ALBANY — With each season, University at Albany football head coach Greg Gattuso has grown more confident in the ability of his latest recruiting class to be up to the standards needed now that the Great Danes are in the CAA.
This season, Gattuso’s confidence has been matched with strong play from one of his most recent groups of new players. A number of this year’s younger players have already claimed starting roles, while others have become impact performers off the bench.
“Look through our lineup,” Gattuso said after Wednesday’s practice as the Great Danes prepared for Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. conference game at William & Mary. “It’s a ton of redshirt freshmen, redshirt sophomores.”
Especially on the defensive side of the ball. There, UAlbany’s two-deep depth chart this week lists a dozen players from its freshmen, redshirt freshman and redshirt sophomore ranks.
“We all knew we had to step up this year for the team,” redshirt freshman Isaiah Watson said. “We all were on the scout team together last year, and we’d talk about how we were going to do big things this year.”
This week, UAlbany’s starting linebackers are Watson, redshirt freshman Danny Damico and redshirt sophomore Levi Metheny.
“We were pretty fortunate to get our chances, and we’ve taken advantage of them,” Damico said.
Redshirt freshman Anthony Lang has played more each week on the defensive line. He spent last year studying the play of former UAlbany defensive lineman Malachi Hoskins, and Lang has recorded two sacks this season.
“As a young guy last year, I just wanted to learn a lot — as much as I could from the older guys,” Lang said. “I wanted to build off what they did.”
UAlbany’s defense hasn’t been stellar this season, but growth has been evident since the team allowed 78 points combined between its first two games. That progress has been made as UAlbany’s younger players have hit the field more.
“It’s all about depth, and depth of talent,” Gattuso said. “I think we’re starting to get there.”
UAlbany started playing in the CAA in 2013, but has not faced William & Mary since joining the conference.
“There’s been a rumor that they’ve been in the league,” Gattuso joked.
To this point, William & Mary is 1-3 overall on the season and 0-1 in CAA play. UAlbany is 2-2 overall after winning its last two games, and is also 0-1 in CAA action.
Gattuso said his coaching staff had previously developed some experience with William & Mary because of how often that program has shown up on game film as the Great Danes scouted for other CAA opponents.
“So I’m excited about going down there and playing,” Gattuso said.
No doubt about it
When Gattuso named redshirt senior Vincent Testaverde as his starting quarterback late in the preseason, the coach said he’d wait until after four games to evaluate Testaverde’s grip on the job.
Coming off his team’s bye week, Gattuso said that evaluation was a quick one.
“He’s been good,” Gattuso said. “He controls everything really well and knows how to run our offense.”
On the season, Testaverde — the son of the former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde — is 75 of 132 passing for 1,132 yards. He has passed for eight touchdowns and eight interceptions, but half of those turnovers came in one game.
Going forward, Gattuso said Vincent Testaverde “without a doubt” remains the Great Danes’ starter this season.