2017 College Football Preview: UB Bulls
The University of Buffalo took a step backwards last season, winning just two games after going 5-7 in head coach Lance Leipold’s 2015 debut. The UB Bulls ranked last in the MAC in points scored and 10th in points allowed per game, so there’s room for improvement on both sides of the ball. Leipold is hoping a dual-threat quarterback and trio of running backs can give the receiving corps time to develop, but that’s somewhat dependent upon how quickly an improving offensive line comes together. The defense returns eight starters, but this is a unit that ranked last in the conference against the run.
After being one of the worst offenses in all of college football last season, the Bulls can only go up from here. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyree Jackson will be the reason the Bulls improve in 2017. Standing at 6’7, carrying a 245-pound frame Jackson is a dual-threat who can hurt you with his powerful arm and versatile legs. After starting nine games as a redshirt freshman in 2016, Jackson looks poised for a breakthrough.
The offensive line should be better. Impressive Rutgers transfer Jacquis Webb takes over the left tackle job. Quality center James O’Hagan anchors a more experienced middle three. Grambling transfer Paul Nosworthy adds quality depth, at the least.
UB has been recruiting well-regarded running backs for several years now, so there is no panic over replacing stellar Jordan Johnson. Johnathan Hawkins, Theo Anderson and Kamerion Pickett should rack up yards.
If the Bulls can find a reliable receiving target for Jackson, the offense can become even more dynamic. Currently, the leading returnee, Kamathi Holsey, had only 19 catches. UB tied for 10th in the MAC in pass plays of 20-plus yards two years ago and tied for eighth last year. Defenses have squatted on the passing game for too long. Maybe talented junior college transfer Anthony Johnson can break out after sitting last season.
If the coaches want to be given more time to rebuild this program, they must do a better job establishing an offensive identity.
The good news for the UB Bulls defense that is eight starters return. But the Bulls need several of them to take leaps forward in performance, because the team ranked 10th in the MAC in points allowed and 124th in the nation in run defense. Of course, a little more support from the offense would help. UB faced the fourth-most rushing attempts in the country.
Khalil Hodge, a second-team All-MAC performer, is an asset at middle linebacker. Chris Ford and Justin Brandon should form a capable defensive tackle combination. Ends Demone Harris and Charles Harris (no relation) need to make more noise, and the Bulls need a young player to become a situational edge rusher. The hope is Jordan Collier and some speedy backups add more range on the field side at outside linebacker. UB gave up 10 runs of 40-plus yards (only eight teams allowed more). The Bulls weren’t assignment sound against QB option runs, either.
UB has some solid options at cornerback with Cameron Lewis coming back to anchor the secondary. The big questions mark in that secondary remains safety, where the Bulls have lacked consistent production.
The 2016 season was a reality check for the program. Coach Lance Leipold added some much-needed speed the past two years, but it will take time for the youth to develop. Strength coach Ryan Cidzik is in only his second year. Good player development is critical for the Bulls, who aren’t in a position to recruit more polished products than the MAC powers. More patience is required for a program that has had just two winning seasons in 18 years at the FBS level.
Any semblance of success will depend on Tyree Jackson’s development as a leader at quarterback. Still young, that’s a lot to ask of a developmental QB.
Record Prediction: 2-10
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