“We think we can win the conference” – The Daily Gazette

Selected to finish 12th out of 13 teams in the Colonial Athletic Association’s annual preseason survey of conference head coaches and media relations directors, UAlbany head football coach Greg Gattuso, presented somewhat bolder expectations for the 2022 season.

“We think we can win the conference,” Gattuso said Thursday during the CAA’s media day conference call with reporters.

UAlbany, 2-9 a season ago, was chosen ahead of CAA’s only newcomer Hampton in the league’s pre-season poll, but Gattuso – who signed a two-year contract extension until 2024 after the 2021 season – does not give much importance to such exercises. .

“We’re voting on that,” Gattuso said. “I don’t know if I would use coaches to predict a finish order. I don’t know if it works really well, because it’s not our thing. But, I never believed in preseason voting or preseason All-American teams. I do not like it. I just think that’s silly.

Villanova topped the preseason poll with 270 points and 16 of 26 first-hand votes. Delaware finished second with 235 points, followed by Rhode Island, Richmond, William & Mary, Elon, Stony Brook, Maine, New Hampshire, Monmouth, Towson, UAlbany and Hampton.

UAlbany ended 2021 bottom of the CAA with a 1-7 league mark, although that included five defeats of seven points or less.

Correcting those small mistakes that worsened the Great Danes’ tight losing streak has been a primary focus of the team’s offseason program.

“The most important thing is to keep repeating that the devil is in the details and to do the little things right,” said senior tight end Thomas Greaney. “We saw so many things last year, it wasn’t necessarily the biggest games, it was the little things in the game that ended up making the difference…it’s the little things that will make us AAC champions.

UAlbany’s hope of a rebound from back-to-back losing campaigns – the Great Danes were 1-3 in their shortened Spring 2021 season – will come from a character cast that has been heavily tweaked, both on the ground and on the sidelines.

Gone in the field are the likes of first rusher Karl Mofor upon graduation and star defensive end Jared Verse via transfer to Florida State. The coaching staff also changed, with offensive coordinator Joe Davis and offensive line coach Jim Sweeney absent, and former Delaware offensive coordinator Jared Ambrose brought in to lead the UAlbany offense.

Gattuso and his staff were also busy on the NCAA transfer portal, with new arrivals including running back Todd Sibley from Pittsburgh and kicker/kicker Tyler Pastula – who, along with second-year linebacker Jackson Ambush, has was selected to the CAA Pre-Season Conference Team – from Delaware.

“Even though we lost some good players, we think we added more good players,” Gattuso said.

And then there’s the quarterback situation.

The most high-profile position on the court was often on the move for the Great Danes in 2021, with 2019 All-American Jeff Undercuffler often struggling and splitting playing time with backup Joey Carino – who made his first start in career against William & Mary when Undercuffler traveled with the team but did not adapt. Undercuffler, who had back-to-back difficult seasons after rewriting UAlbany’s single-season assist record book by leading the Great Danes to the 2019 NCAA FCS Playoffs, was traded to Akron in the offseason.

In the spring, it was an open three-way competition between Carino, returning third stringer Tyler Szalkowski, and grad student Matt Valecce — a transfer from Colorado State — for the QB1 role.

The competition has widened further since then, with another transfer – Old Dominion’s second Reese Poffenbarger – joining the fray. Gattuso said the four will have a chance to be atop the depth chart when the Great Danes open their season Sept. 3 in Waco, Texas against Baylor.

“I just met them yesterday,” Gattuso said. “Each of them can win the job. There is nothing that helps your football team more than the competition. It makes everyone shine, or someone’s gonna melt. I don’t know who it’s gonna be.

Regardless of the sub-centre, Gattuso said the Great Danes are ready to figuratively “bury” the disappointment of 2021 and move on, regardless of the expectations of the rest of CAA.

After all, in 2019 the Great Danes were picked last in the CAA preseason poll, and that team went on to produce the most successful campaign in program history, finishing second in the conference and giving UAlbany their first FCS playoff win.

“At the end of the day,” Ambush said, “you can’t talk a lot. You have to show it with action. Preseason is preseason.

“We have a lot of games ahead of us.”

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Categories: College Sports, Sports, UAlbany

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