2012 Buffalo Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Buffalo Bulls Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know:
The offense improved, but that’s because of the emergence of running back Branden Oliver and his 1,395-yard, 13 touchdown season. The offensive line made a big improvement, and it should be even stronger with good size, experience, and versatility paving the way for Oliver. Alex Neutz is a good No. 1 receiver, but the rest of the corps has to fill in around him and the veteran tight ends have to start doing more. The inefficient passing game needs to find a new quarterback, and it could be an ongoing fight to find someone who can consistently connect to take the heat off Oliver.
Star of the offense: Junior RB Branden Oliver
Passing: Alex Zordich
5-12, 41 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Branden Oliver
306 carries, 1,395 yds, 13 TD
Receiving: Alex Neutz
43 catches, 641 yds, 4 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: One of the four quarterback options
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman QBs Tony Daniel and Joe Licata
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Gokhan Ozkan
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Oliver, 2) WR Alex Neutz, 3) Ozkan
Strength of the offense: Branden Oliver, Line
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback, Deep Ball Receivers
It’ll be an ongoing fight for the starting quarterback job with starter Chazz Anderson done. Senior Jerry Davis started the 2010 season, was replaced, and got the job back late and had problems, finishing with 16 touchdown passes and 16 picks while completing just 48% of his throws. Last year he didn’t get on the field and worked as a scout teamer, but he has the experience, 6-2, 215-pound size, and a nice arm. He’s a dangerous dual-threat option with experience, but he has to prove he can be more accurate and more consistent.
If it’s not Davis, junior Alex Zordich will be the main man after serving as a top backup. He stepped in as a freshman and threw just one touchdown pass with six picks, and last year he connected on just 42% of his throws in a limited time. At 6-2 and 224 pounds he’s a big passer with enough mobility be accounted for as a runner, but he has to be a more accurate passer.
6-5, 205-pound redshirt freshman Tony Daniel is a tall pure passer and a nice get for the program last year. He has just enough athleticism to get by, but if he’s in, he’s throwing. Fellow redshirt freshman and local product Joe Licata was a top high school passer and who threw for 2,573 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2010. He might be the franchise with a little more time, and he’ll get his chances for the starting job.
Watch Out For … an ongoing fight for the job. There might even be a rotation to get the right guy on the field at the correct time, but there isn’t one in the bunch who stands out head and shoulders among the rest. That has to change by the end of the summer.
Strength: The redshirt freshmen. Yes, Zordich and Davis have experience, but they haven’t been any good and they can’t throw. Daniel and Licata are better talents who might be thrown into the fire if the offense struggles again.
Weakness: Proven passers. Anderson gave the passing game a boost with 11 touchdown throws and 2,454 yards, but most importantly, he completed 57% of his passes. Zordich and Davis have to be able to hit on more than half of their throws.
Outlook: The Bulls need a passer. Davis and Zordich are ballers who can take off when needed, but they need to show they can move the offense. Don’t be shocked if the coaching staff hands the offense off to one of its talented redshirt freshmen and hope for the best.
Unit Rating: 4.5
The Bulls have a franchise back to work around in junior Branden Oliver, who was every bit as good as hoped for after coming off a knee injury. The Miami took the offense over with 1,395 yards and 13 scores, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, finishing second in the MAC and 14th in the nation in yards per game. Not just a runner – with seven 100-yard games and a 235-yard, two score effort against Akron – he caught 38 passes for 365 yards. At 5-8 and 200 pounds he’s not huge, but he’s thick, shifty, and has proven he can be a workhorse with 306 carries.
There wasn’t much room for backup running backs to get any work, but that should change this season with sophomore Anthone Taylor getting more of a chance. The 5-10, 202-pounder is a pounding runner who worked mostly on special teams last season, only getting four carries for 20 yards. Junior Brandon Murie is a 5-9, 188-pound walk-on who saw a little time as a kickoff returner and ran four times for 33 yards. He has good straight-line speed, while sophomore James Potts has excellent wheels and could be an X factor once he gets back in everyone’s good graces. 2010’s star recruit missed spring ball after violating team rules.
Senior Rashad Jean is a 6-0, 252-pound defensive lineman who was moved over to fullback, and while he won’t get any carries, he’ll be a thumper of a blocker, while 5-9, 252-pound walk-on Boomer Brock will get shot at time. He’ll never touch the ball.
Watch Out For … Oliver to get another 300 carries. There will be talk of getting more options in the mix, but Oliver might be the MAC’s best player and he’ll be fed the ball over and over and over again.
Strength: Oliver. He has the combination of size, speed, and quickness. He’s an elite back who could play for anyone, and with a better passing game to take the heat off, he could put up huge stats.
Weakness: The backups. Oliver got 306 carries, quarterback Chazz Anderson ran it 85 times, and the No. 3 UB runner carried it just 19 times. Taylor and Murie have no appreciable experience, and Potts needs to get on the field.
