Friday, August 1, 2008

UAlbany Football Begins 2008 Preseason on Monday, Aug. 4 with Afternoon Practice

Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information

The University of Albany football program begins preseason camp on Monday, August 4 with an afternoon practice, from 2:30-4:30 p.m. The Great Danes will conduct their preseason practices on the UAlbany campus’ Dutch Quad intramural fields. UAlbany opens its 36th varsity campaign against Massachusetts on Saturday, August 30 in Amherst, Mass. Kickoff is 6:00 p.m. ET.


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.

"We have greater team depth and a stable of quality athletes," offers head coach Bob Ford, who enters his 40th season at the collegiate level with a 225-162-1 career record. "But at the same time, we have more question marks than we've had in recent times heading into fall camp."

Ford has 47 letterwinners, including 11 starters, returning from a squad that finished with an 8-4 record. The Great Danes have produced seven or more wins six times as a FCS program.

"We will be a decent football team on defense," Ford says. "The linebackers and defensive backs are solid. (Dave) Nicomini's injury hurts us greatly. We lost some excellent players on the defensive line."

Ford continues, "Our running attack is pretty good behind a scrappy group of offensive linemen. We need more productivity in the passing game and consistent play from our receivers."

The Great Danes will open with four consecutive Colonial Athletic Conference opponents, including national runner-up Delaware and NCAA quarterfinalist Massachusetts in preparation for the NEC schedule.

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.

"David (McCarty) has great balance and a competitive spirit," Ford states. "He probably has added nearly 20 pounds and has increased strength."

Quarterback Vinny Esposito, like McCarty, 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, who saw time behind center the last two years, is second on the depth chart.

"Vinny is an accurate thrower who puts the ball in the right position," Ford explains. "He's relaxed and confident and his teammates believe in him."

The Great Danes can build around two all-conference offensive linemen, but will have to replace both guards. Raphael Nguti (6-6, 330) earned first-team All-NEC recognition at right tackle. Nguti's tremendous size will provide him an opportunity to continue his career following graduation. Center Kevin Richards (6-2, 270) was named to the all-league second team. Nik Schultz (6-2, 285) should start at left guard after playing in 25 games as a collegian, while Jon Leible (6-5, 305) will work at right guard.

UAlbany's starting receivers were seniors, but the rotation allowed for several players to be involved. Daniel Bocanegra, a converted quarterback, hauled in 26 passes for 316 yards. Bocanegra has also been the team's primary punt returner. Tim Bush had 17 receptions for 225 yards and two TDs. In addition, the Great Danes have two improving 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 last year on the defensive line. The unit helped the defense rank 17th among the NCAA scoring 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) also emerged as the season progressed and finished with 28 tackles, including seven for a loss.

"Tom (Pandolf) has good quickness combined with an intuitive sense for the game," Ford states. "He has the ability to stay on his feet and understands his role."

Mike Kelly (6-2, 245) and Tony Sparano (5-11, 253), who had 10 tackles apiece, are the projected starters at the defensive end positions. Eddie Delaney (6-5, 210) showed promise as a scout team member.

At inside linebacker, UAlbany's all-time tackles leader Colin Disch 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. "Justin has been a bright light," Ford offers. "He is big, strong and fast, and has continued to mature into the position."

Mark Peretore, a fifth-year senior, has also been a starter during his career. He has made 45-plus tackles in each of the last two seasons. Chris Simpson (14 tackles) will also see playing time in his junior year.

Emerson Kinsey (6-1, 215) worked at one of the outside linebacker spots, where he totaled 29 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries. He has the skills to become an all-conference performer. Dave Nicomini (6-3, 230) can float between the linebacker and safety positions. He was second on the squad with 63 tackles last season. Nicomini's status will be determined later following knee surgery. Rich Duff (22 tackles) and Raymond Dorcely will be ready pending his availability.

UAlbany's secondary returns intact. Dave Casale had 56 tackles and two interceptions in his first year at free safety. Cornerbacks L.B. McCloskey (38 tackles, 3 INTs) and Jean Juste (34 tackles, 4 PBUs) were sound in their expanded roles. Dave West and cornerback Ross Bertrand were greatly improved. West, a second-team All-NEC safety, had 60 tackles, five pass deflections and two interceptions. Bertrand totaled 31 tackles and three PBUs as a true freshman.

KICKING GAME: Punter Chris Lynch set the program's single-season record by averaging 40.5 yards last year. Lynch, who handled placements as freshman, and Herb Glass are candidates for the place-kicking duties.

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