With Playmakers Winning Individual Matchups, UAlbany's Stock Is Climbing

Within each game of football are 11 concurrent matchups. UAlbany wide receiver Juwan Green understands the significance of his one-eleventh’s contribution. 

“Your main job as a player on this team is to win your individual battles,” Green said. “If you win your individual battles, we’ll win as a team.” 

Ahead of the Great Danes’ season opener at Central Michigan, coach Greg Gattuso recognized the potential for his teams’ wide receiving corps to win plenty of its individual matchups. The coach lauded the unit’s depth and rotation of “playmakers.” 

The unit did not disappoint to open 2019, in particular Green.  

His 94 yards receiving included this beautiful, diving catch of 27 yards along the sideline, as well as a 36-yard touchdown, one of two scores for him on the night. 

Winning matchups at wide receiver isn’t just about spectacular grabs and scoring touchdowns, as Gattuso noted when discussing Holmes. 

“Dev Holmes, his numbers don’t jump out [but] people were hitting him, grabbing him, all the things that bothered him last year he fought through,” Gattuso said. “He made some really nice plays for us with run-after-catch.”

A sensation in his freshman campaign, Holmes put up 734 yards on 50 receptions with five touchdowns — all team-highs. Ahead of the Week 1 trip to Mount Pleasant, however, Gattuso said Holmes experienced some growing pains after a hot start. 

“Confident” was the one word Holmes used to describe his feeling heading into 2019. “Having all that experience under my belt, knowing how defenses how are going to play me and play our defense, it [gives] a lot of confidence. I know how to read the defense, where the open zones are, and how to get open.” 

His transition was no different than that facing plenty of other freshmen around college football. 

“The physicality, from the linebackers and safeties, and how much faster they were than New York State high school ball,” Holmes said.  

A local standout, Holmes helped Troy High School to a state title in 2017. He continues to hold things down for the region as a Great Dane, and the outlook going forward should only get brighter. 

His own development as a playmaker parallels that of UAlbany. Holmes left a Flying Horses bunch at Troy that went 13-0 in 2017 to join the 3-8 Great Danes. UAlbany needed to win on the last day of the regular season to avoid a winless campaign in the CAA — but what a win it was. 

Green and Donovan McDonald foreshadowed the impressive depth making up UAlbany’s receiving corps in 2019, both catching touchdown passes in a 25-23 win over a then-No. 10-ranked Stony Brook. The victory gave the Great Danes the Golden Apple and helped lay the foundation for this season. 

In addition to the showing from Green and McDonald, the Empire Clash was a big coming-out moment for quarterback Jeff Undercuffler. 

Undercuffler played down the stretch in relief of Vincent Testaverde last season, and the rivalry victory was his first multiple-touchdown outing. 

He replicated that performance at Central Michigan, and he did so without throwing an interception. 

Experience looks to have done Undercuffler well, just as it’s strengthening UAlbany’s talented wide receivers corps. Holmes said the unit’s communication is locked in, and no matter if it’s him, Green, McDonald or Jerah Reeves, there’s no shortage of ways the group can attack opposing defenses. 

“How they’re playing us, if the corner’s weaker than the safety, if the safety’s weaker than the corner. Last game, it was all [Green],” he said. “You saw how easily he beat the corner all game.” 

That’s one individual matchup you can chalk up as a big win.

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