ALBANY — For the most part, the University at Albany football team has made it through its preseason camp without significant injuries that affected the construction of the top of its depth chart.
Part of that is because of good fortune and luck, but UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso said after Wednesday’s practice at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium that the Great Danes also changed their practice schedule this preseason to allow for more rest.
“What we’ve done is keep our stretches of work to four days,” Gattuso said. “So they get an off day on the fifth day.”
That schedule is fairly similar to the one UAlbany normally uses during the regular season, but is a change from past preseasons. In order to get the Great Danes an off day every fifth day, Gattuso said UAlbany lost one practice during the preseason in comparison to past years, but that was a trade he was willing to make.
“We’re working hard to find the maximum time for them to take care of their bodies,” said Gattuso, who added the program had also increased time for rehabilitation work for players that suffered minor injuries.
The Great Danes open their season Aug. 29 at Central Michigan. With the team’s depth chart relatively settled heading into its first game, the most significant injury that affected a positional battle during the preseason for UAlbany was when redshirt junior Griffin Dahn broke his hand to end his bid to start at quarterback over redshirt freshman Jeff Undercuffler.
Not all positional battles during the Great Danes’ preseason produced a clear winner.
Between UAlbany’s starting defense and offense, four positions — right guard, tight end, nose guard and a linebacker spot — don’t have players slotted as clear No. 1 and No. 2 options. Instead, those positions have two players listed with an “or” in between them.
“And when you’re an ‘or’ at this point, that means we’re going to rotate them both into the starting groups,” Gattuso said.
At right guard, redshirt freshman Kobe Thomas and redshirt sophomore Kassy Desir are listed together; at tight end, it’s redshirt juniors LJ Wesneski and Murad Hussain; at nose guard, listed are redshirt sophomore Mazon Walker and redshirt junior Ibn Foster; and, at a linebacker position are redshirt freshman Joe Casale and redshirt sophomore Isaiah Watson.
“We consider them all starters,” Gattuso said.
With the morning’s rain rotating between lightly falling and down pouring, UAlbany used a significant chunk of its practice-closing scrimmage session to work on situations involving making significant personnel substitutions. With haste, UAlbany worked on the process of switching its offensive and defensive lineups to ones needed for special-teams plays.
“It was a really big improvement from Sunday,” Gattuso said of how the Great Danes handled those situations.
Gattuso said “game operations” has been a major focus of this week, as the Great Danes look to eliminate the “silly, controllable penalties” that plagued them during last year’s 3-8 campaign.
“We need to eliminate silly mistakes,” Gattuso said. “We can’t go there [next week], and be competitive and play a good game if we’re making dumb mistakes.”