ASU head football coach Mike White, left, was joined at the annual Pigskin Preview on Tuesday by OL Victor Moli. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
MACON — Albany State football coach Mike White knows he will need an offensive coordinator and quarterback to return his team to the top of the conference.
Right now he has neither.
With three months before the season opener, the Rams are still searching for a replacement for Uyl Joyner — who resigned as offensive coordinator at ASU to take the same job at Dougherty High — and are still without a quarterback to compete for the starting job along with Rodney Castlin, who was last year’s third-string QB behind seniors David Kooi and Keenan Grissett.
On Tuesday at the annual Peach State Pigskin Preview in Macon, White told The Herald that the team will likely sign a QB in the coming weeks.
Filling the offensive coordinator position, however, might take a little longer.
“It’s still dragging along,” White said about the search to replace Joyner, who held his position at ASU for two seasons. “There is a lot of interest in the job, but administratively we haven’t been able to get that straightened out to where we can move forward. I am hoping here in June we will be able to make some progress.”
White said he hasn’t conducted any formal interviews yet and is waiting for ASU administration to allow him to start making recommendations for the hire.
“My only recommendation now would be that I wish they would hurry up and do whatever they have to do,” White said. “Not knowing who your offensive coordinator is on June 4 bothers me. That adds a whole lot of weight on the guys who are waiting to know who that is so they can go forward.”
Offensive lineman Victor Moli, a junior and one of the team’s leaders this season, said the longer the Rams go without an offensive coordinator, the more it will hurt the younger players.
“Picking up the scheme for (the upperclassmen) won’t be too hard, but for the younger guys it could take a while to catch on,” Moli said. “But I think we have a lot of juniors and seniors who will help catch us up on the schemes and our offensive identity.”
The Rams’ offense never really found their identity last year, struggling to a 6-4 record — White’s worst season in 11 years — and not making the postseason for the first time since an NCAA postseason ban was lifted in 2004.
A lot of those troubles revolved around the quarterback position, which remained unfilled for much of the offseason before Kooi, a Florida Atlantic transfer, joined the team just days before preseason camp began. Kooi, backup Keenan Grissett and Castlin combined for just seven touchdown passes all year and threw 11 interceptions. Their 154 passing yards per game ranked 134th in all of Division II and seventh in the conference.
This year, White is hoping to eliminate any disconnect between his QB and receivers by adding a signal caller to the team within weeks.
“We have made some progress and will be ready in the next week or two to call some names out of the guys we found,” White said. “Last year wasn’t the way you wanted it to be, because you want that guy in early so he can familiarize himself with your terminology. I do think that was a negative for us last year, but it was also a blessing to get a quarterback as capable as David (Kooi) was. I would take him late rather than not have him at all.”
Right now, all the Rams have is Castlin, who was 8-for-26 last season with 138 yards, no touchdown passes and three interceptions.
“(Castlin) is there working now and trying to get himself ready to compete, and I think that’s a good thing for us and will be healthy for us to have some good competition,” White said.
Equally as troubling for the Rams is the defensive line position, where there are no returning starters.
“Graduation hit us harder than anything,” said White, whose biggest losses from the defensive line included Justin Blash and Camilla native Troy Morgan. “Losing five guys off that defensive line is probably the biggest thing for us. Here in June you are only as good as your front line. That front line has to be sturdy, and we will start the season off with a lot of untested guys who we have not seen in battle. That’s probably our biggest worry.”
Luckily for the Rams, their biggest strength in 2013 will be lined up right behind the defensive line.
“This is probably the best group of linebackers that we have had in some time. And we seem to have good depth there also,” White said. “The backers are it for us. They will be our leaders and will run things for us this year.”
Starting linebackers Tavarius Washington, former Monroe star Larry Whitfield and Marcavius Dudley — the top three tacklers on the team last season — all return and will be the anchor of a defense that finished first in the conference last year.
“Whether we had a winning season or a losing season (last year), me and my team are never satisfied,” Dudley said. “I am looking forward to working hard with the guys this summer and getting ready for the season.”