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Smith: Former O-C Joyner not to blame for ’12 offensive woes

Current Albany State offensive coordinator Steve Smith, left, and former Rams OC Uyl Joyner, right, have remained friends in the two years since they have coached together.

Current Albany State offensive coordinator Steve Smith, left, and former Rams OC Uyl Joyner, right, have remained friends in the two years since they have coached together.

ALBANY — Pull up any Division II football message board online, find the thread about Albany State and read the comments about former Rams offensive coordinator Uyl Joyner.

They aren’t exactly flattering.

Current Rams offensive coordinator Steve Smith, who returned to his position at ASU this summer after two years away from the team, has his own ideas about Joyner’s two years running the Rams’ offense — and Smith doesn’t believe Joyner was the reason ASU struggled moving the ball in 2012.

“I can’t speak of what they did in 2012 because I wasn’t here, but I know they had a great leader in Uyl,” Smith said at Friday’s 14th annual ASU Football Kickoff Reception. “He is a special guy to me because I worked with him and believed in him and I know what he can do. I know they had a great leader.”

Even with Joyner’s leadership last season, the ASU offense struggled mightily and limped to a 6-4 record. They averaged 20 points and 287 yards per game — statistics that were both outside of the Top 100 in the nation in Division II.

It was a stark contrast to 2009 and 2010 when Smith directed the offense and never averaged fewer than 28 points per game while watching quarterbacks A.J. McKenna and Stanley Jennings win back-to-back conference MVP awards.

Joyner, who was the ASU quarterbacks coach from 2009-10 but left the Rams program this spring to take the offensive coordinator job at Dougherty High, said it didn’t surprise him that Smith came to his defense.

“We have talked a lot of football, and I think he knows that I know a little about the game,” said Joyner, whose offense had admirable numbers (31.5 points and 363 yards per game) in 2011. “He knows me, and he knows what I am about. I would do the same for him. I know he had some run-ins when he was here, and I would come to his defense. It’s not all on him.”

Despite the frequent upheaval at the offensive coordinator position, the Rams have had continuity with the playbook. When Joyner took over the offense in 2011 he kept the same terminology and plays that Smith had the previous two years — and Smith will be picking it back up in stride this season.

“It will be easy for the guys,” Joyner said. “They are already comfortable on how to call certain things. The more comfortable they are, the faster they will play.”

Smith returned to ASU extremely late in the offseason and has had little time to work with the team before practice begins Aug. 12, but head coach Mike White believes the familiarity Smith has with the program will ease that transition.

“When you are changing teams it’s the terminology (that makes it difficult),” White said. “We might call it ‘Bob’ and they might call it ‘Biscuit.’ The terminology here is the same, so I don’t think it will be as big an adjustment as it has been for other squads who have picked up a late coach or coordinator.”

Smith and Joyner have stayed friends in the two years since they worked together and have even talked football this summer as Smith was trying to get acquainted with his new players.

“We are really good friends,” Smith said. “I spoke to him (Wednesday), and we talked for a long time. We talked about a little bit of everything.”

With all of the turnover at offensive coordinator, little has changed in the relationship between Smith and Joyner.

“We had a great relationship, on and off the field,” Joyner said about the 2009-10 seasons. “I could disagree with him and we could talk about something for hours. Then he would go home and do his research, and I would go home and do my research. And we would both come back the next day thinking we would have the better argument.”

Smith relied on Joyner more than anybody else.

“We worked well together,” Smith said. “We meshed very well together. He was my eyes. He was my ears. He was everything for me in 2009 and 2010.

“Between me and Uyl there is always going to be that Batman and Robin deal or that dynamic duo.”

They were nearly flawless together as a coaching tandem.

“And I was Batman,” Joyner said with a laugh. “He doesn’t want say that part.”

And as for those angry fans who were blaming him both from the stands and from behind their computers, Joyner said he hasn’t listened to any of them.

“They are just fans,” Joyner said. “When we were averaging 30 some points a year before they were still frustrated with the offense. It’s just who they are.

“I didn’t get caught up in the pats on the back they were giving me, and I didn’t get caught up in the kicks in the behind they were giving me.”