Sunday, April 5, 2009

University of Albany FCS Football Live Scrimmage Today @ 2:15pm - Open To Public

With many of its key skill-position players returning, University at Albany’s football team should be a good bet to win is third consecutive Northeast Conference championship this fall.

UAlbany head coach Bob Ford, the active FCS leader with 234 career victories, has 48 letterwinners, including 14 starters, returning from a 9-3 team that became the first NEC program to be crowned Gridiron Classic champion.

Ford received some unexpected news on the eve of his first spring practice as Tim Bush, a wide receiver from Saratoga Springs, received a sixth year of eligibility. Bush, a first-team All-NEC selection, received a medical hardship waiver based on an injury suffered when he was a member of the Hudson Valley Community College program. He set UAlbany’s single-season record with 67 receptions for 794 yards and five touchdowns last season.

But Bush won’t be the only weapon available for Ford, who will use the spring session to fill in several lineman positions on both sides of the ball.

“The spring will allow us to work on being more physical and our mental toughness,” said Ford, who was named the NEC Coach of the Year for the third time. “We need to look at our offensive line, but I think we have enough talent to get the job done. We will look at personnel and try packages for different players.

“On defense, we need to solidify our defensive tackle situation and who our fourth cornerback will be. On special teams, I want to take a look at field goals and identify another punt returner.”

The heart and soul of the UAlbany offense will be All-America tailback David McCarty (LaSalle) who rushed for a school-record 1,852 yards and 13 touchdowns. He reached the 100-yard plateau 11 times, including 271 against Jacksonville in the Gridiron Classic.

Justin Gannon, a second-team All-NEC kick returner, accounted for 973 all-purpose yards, including 200 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Quarterback Vinny Esposito tossed for 1,934 yards, the second-best figure in program history, and improved his accuracy to a 60.3 completion percentage. He also ran for 148 yards and 10 scores.

The Great Danes lost one All-American and two all-league performers on the offensive line but return center Kevin Richards (6-foot-2, 270 pounds), a second-team All-NEC selection, and left guard Andrew Stevens (6-4, 275).

Defensively, the Danes held six opponents to under 300 total yards, but they lost All-America defensive tackle Tom Pandolf to graduation. Trevor Anderson (6-2, 285), who made 37 tackles and recorded 2.5 sacks as a junior, Mike Kelly (52 tackles) and Tony Sparano (18 hits in half a season) were productive linemen a year ago, along with 6-6, 235-pound Eddie Delaney, who plays with one hand. Delaney made 37 tackles and deflected six passes.

Justin Brancaccio, the team’s leading tackler with 91, returns at inside linebacker along with Chris Simpson (38 tackles). Emerson Kinsey (25 tackles), Rich Duff (46 tackles and Dave Nicomini, who sat out last season after earning first-team All-NEC honors in 2007, round out a deep outside linebacker corps that also includes Chris Blais (31 tackles).

Al-ECAC standout Dave Casale, who intercepted seven passes and made 74 tackles, paces the secondary, which also includes Ross Bertrand (36 tackles), Jean Juste (27 tackles) and Daniel Avery (17 tackles, two interceptions).

Sophomore Herb Glass converted 33 of 36 PATs and 6 of 13 field-goal attempts for 51 points. The Great Danes will need to replace a record-setting punter.

By Bob Weiner
Gazette Reporter

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