ALBANY — Through the early days of the University at Albany football program’s preseason camp, the team’s three-way quarterback competition has rolled right along
To this point, head coach Greg Gattuso said Monday that each of the three quarterbacks vying for the starting spot “have all played up to their level,” but that redshirt freshman Jeff Undercuffler has spent the most time working with the team’s No. 1 group since camp opened last Wednesday.
“We’re starting to improve in the areas we’ve targeted,” said Gattuso, whose team opens its season Aug. 29 at Central Michigan. “The quarterbacks are all playing at a decent level right now, all three of them, so that’s a positive thing. We’re still so early.”
Along with Undercuffler, redshirt junior Griffin Dahn and redshirt freshman Braeden Zenelovic are also potential starters for UAlbany at quarterback. In particular, Gattuso said Dahn — a transfer from Nevada — will see more time with the Great Danes’ projected starting group in the coming days.
While not involved with the quarterback competition, freshman Jah Dabney has also spent time playing the position. Dabney, Gattuso said, could be an option for the Great Danes as a wildcat quarterback, but is more likely to see the field as a running back or slot receiver.
“Right now, we just like his athleticism and his playmaking ability,” Gattuso said of the 6-foot-0, 200-pound Dabney . “We’re teaching him a little differently than we would a regular freshman.”
SORTING IT OUT
Gattuso said three of his starting offensive linemen are nearly set, with redshirt senior Sean Kennedy at right tackle, redshirt senior Griffin Clancy at left guard and senior Niko Culnan at center.
“I think the right guard and left tackle spots are wide open,” Gattuso said. “There’s still a lot of competition left there.”
While UAlbany’s offensive line went through growing pains last season, this year’s group projects as a more experienced one. Clancy, Culnan and Kennedy each played in all 11 games last season for UAlbany.
“We all trust each other,” said Culnan, a Colonie High School graduate. “We’re not worried about anyone not knowing what they’re doing.”
Similarly, UAlbany’s secondary — a position group hit hard last season by injury — is veteran-filled this preseason with a number of players who saw meaningful playing time last season.
“We have a lot of depth now,” said redshirt senior defensive back Kareem Gibson, who started eight games last season. “We have a lot of guys that played last year, and that’s our biggest strength.”
Monday’s practice at UAlbany was a relatively quiet one, and Gattuso said this year’s Great Danes have demonstrated a “very businesslike” approach.
“Every team is different . . . and I want them to be who they are,” Gattuso said. “I can’t fault the production at practice.”
The sense of urgency is there for the Great Danes, a squad that was picked to finish in last place in the CAA this upcoming season. While the team has been practicing for less than a week, Gattuso said he reminds his coaching staff each day how quickly the program’s opener is going to arrive.
“We’ve got 10, 12 days to figure out who our team is,” Gattuso said. “Then, we’ve got to really start practicing to get ready for Central Michigan.”