Danes Football Prepare for a Bounce Back Season
After going 4-7 in 2017 and finishing 10th in the CAA, the University at Albany football team looks to bounce back in 2018.
The team will be lead by fifth-year senior quarterback, Vincent Testaverde, who will be under the helm for his first season with the Great Danes after transferring from the University of Miami last year, where he redshirted. Testaverde, the son of former New York Jets QB and Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde, has not started a game since his freshman year in 2014 for Texas Tech.
Testaverde was announced as the starting quarterback in August by head coach Greg Gattuso, beating out last season’s starter, redshirt junior Will Brunson and sophomore Nyc Burns.
“It was competitive all the way until the end,” Gattuso said in reference to the competition for the starting QB job. “This is not a lifetime appointment, but we’re going to give Vincent time to go.”
Gattuso has said Testaverde will start the first four games of the season before reevaluating the position.
Testaverde will don No. 14 as a tribute to his father, the same number he wore during his time at Miami.
Helping Testaverde this year will be new Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Joe Davis, who spent the last two seasons as the QB coach and Pass Game Coordinator at Fordham University.
The Great Danes will also benefit from the return of their star running back, junior Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks.
Ibitokun-Hanks, a member of 2016 All-CAA team, missed all but one game last season, recovering from a knee injury after leading the CAA in rushing in 2016 with 126 yards per game and 16 TD’s.
“I feel great,” Ibitokun-Hanks said on his recovery process. “I’m healthy and ready to go and show that this is a team to be taken seriously in the CAA.”
Ibitokun-Hanks will be joined by Karl Mofor, who as a freshman ran for 555 yards and six TD’s.
Junior wide receiver Donovan McDonald, who was selected as part of the CAA Preseason All-Conference team as a punt returner, will look to contribute on both offense and special teams as he did last season with 29 receptions for 339 yards and 3 TD’s along with 468 total yards on kickoffs.
The Great Danes’ defense will be led by defensive back Josh Wynn who lead all returning players with 74 tackles last season, along with an interception and a forced fumble. Other defensive standouts to look out for include linebacker Eli Mencer (Third Team All-CAA in 2017) and defensive back Mason Gray (71 tackles, 3 pass deflections.)
UAlbany will be tested early and often throughout the season, starting the year on the road against the Pittsburgh Panthers, an FBS team in the ACC conference.
Coach Gattuso has a connection with Pitt, where he served between 2005-2010, first as Tight Ends Coach before being promoted to Defensive Line Coach.
Offensive Line coach Jim Sweeney, Tight End coach Nate Byham, and Safeties coach Jarred Holley all graduated and played for Pitt before beginning their coaching career.
While a win against the Panthers would be considered an upset, it is not impossible, as UAlbany started off their 2016 season by defeating FBS opponent Buffalo 22-16.
Some predictions call for UAlbany to make a surprise push for a spot in the CAA playoffs this year. The team avoids playing conference elites in Villanova and James Madison, and while their non-conference games against Pitt, Morgan State and St. Francis all less relevant when it comes to playoff seeding, the team will look to improve on their 2-6 record in conference play last year.
Another key for the team is going to be improving on the road, where the went just 1-5 a year ago, despite finishing about .500 when playing on their home turf at 3-2. Road matchups against Rhode Island and Maine, both of whom the Great Danes lost to last season, will be able to provide the team with such redemption.