Football Feature Friday: Great Dane Newcomers Get High Marks
By: Bob Weiner for UAlbany Athletics
ALBANY, N.Y. – University at Albany head football coach Greg Gattuso gave high grades to both his staff and to the quality of recruits they brought in at Wednesday’s National Letter of Intent signing day.
“I give us a B-plus grade,” Gattuso said. “It’s easier to grade them a year or two down the road. Obviously, there are kids you missed, but ultimately, in every class we’ve had, there are some kids you had to reach for. We feel very good about all of the guys we brought in this year, especially some of the late guys.”
One of those “late guys” was quarterback Ta’von Granison, from Greece Athena in Rochester. Granison signed on Thursday. He threw for 2,000 yards and ran for 1,200 more while throwing and running for a combined 32 touchdowns in leading his team to the New York State championship game.
Gattuso also brought in defensive lineman Antoine White, who played in the Rose Bowl for Penn State this past season, and wideout Jerod Diggs, a transfer from Lackawanna, among his most noteworthy newcomers. Three-quarters of his recruits were team captains.
“We’ve got size, depth and some explosive athletes who will help us down the road,” Gattuso said. “The thing I’m probably most happy about is that we brought in a bunch of good pass-rushers, and that’s something we really needed.”
Gattuso, a former Penn State star himself in his playing days and a former coach at Maryland, pointed out that recruiting at any level is difficult. But squaring off against the big boys in college football is even tougher.
“The challenge is to identify and target good players early,” he explained. “And you can’t get frustrated if the FBS schools come in and take our guys away from us. That’s the hardest challenge in the recruiting game. We recruit a guy from the beginning, and a BCS school swoops and takes him late. I tell my coaches that as long as a player we were looking at goes up in level, that tells me we’re targeting the right guys and doing the proper homework.”
Gattuso believes that talent isn’t the only ingredient necessary in a top-notch recruit.
“We want to challenge ourselves to recruit the highest student–athletes we can find,” he noted. “Our philosophy when I came here was to go after good students. There was some worry that I would try to get lower entry requirements here for my players, but I want good recruits from great families and great programs. Sure, it’s great if they want to make it in the NFL some day, but it’s better for us if we get great kids with great grades and personalities.”
Gattuso said that Wednesday’s signing day was the culmination of many months of hard work. Most people only judge the coaching staff on what they do in practice and how their players perform in games. There is much, much more in the “off-season,” when coaches prepare for the next season and beyond.
“Ultimately, recruiting here is a family commitment,” Gattuso said. “A lot of our coaches are married. A couple of our coaches just had two new babies. It’s a balance of home, travel and being away for long periods of time in this business. We do everything we can in this program to include the families, because we know we’re taking time from their wives. It’s difficult, especially for the young coaches, to be away from their wives so often.”
Gattuso and his staff will take a week off from the recruiting wars and then resume in another week or so. “You sign the kids, and then you restart for the following season,” he said.
“Recruiting, and traveling to get that recruiting done, is accomplished mostly in December, January, February and May. Some of our guys can be on the road from Monday through Friday,” said the third-year head coach. “We have official visits Friday through Sunday, and then the coaches are often on the road again Sunday nights. What I try to do is make sure all of my coaches have a chunk of their recruits from New York, so they don’t have to travel as much. I also put them in their home towns to stay with family and friends. I do everything I can to make it easier on our coaches.”
Gattuso said all of his coaches do more work away from the field than on it.
“December and January are very busy traveling months for visits. And then in May we get on the road again. We may have 15 days on the road just for recruiting in May,” he explained. “Plus, the amount of telephone calls we make at night, especially during the season, is more than most people realize. That’s a big part of your job. If we did these things on an hourly rate, we’d make more money,” he said with a chuckle. “But we try to make things as easy as we can on our coaches during the recruiting season. The recruiting cycle is tough on all of us, but don’t get me wrong, we do have some great vacation time in June and July.
“It’s a grind, but there are so many positives to this business. Don’t feel sorry for us at all. We get to work outside most of the time, and we meet so many great people,” he said. “Plus, we have a great family of coaches here at University at Albany.”
UAlbany football season tickets are now on sale for the 2017 season. Prices start as low as $75. For more information, visit ualbanysports.com/tickets or call the UAlbany ticket office directly at 518-442-DANE.