Albany State players work on blocking drills in practice earlier this week. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY — As the third week of practice concludes for the Albany State University football team, coach Mike White doesn’t think it’s time for his team to begin hitting someone else.
While the team is still riding its late-season momentum from last year, White doesn’t want his team to repeat how it started last year when the team opened the season 1-4 before rattling off five straight wins and the SIAC championship.
“We’re coming along,” White said. “We’ve still got a ways to go, but we’re slowly making progress.”
White has repeatedly said his goal is to make sure the younger players fit in with the returning players. The Rams open the 2014 season on Sept. 6 at national power Valdosta State.
“I just thought it took us too many games last year to come together as a group and find our weaknesses and strengths as a team,” White said. “It took us probably until midseason last year before we started playing better. I’m just hoping we can get it together before we face our first opponent.”
Before Albany State tackles Valdosta State next week, White and his coaching staff continue to work on fundamentals and developing players, one of the bigger reasons he’s not in a hurry for the games to start.
“We’re still trying to learn what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re still trying to make sure we are where we’re supposed to be in our coverages and our blocking assignments. Right now with so many new guys, we’re still in more of an alignment-assignment type of thing. We’re in more of a teaching mode right now.”
ATKINS READY TO GO: Senior wide receiver and former Mitchell County standout Jessie Atkins missed some earlier practices with nagging injuries. However, the 5-10, 180-pounder was back catching passes from quarterback Frank Rivers on Tuesday.
“Jessie, he’s had quite a few (injuries) over his career here,” White said. “But he is our top receiver and a very good leader. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do here. He played hurt here a lot last year and really came through in a lot of the big games. I’m looking forward to him having a good year.”
Atkins was second in the SIAC in receiving last season with 47 catches for 646 yards and eight touchdowns.
PRACTICE SCHEDULE: White said the Rams will practice each afternoon from 3-5 p.m. the rest of the week, then hold a pair of practices on Saturday. They will hold a walk-through Saturday morning with a regular practice in the afternoon.
The Rams will begin their “game-week” practices on Sunday.
PRESEASON POLLS: When the Rams meet Valdosta State in the opener next weekend at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium in Valdosta, it will mark the first time in recent memory that neither team will begin the season ranked.
Both teams received votes in the recently released American Football Coaches Association Division II poll – VSU received 59 votes, while Albany State garnered 32.