UAlbany Football Earns Nine All-NEC Honors

Photo: Senior Drew Smith earned first-team all-conference honors.

SOMERSET, N.J. – After winning a share of the Northeast Conference title last weekend and boasting the best record the program has ever seen at the Division I FCS level, the University at Albany football team had nine players awarded all-conference honors, announced by the league office Wednesday evening. The Great Danes had six named to the first team -- Drew Smith, Kadeem Williams, Ocieka Bakou, Jon Morgan, Leon Saddler, and Paul Layton – and three to the second team in Ryan Kirchner, Anthony Bazzoffi, and Dean Mercuris.

Senior tailback Drew Smith capped a historic career with three rushing touchdowns in Week 12, making him the all-time leader for touchdowns scored (45) and co-leader for all-time rushing touchdowns (40). In four active seasons, Smith accrued 3,196 career rushing yards and 4,721 all-purpose yards, both good for second all-time. This season, the Schenectady, N.Y. native eclipsed the 1,000 rushing yards mark for the second time in his career and the 10th time in program history, rushing for 1,001 yards and 18 touchdowns, while totaling 1,280 all-purpose yards.  Smith also led the NEC and ranked fourth at the FCS level for scoring (11.40). The honor marks his second all-conference selection in as many years.

Likewise, senior Ryan Kirchner earned second-team honors for the second year in a row. Kirchner is UAlbany’s all-time receptions leader hauling in 172 career catches. This season, Kirchner led the squad with 50 receptions for 578 yards, while scoring three touchdowns. He was also the Great Danes’ top punt returner, totaling 100 yards on special teams.

Offensive linemen junior Kadeem Williams earned his second consecutive first-team all-NEC award, while senior Anthony Bazzoffi was named to the second team. The duo helped UAlbany to the league’s top-ranked scoring offense (34.1), and limited opponent sacks to just 1.45 per game. Bazzoffi capped his career with his first career touchdown in the season finale, rushing across the goal line from the one-yard line.

Earning first-team honors for the second straight season, senior inside linebacker Jon Morgan led UAlbany with 72 tackles, three interceptions, and two blocked kicks this fall. The Copiague, N.Y. native finished his career ranked eighth all-time at UAlbany with 265 career tackles.

Senior defensive tackle Ocieka Bakou totaled 28 tackles this fall, while also making a number of big turnover plays, putting himself on the conference’s first team. Bakou forced and recovered two fumbles, blocked two punts (both against Colgate), and returned a fumbled for a touchdown in the Great Danes’ title win over Central Connecticut State. In his career, Bakou accrued 95 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Fellow defensive lineman senior Dean Mercuris also earned conference honors. Mercuris ranked fourth on the squad with 49 tackles this season, as well as two sacks, an interception, six pass breakups, and one fumble recovery.

Earning his second all-NEC honor in his career, senior cornerback Leon Saddler tallied 36 tackles, a team-high 10 pass breakups, and a fumble recovery this fall. Saddler totaled 125 tackles in his career with the Great Danes, as well as two interceptions.

Junior Paul Layton averaged 40.4 yards per punt this fall, including a program record 82-yarder against Wagner. Through three seasons, Layton currently owns a program-best average of 41.0 yards per punt in his career (159 punts, 6,519 yards).

In the 14 seasons UAlbany competed in the Northeast Conference, the Great Danes earned 137 first or second team all-conference honors. An end to an era, UAlbany will compete in the Colonial Athletic Association next year.

UAlbany’s nine honorees this fall marked the most all-NEC selections of any team, with Wagner and Duquesne each claiming eight.  The recipients of all honors were determined by a vote of the conference’s nine head coaches.