are captains. We definitely found some hidden gems.”
Gattuso and his assistant coaches concentrated on gathering their recruits from well-known scholastic programs with strong pedigrees, like DeMatha (Md.), Our Lady of Good Counsel (Md.), Paramus Catholic (N.J.), Bergen Catholic (N.J.) and New Castle (Pa.).
“My assistants and I have established the right connections at those kinds of schools. We wanted to recruit great athletes who are playmakers. I met with the families, and I know their coaches. I would say that 70-75 percent of our recruits come from programs that have been extremely successful.”
Among the most interesting of the newcomers is placekicker/punter Ethan Stark, who averaged 37.4 yards per punt and made 37 of 39 PATs as a senior at McDowell High School (Pa.); cornerback Jamal Robinson, a former DeMatha standout whose brother is the starting point guard at Pitt;
6-foot-3, 285-pound guard Sam Madaras from Our Lady of Good Counsel (Md.); quarterback Steve Shanley from Paramus Catholic; and Croskey, who led the Brothers to the Section II title and ran for 1,553 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior.
The two spring-semester transfers should also make an immediate impact. Quarterback Dan Harding joins the Great Danes after a year at the University of Akron and a season at Sierra College, where he threw for 1,859 yards and 18 touchdowns in eight games. Offensive tackle Mike Madaras, the 6-6, 285-pound older brother of Sam, played for Gattuso for two years at Maryland.
OL Alex Bowman, 6-4, 260 (Paramus Catholic, N.J.); FS Julian Cox, 6-2, 190 (New Castle, Pa.); WR Jordan Crocket, 5-9, 180 (Bishop McNamara, Md.); RB Elliott Croskey, 6-2, 200 (CBA); DE Zack DeLuca, 6-1, 240 (Pittsburgh Central Catholic); DE Jack Dudzinski, 6-4, 230 (Reservoir HS, Md.); QB Dan Harding, 6-4, 220 (Sierra College, Pa.); OLB Malachi Hoskins, 6-2, 200 (Loomis Chaffee, Conn.); FS Chris Johnson, 6-3, 180 (Oak Mountain, Ala.); OT Mike Madaras, 6-3, 285 (University of Maryland); OG Sam Madaras, 6-3, 285 (Our Lady of Good Counsel, Md.); TE Anthony Paolello, 6-2, 245 (St. Joseph Regional, Pa.); OLB Isaiah Powell, 6-1, 210 (Bergen Catholic, N.J.); OLB Greg Reaves, 6-2, 205 (Manatee, Fla.); DE/TE Lukas Repetti, 6-4, 240 (White Plains); OL Luke Ritter, 6-7, 285 (Delaware Valley, Pa.); WR Zee Roberson, 6-2, 180 (East Stroudsburgh South, Pa.); QB Steve Shanley, 6-3, 205 (Paramus Catholic, N.J.); K Ethan Stark,
6-3, 185 (McDowell, Pa.); LB DaSharnte Thompson, 6-1, 205 (Our Lady of Good Counsel, Md.); DL Foussenie Troare, 6-3, 235 (Friendship Collegiate Academy, Washington, D.C.).