Sunday, April 5, 2009

Younger Players Show Improvement in Sunday's UAlbany Intrasquad Football Scrimmage

Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information

Albany, N.Y. – University at Albany head football coach Bob Ford and his coaching staff know what performances that will get from All-America tailbacks and all-conference linebackers. But the unknown are the younger players. Their opportunity to be evaluated and develop comes during spring practice.

“Hopefully they have paid attention as members of the look squad,” said Ford about the true freshman who are finishing up their first full season with the program after spending time running the opponents’ plays last fall. “This is where they can prove they belong on the bus and warrant a little closer look.”

In Sunday’s 60-play scrimmage at University Field, quarterback Andrew Smith and outside linebacker Jon Morgan certainly got Ford’s attention. Smith threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to fullback Justin Peterson and broke off a 44-yard scamper in the same offensive series. Morgan was active early in the intrasquad contest with three tackles and one pass break-up.

While competing for playing time behind starter Vinny Esposito, Smith is using the 15 NCAA-allowed spring workouts to improve his footwork and shorten up his strides when delivering the football. “I am getting more reps and starting to feel myself out,” offered Smith, who hails from Guilderland, N.Y. and was a second-team all-state selection as high school senior. “I am spending more time with Coach (Ryan) McCarthy working on protection calls and making my reads.”

UAlbany’s defense has seven starters returning from a unit that helped capture a second consecutive Northeast Conference championship, but there is plenty of room for another good linebacker. Morgan, who played in the 2008 Empire Challenge on the Long Island squad, is inching closer to earning a spot on the Great Danes’ travel roster for the opener against Georgia Southern in September.

“I am just starting to get all this stuff,” explained Morgan, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound athlete from Copiague, N.Y. “I was a nervous wreck at first and the first scrimmage this spring was not that great. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel more comfortable with my assignments and the pass drops.”

Smith and Morgan haven’t made any all-star teams, but their work has been recognized.

Paw Prints: The Great Danes have six more practices this month, including a tentatively scheduled spring game on Saturday, April 18 ... Bob Ford, the 2008 NEC Coach of the Year, has some concerns about the offensive line after losing two all-conference tackles, but is pleased with the progress of Vince Gonazles ... the 6-foot-4, 275-pound junior has worked at all three line positions over the last three years ... Eddie Delaney, a second-team All-NEC defensive end, had four tackles, one sack and one pass deflection during Sunday’s scrimmage ... defensive tackle Zach Gallo totaled three tackles, including one for a loss, and one pass break-up ... quarterback Vinny Esposito scored on a 15-yard scramble in a red-zone situation ... cornerback Ross Bertrand picked off a pass at midfield ... Herb Glass booted a pair of field goals, including a 45-yarder ...

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