Defensive Roles Shift On UAlbany Football Staff

Photo: Mike Simpson (left), Drew Christ (right).

ALBANY, N.Y. – Heading into a new chapter of University at Albany football in 2013, the Great Danes have announced a shifting of roles in the coaching staff. Mike Simpson will be stepping down from his position of defensive coordinator to focus on the development of the squad’s young linebackers, while Drew Christ will move from the defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator for the upcoming season.

“We graduated a pretty good core of linebackers with a ton of playing experience,” said Head Coach Bob Ford. “We are now turning to a younger, pretty talented group of kids, but not with many battle scars on them. Mike will step in and take those duties over a little more undivided than he has in the past.”

Simpson, who enters his 28th season on UAlbany’s football staff, has three decades of experience as a defensive coach. With two of those decades at the coordinator position, the Great Danes have won or shared six Northeast Conference championships (2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012) and captured two Eastern Football Conference titles (1997, 1998) during his tenure.

In 2012, UAlbany’s rushing defense ranked first in the NEC and 14th in the nation (117.91 yrds/game), second in the league in scoring defense (22.73 pts/game), and third in total defense (340.45 yrds/game). With the graduation of four exceptional linebackers, including all-conference selection Jon Morgan, the Great Danes look to quickly rebuild that area on the field.

“We had one of our most veteran groups graduate, number wise, last season, and we will have one of the youngest groups on the field in a long time,” said Simpson. “They are very talented and with the influx of the two kids we’re bringing in this year, we feel pretty good about where we are.”

Christ, who is in his second tour as a member of Bob Ford's coaching staff, will enter his eighth season in UAlbany’s program.  The Bay Village, Ohio native is familiar with the defensive coordinator position, previously serving the role at the University of Rochester. Christ also spent three years as a secondary coach under Al Bagnoli at the University of Pennsylvania where the Quakers won Ivy League championships in 2002 and 2003 during his stay with the program.

“We’re stepping up to a new challenge, a new league and so forth, and I’m excited to get ready,” said Christ. “I’ve got some good ideas. We’re not going to make a wholesale of changes; we’re going to make some tweeks. We’ve got a pretty good product already, a good thing in place right now, and a good group of coaches that know what they’re doing.

“I said to the kids, our expectations haven’t changed,” added Christ. “We’re moving around the staff a little bit, but our expectations are to be able to stop the run game, play good defense, and get off the field and put our offense in position to score.”

“I’m elated for Drew,” added Coach Ford. “I think he’ll do a good job. I think the good news is we have a fairly tight defensive staff and they work well together. I thank Mike and I wish Drew the very best.”

With their sixth NEC title, the Great Danes closed a 14-season chapter in the Northeast Conference this past fall, as well as a 43-year occupancy on University Field. In 2013, UAlbany will kick off a new chapter. Coach Ford will lead the Danes into both his and the program’s 41st varsity season, into their first season in the prestigious Colonial Athletic Association, and into Bob Ford Field – a brand new 8,500 seat stadium.