ALBANY — The bye week came at the right time for UAlbany football.
And, when the Great Danes are through it, they project to be ready to continue chasing after a spot in the FCS playoffs with their full complement — or, at least something close to it — of players.
“We’re hoping that Sunday we have a full squad,” UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso said at Wednesday’s practice.
UAlbany (3-1 CAA, 5-3 overall) won back-to-back conference games before its bye week, but left last weekend’s win against Rhode Island with a number of players hurting.
“We’re really banged up, but it’s actually been a really good practice today,” Gattuso said. “A lot of enthusiasm.”
In the last few weeks, approximately one-third of UAlbany’s defensive and offensive starters have missed some amount of playing time with injuries. Gattuso said it’s possible, though, UAlbany gets back to full strength for its Nov. 2 home game against Maine.
“These guys are all working hard to get back,” said Gattuso, whose defensive secondary and offensive line will benefit the most from the week without a game.
UAlbany will practice Thursday, but will take Friday and Saturday off before getting back to its normal weekly routine starting on Sunday.
UAlbany, which was picked to finish in last place in the CAA preseason poll after back-to-back losing seasons, is tied for second place in the CAA with New Hampshire and Villanova. James Madison, at 4-0 in league play, leads the CAA.
Larry Walker was one of several Great Danes that injuries forced last Saturday into extra playing time, and the freshman safety was stellar.
“He’s going to be a really good one,” Gattuso said.
Walker made four solo tackles and assisted on two more tackles.
“I was the next guy up,” said Walker, who had to replace fifth-year senior Josh Wynn.
Besides his tackles, Walker also made a hit on a Rhode Island receiver that led to a deflection that teammate Tyler Carswell intercepted to set up a UAlbany offensive score.
“He changed the [receiver’s] hands and the ball popped up,” Gattuso said.
Walker has appeared in seven games this season. Most games, though, he hasn’t played in more than a few series of plays. Against Rhode Island, Walker ended up entering the team’s lineup in the second quarter and played the rest of the game.
“You let go of all the nerves after that first hit,” Walker said.
Following UAlbany’s bye, the Great Danes have four remaining games in their regular season. That means a true freshman who has not played yet this season could play the remainder of the regular season and still maintain redshirt status.
Gattuso said it’s “possible” the Great Danes could use a new player or two during the season’s final weeks. The only player Gattuso listed, though, as likely to make a debut late this season is linebacker Bobby Ambush.
“We’ve kind of been saving him,” Gattuso said.