ALBANY, N.Y. -- Thousands of high school athletes will sign their National Letter of Intent this week, 21 of whom sealed the 2013 recruiting process Wednesday by committing to join the University at Albany's football program under Head Coach Bob Ford.
The Great Danes will welcome an incoming class composed of student-athletes who hail from seven states along the East Coast, some as far as Florida. Included in the group of those to commit, are two local talents from Section II: Shaker High School's Ryan Griffin and Queensbury's JP McCauley.
The newcomers will join the program in kicking off a new chapter of Great Dane football. Ford attributes the team's recruiting success largely to their move into the prestigious Colonial Athletic Association, marking their first season in the new conference, as well as the unveiling of Bob Ford Field, their new, 8,500-seat stadium.
Ford says he still has his eye on adding a few more selections to the 2013 class. For now, he seems to have added some key impact players to the roster.
Five of the new recruits began attending classes on campus for the spring semester. Dorian Polk, of Lockport, New York, is a transfer out of Erie Community College, where he was named the 2012 Scholar-Athlete of the Year and an all-conference cornerback. Malachi Lawrence, of Bronx, New York, is a 6'3" wide receiver, who finished his final season at Nassau Community College with 18 receptions for 340 yards and four touchdowns. Michael Senn, of Orchard Park, New York, earned All-State recognition as an offensive lineman who helped lead his team to a 2011 State Championship. Ian Maltz, of Millstone Township, New Jersey, could be the answer to filling UAlbany's kicking void. The Hun School graduate has been recognized as one of the top kickers in the country, having drilled 9-of-9 field goal attempts in his senior season, with a 65-yard average kickoff and 40-yard average punt. Lastly, Jack Knecht, of Haddonfield, New Jersey, is an all-conference pick at defensive end, recording 48 tackles and three sacks in his final season at Haddonfield Memorial.
With a recruitment focus on bolstering the Danes' offensive power, UAlbany will welcome 11 new members to back those efforts in the upcoming season. At the quarterback position, Kyle Downer, of Oak Hill, Virginia, is a 6'3" All-State honoree with 1,409 passing yards and 12 touchdowns. Downer also rushed a noteworthy 1,460 yards and achieved 25 rushing scores in his senior season. Tagged primarily as a passing quarterback, Shane Sweeney, of Phelps, New York, threw for 75 touchdowns and 4,662 yards in his high school career—35 touchdowns and 2,005 yards in his senior year alone.
At running back, the Danes will add local Ryan Griffin, the Shaker High School standout who delivered 1,100 yards rushed and 20 touchdowns in his senior season. He led the Blue Bison to a Section II Championship, while earning Liberty League Player of the Year and All-State honors.
Rounding out wide receiver recruits, Brad Harris, of Orlando, Florida, and Austin Weeks, of Durham, North Carolina, will join Lawrence as the newest options at the position. In his final season at Union High School, Harris averaged 25 yards per reception, grabbing 28 catches for 704 yards and six touchdowns. Weeks, a 2010 State Champion out of Hillside High School, caught 36 receptions for 485 yards his senior year.
Tight end Kalief Joyner, a Brooklyn, New York native, will join UAlbany after a one-year stint at Cheshire Academy in Connecticut. While on the Fighting Cats squad, Joyner made 20 catches for 366 yards and two touchdowns.
Joining Senn, UAlbany secured a total of four commits to the offensive line. The 6'2", 285-pound Nick Nerolien, of Lexington, Massachusetts, earned his first-team all-league honors, boasting 44 solo tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, six sacks, and four forced fumbles in his senior campaign. At 6'4", 265 pounds, Chizi Mba, of Union, New Jersey, will look to make an impact as a power lineman. Lastly, JP McCauley,of Queensbury, New York, was an All-New York State selection and Section II Class A First Team Offensive Lineman for his final season.
On the defensive end, the Danes signed nine commits to the program, including Knecht and Mike Simone, of Mahopac, New York. Simone will join as a defensive end after earning recognition as Mahopac High School's Most Valuable Player in 2012, as well as all-section, all-league, and all-state honors for his 75 tackles, six sacks, and interception.
Another preeminent addition, defensive tackle DaeSean Timmons, of Hyattsville, Maryland, was a two-time all-conference pick, recording 74 solo tackles, 26 for a loss, and nine sacks in his senior season at DeMatha Catholic High School.
Marcel Ngachie, of Silver Springs, Maryland, and Martel Williams, of Plantation, Florida, will be key to filling the Danes defensive deficit that remains after having graduated four major linebackers on the team's two-deep. Ngachie logged 71 tackles, 11 for a loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception in 2012 for Our Lady of Good Counsel's championship winning team. Also joining UAlbany from a highly successful squad, Williams led St. Thomas Aquinas to a state championship, while recording 99 tackles, four sacks, and an interception.
A versatile defensive addition, Ben Pagan, of Highstown, New Jersey, was a first team All-Prep selection, recording 83 tackles, five sacks, and a safety in his final season.
Hoping to shut down opponents' passing game threats, Florida natives Anthony DeLuca,of Longwood, and safety Neil Morrison, of Miramar, will join Polk in rounding out the 2013 defensive commits. Cornerback DeLuca earned his 2012 all-conference honors by executing 103 tackles, including 73 solo and six for a loss, four interceptions, and 17 pass-breakups in his three-season high school career.
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