Buffalo Bulls 2018 Preview: A plethora of NFL talent ready to win the MAC
Buffalo Bulls 2018 Preview
The Buffalo Bulls are flying under the radar this offseason, not just in the MAC but in the entire country. Usually, the Bulls would not make national news, but this year will be different.
The roster has three potential first round draft picks and is one of the most talented teams in the MAC.
Tyree Jackson isn’t Josh Allen, but he’s got the tools and the talent to be the quarterback darling of the NFL scouting community over the next several months.
Khalil Hodge isn’t Khalil Mack, but he’s an ultra-productive inside linebacker who’ll be on several preseason All-America teams.
Anthony Johnson isn’t Corey Davis or Antonio Brown, but the 6-2, 207-pound former JUCO transfer has the love of the pro scouts after coming up with 76 grabs for 1,356 yards and 14 scores last season.
With these future NFL-ers on the team, the Bulls welcome back a total of 15 starters from last season (eight on offense and seven on defense).
The Bulls went 6-6 last season, closing out with a three-game winning streak. However, after being snubbed by the bowl world, this year will tell a different tale.
The offense will be one of the best, if not the best in the MAC. Led by 6’7 Tyree Jackson who has the NFL size, arm, and athleticism to become one of the high-risers in the scouting world. Jackson completed 60 percent of his passes last season, throwing for 2,096 yards with 12 touchdowns to only three interceptions. He adds a special dynamic to his game with his running ability–he looks like a version of Cam Newton when he tucks it and runs.
Anthony Johnson will be Jackson’s number one target, but the Bulls also welcome back four of their top five receiving options from last season.
The ground game might have been mediocre, but the top three backs are back, including Johnathan Hawkins who missed most of the year hurt. Speedster Emmanuel Reed returns after leading the team with 840 yards and nine scores.
The Bulls will need to commit to the running game because that is when they have the most success. Buffalo went 5-0 last season when running for 175 yards or more, and was 1-6 when it didn’t.
The offensive line was one of the best in the conference last year and two starters are returning to the big unit up front. Center James O’Hagan is the leader of the o-line and they are looking to continue their success from last season–the line finished sixth in the nation in tackles for loss allowed.
Don’t ask me how, but the Bulls continue to recruit defensive gems to their team. A few years back it was Khalil Mack, now it’s Khalil Hodge who dominated with a team-high 154 tackles last season. He isn’t the only linebacker with skills on the team as Jordan Collier racked up 66 stops last season and will only continue to improve this year.
The defensive line will need to generate more pressure. They were one of the worst teams in the conference last season, generating 53 tackles for loss. With the losses of Demone Harris and Chris Ford, we could see a unit struggling to clear paths for their talented linebackers.
Chuck Harris is the most talented Bulls d-lineman, but his production hasn’t equaled his talent level–he only recorded five sacks last season.
The secondary will need to replace two starters from a year ago in Ryan Williamson and Tim Roberts, but they have a shut-down corner in Cameron Lewis to rely on.
If the Bulls defensive line can create pressure more often in 2018, the defensive backs will be able to hold their own–but if the team struggles to get to the quarterback like they did last year, expect a lot of high scoring affairs at Buffalo games this season.
Lance Leipold was a proven winner when the Bulls hired him away from Div. III Wisconsin-Whitewater, but it has taken some time to build the kind of program he envisioned when he took over in 2015.
His record of 13-23 (8-16 in the MAC) leaves a lot to be desired, but he was given very little talent to work with the first couple of seasons. Now, he has the talent necessary to compete and will have his guys working towards a championship in 2018.
The Bulls will win the MAC East in 2018–they are too talented not to, but if they were to falter it will be due to the lack of depth in all phases–specifically on the defensive side of the ball.
Buffalo will put up points with the best of them, but can they stop anyone consistently?
Their schedule doesn’t present too many problems–The toughest game is … at Rutgers? At Toledo? At Temple? At Ohio? UB will likely lose three of those four, but it’ll be good enough to win at least two of them.
There won’t be a whole lot of other misses along the way for team that should be setting the bar at MAC Championship or bust.
Record Prediction: 8-4
Offensive MVP: Tyree Jackson
Defensive MVP: Khalil Hodge Sr.
The Buffalo Bulls will be Bowl Bound in 2018.