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UAlbany Football Looks To Improve In 2019

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The University at Albany Great Danes return to the field Thursday against the Central Michigan Chippewas after a disappoint 1-7 record in 2018 Colonial Athletic Association play.

The lone win came in the final week of UAlbany’s season against No. 10 ranked Stony Brook when freshman quarterback Jeff Undercuffler made his third start of the season. He led the Great Danes to a 25-23 win and created optimism heading into 2019.

The Man Under Center:

Undercuffler will start at quaterback for UAlbany to begin the season. The massive 6-foot-five, 231-pound redshirt freshman completed 2018 with three starts, compiling 526 yards and four touchdowns.

The Great Danes coaching staff brought in Nevada transfer Griffin Dahn to compete with Undercuffler, but he broke his throwing hand and is expected, at the least, to miss the first few weeks of the season.

The Skills Positions Are Key to Success:

The Danes’ offense will return their starting running back and top-four wide receivers from 2018. Karl Mofor has led the UAlbany backfield since he was a freshman, compiling 1,151 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.

The foursome of Dev Holmes, Juwan Green, Josh Reeves and Donovan McDonald combined for 13 receiving touchdowns in 2018. They have also shown strong chemistry with Undercuffler during camp.

Holmes, a Capital Region native, leads the group and is an All-Colonial Athletic Association Preseason Honorable Mention. He had 50 catches for 739 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman. He was a three-time CAA Rookie of the Week and caught eight passes for 238 yards, 13 yards shy of the single-game program record, in his third collegiate game.

“I think our running back and receiving core are the best in the CAA, hands down,” Undercuffler told Pete Iorizzo of the UAlbany Sports Information Departments.

There are two leaders of the tight end pack, LJ Wesneski and Murad Hussain. Wesneski started 10 games last season, but Hussain played in seven 2017 games before missing all of last season due to injury. His ability to come back from a season-long injury will likely help sort the competition moving forward, but Wesneski is listed as the Week 1 starter.

The Offensive Line Enters With Experience:

UAlbany will return one full-time starter, center Niko Culnan, and three part-time 2018 starters, Griffin Clancey, Sean Kennedy and Micah Royster. Kobe Thomas will be the Week 1 starter at right guard, but the coaching staff has noted they are comfortable with the depth if the plan does not work accordingly.

The Front-Seven is Both Experienced and Talented:

Nick Dillon and Nick Griffin are both fifth-year seniors who will lead the experience up-front. Eli Mencer will join them coming off a team-leading 4.5 sacks in 2018. He was named an All-CAA Preseason Honorable Mention.

Levi Metheny and Danny Damico will lead the team after recording 92 and 81 tackles respectively. Metheny’s 92 tackles came one season after only recording 23 and playing mostly on special teams. There are heavy expectations for these two to improve further.

The Secondary Seeks Good Health:

After an injury-plagued 2018, the team will reinsert veteran safeties Tyler Carswell and Josh Wynn into the lineup. They are accompanied by cornerbacks Kareem Gibson and Jarren Williams, who have combined for 21 career pass break ups and two interceptions.

Kicking Into a New Gear:

Ethan Stark, who was both the punter and place kicker, graduated from UAlbany, leaving Dylan Burns to handle the Week 1 place kicker duties and Joey Mitchell to punt after averaging 43 yards in high school. Burns has the most to prove, as the team brought in Francesco Ancona, who was 53-54 on extra points and has a career-long field goal of 57 yards in high school.

Central Michigan Chippewas:

The Great Danes begin 2019 with a matchup against Mid-American Conference’s Central Michigan, who finished 2018 1-11, their only win coming against Maine. The Chippewas added new head coach Jim McElwain after serving as the wide receiver coach at Michigan in 2018.

UAlbany is 1-4 against FBS opponents, its most recent loss coming at Pittsburgh 33-7 in 2018. Central Michigan is 5-0 all-time against CAA opponents.

The Chippewas brought in former four-star quarterback Quinten Dormady from Tennessee. Kalil Pimpleton, a Virginia Tech transfer, will lead the skills position for Central. The offensive line was arguably one of the worst in the FBS last season and will be looking to reestablish its reputation this season.

Central Michigan’s defense is replacing nine of its 11 starters from 2018 after sending two key players to the NFL. According to James H. Jimenez of Hustle Belt, the Chippewas are comfortable replacing these starters even though it will be a tough task.

UAlbany and Central Michigan will kick of their season Thursday, Aug. 29 in Mount Pleasant, Michigan at 7 p.m.

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