Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Future of University of Albany FCS Football

University at Albany's Andrew Smith ran downfield pumping his fist on Wednesday after throwing a screen pass that Justin Gannon turned into a long touchdown.

"Way to block!" Smith, a former Guilderland High star, yelled to his teammates in the end zone.

A few minutes later, Smith missed open receiver Devin Wooten deep downfield with an underthrown pass.

Smith is experiencing the normal growing pains of a freshman quarterback so far in spring practice, which concludes Saturday with the Purple-Gold intrasquad scrimmage on University Field at 10:15 a.m. There will be four 12-minute quarters in the scrimmage, which is free to the public.

"They're doing a great job showing patience with me, but we're getting there, slowly but surely," said Smith, who will play for the Purple team.

Offensive coordinator Ryan McCarthy said Smith, UAlbany's quarterback of the future, is getting better every day. "He's a work in progress, but he has the ability to throw the football," McCarthy said. "He's got everything going for him. He doesn't know how good he is."

While returning senior Vinny Esposito is the unquestioned starter after winning consecutive Northeast Conference titles, Smith could be in a position to challenge senior Frank Blasinsky for the No. 2 spot next fall.

"I don't know if he's going to beat Frank out, but he's going to do some things that other guys can't," McCarthy said.

Smith will be a redshirt freshman next season after sitting out last fall. The University at Albany is trying to refine Smith from a running quarterback in high school to a more accurate passer.

He rushed for 940 yards and passed for 552 while leading Guilderland to the Class AA Section II Super Bowl in 2007.

"They know I have the physical tools," Smith said. "It's just the mental aspect of playing quarterback ... It's a gift I have of running, but you can't use it all the time."

Smith, who is 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, said he's working on following through on his throws and shortening his stride.

Esposito said he has seen improvement from Smith.

"I think he was always a good athlete, but he's turning into more of a quarterback per se," Esposito said. "He's becoming a little less frantic in the pocket and he looks pretty promising."

McCarthy said Smith, the only Great Dane on a full football scholarship, could also be used on special teams immediately to take advantage of his athleticism.

"We're going to get him on the field as many ways as we can," McCarthy said. "We'd be crazy not to."

Mark Singelais

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