UAlbany football rolled out ‘red carpet’ to get Tyler Pastula

ALBANY – No one expects to see the University at Albany football program get into a recruiting battle with a Pac-12 school, much less come out on top.

But that’s what happened when Delaware punter Tyler Pastula entered the transfer portal last December.

pastula. a junior from Easton, Pa., visited UAlbany and the University of Oregon and chose the Great Danes,,who had a tremendous need on special teams after a disastrous 2021 season.

“I went there (to Oregon), and my visit was OK and all, but I mean, genuinely speaking, this visit legitimately could not be any better,” Pastula said after Wednesday’s training-camp practice. “I drove up and all the coaches are greeting me. I mean, it was fabulous. It was like the red carpet.”

Pastula said he also wanted to stay close to home rather than going cross-country.

UAlbany had every reason to make Pastula, both a punt and holder on kicks, feel as comfortable as possible. On their way to 2-9, the Great Danes lost last year’s home opener to Rhode Island 16-14 because of two dropped snaps on field-goal attempts and a punt run back for a touchdown.

In a 17-10 loss to Villanova last Oct. 16, a dropped snap led to a blocked point the Wildcats returned for a decisive touchdown.

Former UAlbany punter Sean Ralls ranked 10th in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 39-yard average, while Pastula led the CAA at 42.5.

Pastula, named first-team all-CAA after last season, also made preseason all-conference this summer. UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso compared him to former UAlbany punter Jon Martin, a Bethlehem Central grad who played for the Great Danes from 2013 to 2016.

“One, he’s a tremendous person and a great teammate,” Gattuso said. “He’s fit right in with the gusy. He’s holding on field goals already. He and (kicker) Johnny Opalko are getting along great. We know he’s a great punt. … He’s very talented. We’re excited. Our kicking game was hurtful last year….. He’s making us a better football team right now.”

Gattuso praised Pastula’s directional punting, placing the ball n the right spot to make it harder to return.

Pastula entered the portal shortly after the Blue Hens fired head coach Danny Rocco. Delaware offensive coordinator Jared Ambrose took the same role with UAlbany.

“As the new kid coming in knowing no one, of course, all the kickers around the FCS know each other, so of course I knew John (Opalko),” Pastula said. “But other than that, having someone (Ambrose) of that stature and up there on the coaching staff, that really helped me and definitely pursuaded me to come here.”

UAlbany quarterback competition taking shape

A week into training camp, Gattuso said the four-way quarterback battle is beginning to sort itself out, though he declined to identify the leaders.

Sophomore Joey Carino, sophomore Reese Poffenbarger, freshman Tyler Szalkowski and graduate student Matt Valecce are competing to replace Jeff Undercuffler, who transferred to Akron.

“I think a couple of guys have stood out and a couple of guys, one or two, have struggled,” Gattuso said. “But we’re going to evaluate that today. But it’s hard to say until I get up there and watch the tape with the offensive guys.”

In full pads for the first time, UAlbany scrimmaged on Wednesday. The defense dominated in the first half before the offense rallied in the second half, the highlight being a long catch-and-run by tight end Thomas Greaney from Szalkowski.

“The offense has been actually really good,” Gattuso said. “I was actually surprised. The defense has been struggling the last two days and I think they just got tired (of it) and stood up a little bit.”

Gattuso said there might not be a clear-cut starter by the season opener Sept. 3 at Baylor of the Big 12.

“I’ve seen these things go into the first week and the first game,” said Gattuso, who said he plans to play two or three quarterbacks against the Bears.

“We want to see these guys under pressure,” Gattuso said. “Let’s see how these guys operate in that arena.”

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