With the absence of All-American running back, Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks (who returned to practice on Tuesday), UAlbany has gotten some surprising yet, not surprising production from Redshirt Junior Kendall Rodgers Jr. and Freshman Karl Mofor.
In the Great Danes first two games, Mofor and “K.J.” have combined to rush for 283 yards and three TD’s.
Mofor has rushed for 99 in the season opener at ODU, 98 yards in the 26-0 victory over Morgan State last Saturday and draws similarities to “E.B.”
“He’s an E.B. type of back because he’s a big, physical kid and our offense is built around a physical run game so that’s what we need,” Assistant Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator and Running Back’s Coach Joe Bernard said.
Bernard, who recruited Mofor was happy for the Freshman after his performance against his family and friends.
“You always wish these guys the best under any circumstances and it’s always good to go back to your home area and have a great game,” said Bernard.
Mofor and eleven other players on the Danes roster are from the Baltimore area, being from Prince Georges (PG) County, playing Morgan State was a homecoming for no. 21.
“I had a chance for a lot of friends and family to see me play when they normally couldn’t so I had to show out a little bit,” Mofor said.
“I know his mom was very excited, she was going crazy in the stands,” said Bernard.
Despite early success and UAlbany’s bell cow RB making his way back into the starting lineup, Mofor got some advice his old high school coaches and trainers; the message was, “Keep doing what I’m doing, stay humble, remember where you came from,” Mofor said.
Where Mofor came from isn’t all crab cake and lacrosse either, football was always in his and his families sites.
“They were always supportive of me every game, anytime I ever needed anything football wise they did,” said Mofor “They kept pushing me, gave me a lot through the process, were always encouraging no matter if I had a good or bad game.”
Ibitokun-Hanks re-aggravated his surgically repaired left knee in practice on August 17th and had been preparing Mofor for what college football will come at him with.
“He’s always telling me what I can do to get better,” Mofor said.
“They’re all in the room together, it’s all about the team and if one guy can’t go, he helps the next guy get ready,” said Bernard.
It’s been nearly a month since Ibitokun-Hanks ran into more knee issues post-surgery but, ahead of the home opener against Monmouth, the team is excited for their work horse to return.
“He [Ibitokun-Hanks] ran hard in the last week or so and he wanted to go out and practice yesterday, we’re crossing our fingers because we need him,” Head Coach Greg Gattuso said.
“It was very important for us, the best player on the team came back, that’s a moral boost for everybody,” said Mofor.
Gattuso said that there’s no guarantee that Ibitokun-Hanks will play on Saturday and will be a game-time decision. But if he can go, he will be eased back into the offense, maybe.
“The last thing I’m going to do is put him out there and run him 30 times, I hope, I’ve said that before,” Gattuso said.
A potential three-headed rushing attack will be waiting for Monmouth on Saturday when the Great Danes play their first game at Casey Stadium in 2017 at 7 p.m.