Outlook: As long as Oliver is healthy and kicking, the running game will be a major plus. He needs some help to keep him from wearing down, but the coaching staff will only get the backups regular work as long as there’s no real drop in production. The O needs Oliver to be Oliver again.
Unit Rating: 6
It’s up to junior Alex Neutz to build on his excellent 2011 and be a No. 1 receiver who can be the go-to guy to carry the passing game after finishing second on the team with 43 catches for a team-leading 641 yards and four scores. At 6-4 and 209 pounds, he’s a tall target with a proven track record, earning team offensive MVP honors as a freshman proving able to make the tough grab and hit the occasional home run. He’s smart, tough, and healthy again after getting knock out for the last month of the season with a broken wrist.
6-2, 204-pound junior Fred Lee has great size and can move, and last year he started to break through once Neutz got hurt, finishing with 20 catches for 139 yards and two scores. He didn’t stretch the field at all, but he has the ability to do more deep. Also in the rotation will be sophomore Devon Hughes, a good prospect who caught 18 passes for 123 yards and a score as a reserve.
The Bulls need the depth to emerge in a hurry, and that means senior Saron Hood has to be a factor. The 6-0, 188-pounder from San Diego has mostly been a special teamer so far, while 6-0, 189-pound sophomore Cordero Dixon has deep ball ability and tremendous speed. Redshirt freshman Ron Willoughby is an athletic 6-4, 204-pounder who’ll be a key part of the rotation.
Back from a knee injury is junior tight end Jake Reeder, who came into the season with a ton of promise but didn’t get on the field. At 6-4 and 250 pounds and with nice hands, he can be a receiver, but his real worth is as a blaster for the ground game. With Reeder out, junior Alex Dennison stepped in making five catches for 75 yards and a score. The 6-2, 249-pound former quarterback now knows what he’s doing, and he’s the most athletic of the options. 6-4, 260-pound junior Jimmy Gordon is a terrific blocker and finished with five catches for 44 yards. While he’s good for the offense, he’s stronger on special teams.
Watch Out For … more from the tight ends. The receiving corps is looking for more options, and with the quarterback play likely to be shaky, more safety valve options are a must. That means the deep group of tight ends have to be involved.
Strength: Neutz. Healthy again, he has the size, experience, and talent to be a true No. 1 who carries the passing game. As long as he plays as well as expected, the rest of the corps should come through.
Weakness: A No. 2. Is it Lee? Is it Hughes? Is it one of the younger options? Buffalo only focused on two wideouts, for the most part, and now someone has to emerge to replace leading receiver Marcus Rivers’ 60 catches and 615 yards.
Outlook: This could be a concern if there’s no one to help Neutz. The tight ends have experience, but not a ton of time logged in as pass catchers. Lee and Hughes showed promise when called on last year, but neither one stretched the field in any way. The quarterback play is going to be an issue, and the receiving corps isn’t going to get too much help.
Unit Rating: 5
The veteran Bull line has two nice center options in senior Graham Whinery, who took over the starting job last year and turned in a nice, steady season. However, the 6-4, 297-pounder is a more natural guard and could shift over one spot to take advantage of his run blocking ability. He started at right guard as a sophomore and improved his play big time last year. The line can afford to do that with the hopeful emergence of transfer Trevor Sales ready to go after coming over from Delaware State. The 6-1, 314-pounder is one of the team’s strongest players and is built to be a center.
Also versatile is Jasen Carlson who’s ready to take on a bigger role after stepping in and shinning at right guard, the 6-3, 307-pound junior will be tried out in the middle, but he might be a better fit again one spot over.
Senior Gokhan Ozkan is a massive 6-7, 330-pound blocker who finally got healthy and showed what he could do at right tackle. He moves well for his size and now he should grow into even more of a pass protector with a year of experience. There’s a chance he could move over to the left side if junior Pat Wilson isn’t ready to roll after missing all of last year with a shoulder injury. The 6-5, 290-pounder is one of the best athletes on the line and is ideal to step in and be counted on as a left tackle.
6-4, 305-pound sophomore Andre Davis was a rock at right guard starting every game. The former defensive tackle is well past a knee injury that limited him a few years ago, and now he’s turning into a blaster of a run blocker. Sophomore Dillon Guy is a 6-4, 317-pounder from Canada who started in six games as a true freshman at left guard. He’ll move around where needed.
Watch Out For … a lot of shifting around on the inside. The Bulls had a steady combination throughout last year, but there’s enough versatility to play around with guards and possibly shift Whinery out at center.
Strength: Run blocking. The line made huge improvements last year and was far more physical. Having a back like Branden Oliver to block for helps, but the line was better than it’s been in years.
Weakness: Steady backups. As long as everyone’s healthy, the starting five should be terrific. However, there’s a big drop-off to the twos in terms of experience. There’s talent waiting in the wings, but it’ll need time to develop.
Outlook: It’s a big line with good experience and the versatility to shift things up when needed. The line improved by leaps and bounds for the ground game and was solid in pass protection. It’ll be one of the team’s bigger strengths as long as everyone stays healthy.
Unit Rating: 5
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