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Experienced Albany State football team looks to return to high program standards

From STAFF REPORTS

ALBANY –  There will be no famous quotes or fancy slogans used by the Albany State football team in 2016. After the 2015 season that saw them finish with a 6-4 overall record, missing the NCAA playoffs for the third consecutive year and falling in the SIAC championship game for the past two seasons, the Golden Rams have one simple task that will define their season. This year, ASU simply has to finish the tasks that they set annually.
With the return of two of their top offensive players and an experienced defensive unit, the Golden Rams will look to win the elusive SIAC title and return to the NCAA postseason. Despite a tough slate of contests, the return of six starters on both offense and defense, 12 letterman that saw extensive action, and a host of talented newcomers provide the program with the right components to reach those goals.
“Gold Rush” Offense
In 2015, the Albany State offense averaged 21.9 points per game and led the SIAC in total offense with 330.3 yards per game. The Golden Rams return six starters and seven key lettermen to help the team improve on those numbers.
The ASU offensive attack begins with the return of running back Jarvis Small and quarterback Caleb Edmonds.
Small, a 5’7”, 206-lb senior from Brunswick, was the 2014 and 2015 SIAC Offensive Player of the Year. He led the SIAC in rushing, averaging 103.7 yards per game. Small recorded 1,037 yards in 2015 and scored a conference-high 11 touchdowns. He had six games last year where he rushed for over 100 yards, including a season-best 173 yards against Morehouse. Small is also the 2016 SIAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
Small will receive support in the backfield from redshirt freshman, McKinley Hambersham (5’9”, 180-lbs), and senior, Dalviness Greene (6-0, 180-lbs). Greene appeared in eight games last season, gaining 197 yards on 58 carries and scoring three touchdowns.
Edmonds started all 10 games for Albany State in 2015. The 6’3”, 220-lb senior from Smyrna, Ga. completed 148 passes out of 300 attempts for 1761 yards and seven touchdowns. Against Fort Valley State, Edmond was 22-36 for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He also had two rushing touchdowns during the season. He led the SIAC in total offense with a total of 2,027 yards. Last year, Edmonds was an SIAC Second Team selection and is a 2016 preseason choice.
Charles Stafford, a 6’3”, 210-lb redshirt freshman, will serve as the backup at the quarterback position. A native of Albany, Stafford recorded over 11,000 passing yards and 100 touchdowns as a four-year starter at Monroe Comprehensive High School.
Junior wide receiver, Quadrey Simmons, also returns for Albany State. Simmons, a 6’2”, 187-lb junior from Cope, S.C., was Albany State’s top receiver last season. He tallied 29 receptions for 373 yards. His longest reception was for 36 yards. He had a season-high 117 receiving yards against Tuskegee on Sept. 12. Simmons was voted to the 2016 SIAC Preseason First Team.
Thomas Smith (6’3”, 230-lbs) and Christopher Sparks (6’4”, 185-lbs) will join Simmons at wide receiver. In 2015, Smith, a junior from Williamsburg, Va., played in seven games and tallied 17 receptions for 248 yards and a touchdown. Sparks, who is from Macon, Ga., played in eight games and had a reception for 12 yards.
The ASU offensive line also boasts a veteran core.
Javoris Wilburn, a 6’5”, 305-lb senior from Warrenton, Ga., will enter the 2016 season as a three-year starter. He will lead the Golden Rams from the left tackle position. Wilburn was a 2015 SIAC First Team selection and is also a preseason choice for this year’s team.
Tedrick Cofield, a 6’3”, 315-lb senior, returns at the center position. A native of Atlanta, Cofield is a preseason choice for the 2016 SIAC all-conference team. Senior Gregory Farms (6’6”, 350-lbs) will once again start at right tackle.
“Dirty Blue” Defense
The Albany State defense will look to continue its long standing tradition of being one of the stingiest units in the nation. Six returning starters and five lettermen will provide ASU with that opportunity.
The “Dirty Blue” Defense will be led by three-year starter, Grover Stewart. A three-time All-SIAC selection, Stewart, a 6’5”, 300-lb senior from Camilla, Ga., was named to the preseason first team. In 2015, he recorded 39 tackles (19 solos), 15 tackles for losses and seven sacks. The defensive lineman was also listed as a preseason All-American selection by D2Football.com.
Toryan Bell also returns to the defensive line for ASU. A native of Hampton, Ga., the 5’1”1, 320-lb sophomore played in seven games and recorded six tackles and two sacks for a loss of 19 total yards.
Stewart and Bell will be joined by returning linebackers, Zavondric Shingleton and Zane Fields.
Shingleton, a 6’4”, 210-lb senior from Millen, Ga., was second on the team in total tackles during the 2015 season. He recorded 55 total tackles, including 46 solos. Shingleton also had 12 tackles for a loss of 82 total yards, three sacks, three pass breakups and seven quarterback hurries. Shingleton led the SIAC with five forced fumbles.
Fields, a 6’1”, 240-lb senior from Jonesboro, Ga., played in all 10 games for Albany State. Last season, he had 26.5 tackles (24 solos) and eight tackles for a loss of 25 total yards. Fields also tallied five sacks for a loss of 20 yards, two pass breakups and eight fumble recoveries.
Emmauel Brown, a native of Columbus, is also back at linebacker. The 6’0”, 200-lb junior recorded 14 tackles (11 solos), along with an interception and quarterback hurry.
All-SIAC First Team selection Nick Scott and senior Ryan Selby return to lead the Golden Rams’ defensive backs.
Scott, a 6’0”, 205-lb junior from Ellabell, Ga., had a breakout season in 2015. He had 57 tackles (49 solos), a fumble recovery and two interceptions last year. Scott also recorded a fumble and blocked three kicks.
A native of Atlanta, Selby played in all 10 games at strong safety. He had 23 tackles (19 solos), two interceptions, and three pass breakups. Selby also forced a fumble.
ASU Special Teams
Terry Wiley returns as Albany State’s top punter. The 6’0”, 165-lb junior from Douglas, Ga. played in all 10 games and recorded 55 punts for a total of 1,890 yards. His season-long was 55 yards. He also had 16 fair catches and placed 12 punts inside the 20-yard line. Wiley is also a preseason All-SIAC selection.
Junior place kicker, Stefan Whitehead, is also back for the Golden Rams. Last season, Whitehead was eight-for-nine on PATs and one-of-four on field goals. He recorded 38 kickoffs for a total of 2,237 yards for a 58.9 average. He also had 12 touchbacks.
Hambersham will begin the season as Albany State’s kick returner. Newcomer and Albany, Ga. native Michael Green, Jr. (5-11, 160, sophomore), and Hodo will handle the punt return duties.