ALBANY — One star is back, another is still out.
University at Albany football head coach Greg Gattuso said Wednesday he expects junior running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks to miss the Great Danes’ Week 2 game Saturday at Morgan State, while junior safety Mason Gray will play.
Both players missed UAlbany’s season-opening 31-17 loss last Saturday at Old Dominion. Gray was suspended for the first half of play and was dealing with a knee injury, while Ibitokun-Hanks missed the game because of his injured left knee.
Ibitokun-Hanks, the seventh-leading FCS rusher last year, tore his left ACL in UAlbany’s final game of the 2016 season. Three weeks ago, he reinjured the same knee — but not the ACL — during a practice. Gattuso said Ibitokun-Hanks had tried to practice Wednesday, but could not make it through the workout.
“He’s out,” Gattuso said. “I was hoping he could go, but I don’t think he’ll be able to go. He’s definitely out because I don’t think he can practice [Thursday].”
Ibitokun-Hanks did move Wednesday without a limp, an improvement from past weeks. In his place Saturday, UAlbany will again rely on freshman Karl Mofor and redshirt junior Kendall Rodgers Jr. to run the ball. Against Old Dominion, Mofor was particularly impressive, turning 21 carries into 99 yards and a touchdown.
Gray’s return bolsters the Great Danes’ secondary. UAlbany had to shift around several of its players last weekend to make up for Gray’s absence.
“Mason’s worked hard to get back,” Gattuso said. “He’s busted his tail.”
“It’s definitely adds some experience,” senior defensive lineman Malachi Hoskins said of Gray’s addition.
Gray was suspended for the first half of this past weekend’s game because of a targeting penalty he was called for in last year’s finale against Stony Brook.
“I’m still going to play my game. I’m still going to be physical,” Gray said. “I’m just going to be a little bit smarter.”
Even without the suspension, Gray likely would have missed last week’s game because of his knee injury. He said Wednesday was the first day he practiced at full strength.
“He might be a little limited in how many snaps we give him,” Gattuso said, “but we’d love to have him out there.”
No Testaverde yet
Gattuso said Vincent Testaverde, who committed to joining UAlbany last week, took his physical Wednesday and is expected to participate in his first practice Thursday with the Great Danes.
Testaverde — son of Vinny Testaverde, the former New York Jets quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner — was previously at the University of Miami, where his father starred at quarterback. Prior to his years with the Hurricanes, Vincent Testaverde played for a year at Texas Tech.
A quarterback, Testaverde will be a redshirt walk-on this season for the Great Danes. After sitting out the 2017 season, he’ll have one remaining season of eligibility.
UAlbany’s season-opening loss dropped the Great Danes from the STATS FCS Top 25 poll.
The Great Danes had entered the season ranked No. 24 in the poll.
UAlbany has not been ranked in the coaches poll this season.