ALBANY — After his team’s first spring practice this year, University at Albany football head coach Greg Gattuso declared the quarterback spot belonged to redshirt sophomore Will Brunson, the program’s incumbent starter.
“Unless he opens the door,” Gattuso had said, “it’ll be his job.”
A month later? At camp’s end?
That door is certainly open, and redshirt junior Vincent Testaverde has made that the case.
“The quarterback spot,” Gattuso said after Saturday’s spring game, “is wide open.”
Really, it seems to be leaning one way — and that is toward Vincent Testaverde, the son of former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde.
In a surprise move, Vincent Testaverde started Saturday’s scrimmage at quarterback. Generally, he fared better than Brunson, too. Unofficially, Testaverde completed 11 of 18 passes and threw for two touchdowns, while Brunson completed 4 of 9 passes and threw a touchdown and an interception. (Passing yards were not kept.)
“All in all,” Gattuso said, “I was happy to see one of the quarterbacks step up and make a couple throws and I think that was important.”
Later, Gattuso said Testaverde has shown his natural talent in the scrimmage. Meanwhile, Gattuso said Brunson needs to “get back in the groove of being who he is” before the Great Danes get back together this summer.
Brunson worked with the first-team offense for the majority of UAlbany’s spring sessions, but Testaverde received the most first-team reps Thursday. With a wide smile and after speaking with his father for a few minutes after Saturday’s scrimmage, Testaverde acknowledged a “wide open” designation for the starting quarterback spot was good news for himself.
“Coming in as a new transfer, I’m glad that [Gattuso] gave me the opportunity to compete for the starting job,” said Testaverde, who arrived last fall from Miami. “I’m just going to be consistent, do whatever I can do to win the job.”
He added: “But, yeah, I’m happy.”
Brunson handled the developing quarterback competition in stride.
“We’re just trying to work hard every single day to try to make each other better,” Brunson said, “and the best guy’s going to be out there.”
At the moment, that appears to be Testaverde. The first few weeks of the preseason will determine that answer for sure.
“The first two, three weeks of camp are going to be telling of who the starter is going to be,” Gattuso said.
Away from the offensive side of the ball, nothing much has changed for the Great Danes. Their defense is still pretty good, and clearly the program’s top strength.
“The whole spring, we built on doing your job and everyone [being] in the right place,” UAlbany redshirt junior lineman Brian Dolce said of the Great Danes’ defense, which was credited Saturday with seven sacks, three fumble recoveries — including one for a 64-yard touchdown return by freshman Anthony Lang — and an interception.
On that side of the ball is where Gattuso said the Great Danes look most ready as the 2018 season nears.
“All in all, I think the defense, we’re stout,” Gattuso said. “We play hard.”
Back on track
While freshman Karl Mofor produced the best rushing game with 64 yards, junior Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks finished his spring looking healthy and strong.
“I thought he had a really good spring,” Gattuso said.
Following a breakout 2016 season, Ibitokun-Hanks was limited to playing in only one game last season because of lingering issues with his recovery from a torn left ACL.
In 2016, Ibitokun-Hanks rushed for 1,388 yards and 16 touchdowns before tearing his ACL in that season’s final game. Last year, Ibitokun-Hanks rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown in 17 carries.
Gattuso said he beat senior tight end Greig Stire — this past winter’s starting center for the school’s men’s basketball team — in a recent game of 1-on-1 hoops.
“I beat him 11-6. He struggled,” Gattuso said. “I blocked a few shots. I think he had a little trouble with [my] crossover.”
Greg Gattuso on Greig Stire’s development this spring and what presumably was a fictional 1-on-1 game they played. pic.twitter.com/vHua3Xb8Yc— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) April 28, 2018
Regardless of the legitimacy of that 1-on-1 game, Gattuso has been impressed with the way Stire has crossed over into becoming a college football player. Stire made one catch for 23 yards Saturday and appears ready to stick with the sport he never played at the varsity level in high school at CBA.
“He just has a learning curve right now that he’s fighting through,” Gattuso said.