#26 Albany FCS Football 2017 Preview


Albany Great Danes


Overall Rank: #26

#5 CAA

After finishing with a 7-4 record, Albany felt snubbed by the playoff selection committee. The Great Danes beat Buffalo to begin the season and only suffered one bad loss. That home game against Delaware, which resulted in a 33-17 loss, certainly cost Albany a spot in the playoffs in the end.
2016 Record: 7-4, 4-4
2016 Postseason: None
Coach: Greg Gattuso (17-17 at Albany, 114-49 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Bernard
Defensive Coordinator: Bernard Clark
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, RB, 1,401 yards
Passing: Neven Sussman, QB, 1,017 yards
Receiving: Jordan Crockett, WR, 373 yards
Tackles: Malachi Hoskins, DL, 82
Sacks: Malachi Hoskins, DL, 7.0
Interceptions: Mason Gray, S, 4
Other Key Returnees: TE Anthony Manzo-Lewis, S Josh Wynn, CB Jamal Robinson
Key Losses: WR Zee Roberson, OL Kevin Malloy, CB Rayshan Clark, LB Michael Nicastro, LB Abner Logan
Albany will again have a very productive ground game thanks to the return of Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks. He rushed for a CAA high 1,401 yards and 16 scores as a sophomore and is only getting better with experience. If Ibitokun-Hanks is going to have an even better 2017 season, he will need help from the rest of the offense. Quarterback Neven Sussman threw for just 1,017 yards and completed just 45.8 percent of his passes. Sussman has now started 13 games over the last two seasons and he needs to at least be a consistent passing threat or the opposition will focus on Ibitokun-Hanks. With wide receiver Jordan Crockett and tight end Anthony Manzo-Lewis, Sussman has a couple nice targets to work with. Crockett is a big play threat and Manzo-Lewis is a big target when Sussman needs to check down to his other options. Thanks to the impressive turnover ratio, Albany should be able to do enough on the ground to make up for the lack of a consistent passing game, but a little improvement there would go a long way.
It is the defense that is to thank for Albany’s fourth best turnover margin in the FCS. The team picked off 17 passes and recovered 15 fumbles in 11 games. Malachi Hoskins will again be the driving force when it comes to forcing fumbles. He forced three and tallied 82 tackles, including 7.0 sacks. He also accounted for 11 quarterback hurries. At linebacker, Michael Nicastro and Abner Logan need to be replaced. Nicastro led the Great Danes with 121 tackles, while Logan was second with 93. Still, the front seven should be in decent shape and get enough pressure on the opposing quarterback to create big play opportunities for the secondary. Mason Gray picked off four passes and fellow safety Josh Wynn recorded 81 tackles. Jamal Robinson will need to emerge as the team’s top cornerback after the departure of Rayshan Clark.
The Bottom Line:
Albany has had some struggles while they adjust to life in the CAA. However, they appear ready to be competitive on a consistent basis. With an improved offense, this is a team that has a shot at making the playoffs. However, the defense has some holes to fill and creating that many turnovers again will be extremely difficult to replicate. Albany does avoid playing James Madison and gets Villanova and New Hampshire at home. That helps, but reaching seven wins looks like the ceiling for this team and, like last year, even that may not be enough for a spot in the playoffs.
Projected Postseason: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 167.2 (46th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 123.0 (117, 10)
Total Offense: 290.2 (111, 9)
Scoring Offense: 24.9 (73, 4)
Rushing Defense: 180.9 (76, 9)
Pass Defense: 186.8 (25, 7)
Total Defense: 367.7 (46, 8)
Scoring Defense: 18.8 (8, 2)
Turnover Margin: 1.45 (4, 1)
Sacks: 2.00 (55, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 3.09 (110, 12)
HERO Sports 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#68 Ryan Solt
#200 Coemba Jones