Uyl Joyner, who faced challenges in the preseason with injuries to his backfield and a depleted offensive line, is ready for his first game as offensive coordinator of the Rams.
ALBANY -- Uyl Joyner was under center, leading the Albany State football team to back-to-back SIAC titles and into the NCAA Division II playoffs nearly a decade ago.
Meanwhile, Mike White was planning for the future.
"I told Uyl if I ever got a chance to hire him (as a coach), I would," said White, who is entering his 11th season as head coach of the Rams.
It didn't take White long to hire his man.
Joyner, who led Dougherty to the state title in 1998, then threw for more 2,000 yards both years he started for the Rams and finished his ASU career with a 21-3 record, was hired this summer by White to succeed Steve Smith as ASU's offensive coordinator.
Joyner is remaining as quarterbacks coach of the Rams, a position he has held since 2009. He volunteered as a Rams offensive coach in 2005 and 2006 and was the offensive coordinator at Dougherty in 2007 and 2008.
It was during Joyner's senior season at ASU when White first hinted that his quarterback could one day be a Rams coach.
"We were playing Fort Valley in the last game of the regular season, and we were in a big-time situation," Joyner remembers. "There was a time out, and the coaches were talking about what to do. I remember blurting something out about what we should do. Coach White said, 'Yeah, that's right. Let's do that.' That's when he told me he would try to hire me one day."
In his inaugural season as a collegiate offensive coordinator, Joyner has faced plenty of challenges -- he lost preseason First Team All-SIAC linemen Norris Byrd and captain Mike Mavromichalis when they were ruled academically ineligible, and then his top two running backs, Kareem Hess and Jamaris Cooper, suffered serious preseason knee injuries.
"That's been big, losing the type of players we have been losing," Joyner said. "We aren't losing back ups, we are losing guys who were going to be starters. That is going to be tough. They are number ones for a reason."
But he has taken each of those unexpected challenges in stride.
"I think his strength as a coach is being able to make adjustments," said White, who saw that same quality in Joyner as a player hen he recruited him at Dougherty. "Good coaches are the guys who can make those adjustments. Everybody can make it on Sunday when you are watching film of the game. Everybody knows what you did wrong and what you can correct then. What you want are guys who can correct it right in between plays, and Uyl is very good at that."
On Saturday, Joyner said the other offensive coaches -- running backs coach Kenyan Conner, receivers coach Anthony Kelly and offensive line coach Lawrence Livingston -- have made his transition easier.
Joyner also hasn't changed too much in an offense that outscored opponents 341-155 last season and averaged 28.5 points per game.
"We tried to keep every thing the same because we didn't want the guys to make any whole-sale changes and learn a new offense," Joyner said. "We were No. 1 in the conference, so we were trying to roll with what we were doing."
Joyner said the foundation of his strategy is to run a multi-set offense and take whatever the defense gives him. It worked for quarterback Stanley Jennings last season, and the reigning SIAC Player of the Year is on board with Joyner's plans this season.
"We just have that connection," Jennings said. "We both have that love and passion for football."
Love, passion and a knack for winning ball games. Jennings and Joyner have a combined record of 32-4 as starting quarterbacks for Albany State, and that quarterback-coach combination could mean big things for this year's offense.
And that's something everybody is getting on board with at Albany State.