Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information
Albany, N.Y. – Head coach Bob Ford and the University at Albany football team will begin defense of their 2007 Northeast Conference championship when spring practice begins on Sunday, March 30. The Great Danes will conduct 15 NCAA-allowed spring workouts and will use both Alumni Turf Field (artificial) and Mara-Tisch Field (natural) as practice sites. The scheduled dates are: March 30 and 31 and April, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 14, 16, 18, 21, 23, 25 and 26.
2008 Spring Preview
UAlbany won its third Northeast Conference title in 2007 by becoming the fifth team in league history to go undefeated in conference play. The Great Danes will have to work even harder to repeat with a challenging non-league schedule and the addition of Duquesne as an NEC member.
Head coach Bob Ford has 48 letterwinners, including 12 starters, returning from a squad that finished with an 8-4 record. Spring practice will once again give the coaching staff an opportunity to work on all three phases of the game and evaluate personnel.
"On defense, we have to improve in the red zone," offers Ford, who has a 225-162-1 career record in 39 varsity seasons at the collegiate level. "It's a matter of tightening things up and being more aggressive in our approach. These practices will also allow us to identify the pass rushers and swing people on the defensive line."
Ford continues, "Certain elements of our run offense need to be established, and we have to become consistent in the three-step pass game. We want to review our punt returners and long snappers on special teams."
OFFENSE: Tailback David McCarty leads an offensive unit that ranked 20th nationally in rushing at nearly 209 yards per game. McCarty, who was named to the Sports Network All-America squad, ran for 1,503 yards, the third-highest single-season total in team history. McCarty grinded out eight 100-yard efforts, including a career-best 247 yards in a championship-clinching win against Central Connecticut State. Justin Gannon and Colin Simmons, a pair of juniors, rushed for 250-plus yards last season.
Quarterback Vinny Esposito, like McCarthy, made the most of his first season as a starter. He recorded the second-best single-season passing total in school annals with 1,810 yards. He threw 12 scoring passes and accounted for 1,946 yards in total offense. Frank Blasinsky, Dan Di Lella and Mike Tracy will also get plenty of work during spring drills.
The Great Danes can build around three all-conference offensive linemen, but will have to replace both starting guards. Raphael Nguti (6-6, 330) earned first-team All-NEC recognition at right tackle. Center Kevin Richards (6-2, 280) and left tackle Justin Tougas (6-6, 308) were named to the all-league second team.
UAlbany's starting receivers were seniors, but the rotation allowed for several players to be involved one year ago. Daniel Bocanegra, a converted quarterback, hauled in 26 passes for 316 yards. Tim Bush had 17 receptions for 225 yards and two TDs. In addition, the Great Danes have two tight ends in Dan Archer (7 catches) and Marcus Miles (10 catches) who have the ability to both block and become factors in the passing attack.
DEFENSE: The Great Danes featured a talented senior class on the defensive line. The unit helped the defense rank 17th in points allowed among the NCAA leaders. In fact, all three starters were members of the all-conference first or second teams.
The good news centers around defensive tackle Tom Pandolf (6-0, 260), a first-team All-NEC standout. Pandolf had his most productive campaign with 37 tackles and 3.0 sacks. Sophomore Trevor Anderson (6-2, 265, Cobleskill-Richmondville) also emerged as the season progressed and finished with 28 tackles, including seven for a loss. Mike Kelly and Tony Sparano, who had 10 tackles apiece, rotated at the defensive end positions.
At inside linebacker, UAlbany's all-time tackles leader is now a professional in Germany. Justin Brancaccio (6-0, 220) moved into the starting lineup and tied for second on the team with 63 tackles, including 6.5 for losses, last season. Mark Peretore, a fifth-year senior, has also been a starter during his career. He had 47 tackles in 2007. Chris Simpson (14 tackles) will also see playing time.
Emerson Kinsey (6-1, 215) worked at one of the outside linebacker spots, where he totaled 29 tackles, 3.5 sacks and recovered two fumbles. Dave Nicomini (6-3, 230) can float between the linebacker and safety positions. He was second on the squad with 63 tackles. A solid performer, Nicomini had six or more hits vs. six opponents.
UAlbany's secondary returns intact. Dave Casale had 56 tackles and two interceptions in his first year at free safety. Cornerbacks Jean Juste (34 tackles, 4 PBUs) and L.B. McCloskey (38 tackles, 3 INTs) were sound in their new roles. Safety Dave West and cornerback Ross Bertrand (31 tackles, 3 PBUs) showed great improvement. West, a second-team All-NEC selection, had 60 tackles, five pass deflections and two interceptions.
KICKING GAME: Punter Chris Lynch set the program's single-season record by averaging 40.5 yards per attempt. Lynch and Herb Glass are candidates for the place-kicking duties.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information