2013 Buffalo Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Buffalo Bulls Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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Injuries should be one of the only big concerns for offensive coordinator Alex Wood's attack. The right side of the line needs to find replacements, but that's not that big a problem; everyone else is back. The Bulls have a running quarterback in Alex Zordich and a passer in Joe Licata, and each has enough experience to produce. Branden Oliver, if he can stay healthy, can be one of the nation's most productive statistical backs, and he'll get room to move behind a big, veteran line. Alex Neutz is a true No. 1 receiver, and now he has more help around him with Devon Hughes and Cordero Dixon two emerging targets to take some of the heat off.
Star of the offense: Senior RB Branden Oliver
Passing: Alex Zordich
106-208, 1,254 yds, 9 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Branden Oliver
148 carries, 821 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Alex Neutz
65 catches, 1,015 yds, 11 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior OT Jake Silas
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Devon Hughes
Best pro prospect: Oliver
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Oliver, 2) WR Alex Neutz, 3)
OT Alex Davis
Strength of the offense: Experience, Running Game
Weakness of the offense: Passing Efficiency, Line Depth
The passing game was ineffective and inefficient, but now the Bulls have two quarterbacks returning who can each play. Senior Alex Zordich is a 6-3, 222-pound veteran who has seen time as a freshman serving as a dual-threat option, running for 501 yards and completing 51% of his passes for 1,254 yards and nine scores with seven picks before getting knocked out for the year with a rib problem. He's not the most accurate downfield passer, but he's great in the open field. 6-2, 217-pound redshirt freshman Joe Licata took over when Zordich went down, and he added more of a passing element to the mix throwing for 285 yards and a score in the win over Western Michigan and 226 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over UMass. The 6-2, 217-pounder finished the year with 1,045 yards and seven scores with three picks, but he isn't a runner.
Sophomore Tony Daniel was a holder last season, but the 6-5, 203-pound sophomore was a great get for the program with great size, nice athleticism and excellent passing skills. He'll have to hold off redshirt freshman Collin Michael, a 6-5, 224-pound bomber who was a scout team star and could push for time right away.
Watch Out For … a dogfight for the starting spot. It was Zordich's job, but Licata was more effective and added so much more for the passing game. The two will be pushed by Daniel and Michael.
Strength: Options. The Bulls have a slew of tall passers who can start adding more, but Zordich might be too dangerous and too mobile to not get his old job back. The coaching staff has players to work with.
Weakness: Passing. The Bulls were non-existent at times through the air with five of the team's 17 scoring passes coming against Morgan State. There wasn't a 300-yard game on the year.
Outlook: UB has a decent situation with two starting-caliber veterans who can each play. It's all going to come down to who can finally start to move the offense a bit better and who can convert on third downs, but the program hasn't had this many decent quarterbacks in a long, long time.
Unit Rating: 5
The only thing that kept senior Branden Oliver under wraps was an ankle problem that knocked him out during the middle part of last season and kept him to just 821 yards and five scores after rushing for 1,395 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore. He tore through Morgan State with 238 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 199 yards and a score against Miami University, but he couldn't stay right. When healthy, the 5-8, 202-pounder is a dangerous all-around playmaker with nice hands, shifty moves and the ability to handle the ball 30 times when needed. With good cutback ability and the toughness to always be moving forward, he's good for over five yards a pop every time he touches the ball.
When Oliver was out, sophomore Devin Campbell turned into a find running for 160 yards against Ohio and 100 yards three times on the season, finishing with 502 yards and two scores while finishing third on the team with 11 catches for 176 yards and a touchdown. The 5-11, 195-pounder is a blazer with track star speed and slippery running skills. Senior Brandon Murie is a smallish 5-9, 186-pound walk-on who ran for 221 yards and two scores in a limited role. While he's not a receiver, he made his only catch count on a 54-yard touchdown against UConn, and he can be used on kickoffs, too
Watch Out For … James Potts. The 5-11, 196-pound junior was the team's star recruit in 2010, but he missed spring ball last year after violating team rules and went down with a knee injury after taking a carry 49 yards for a score against Morgan State. He's one of the team's most talented players, but he has to come back healthy.
Strength: Veterans. Injuries were an issue and consistency was a problem, but the bangs and bruises forced several young players to get into the mix right away. Now this is a deep group that should fill in nicely around Oliver.
Weakness: Health. Oliver couldn't get healthy and it seemed like all the other key parts kept getting banged up. When Oliver is 100%, he's a special back, but he's not huge and isn't built to take too much of a pounding.
Outlook: As long as Oliver is running, the Bulls have a weapon and star to work around. Now there are proven backups who can help the cause by taking on more of the workload to keep the Miami native upright. The backs should help the offense crank out over 2,000 yards on the ground.
Unit Rating: 6
The Bulls have a legitimate No. 1 target to work with in senior Alex Neutz, a 6-3, 205-pound technician of a route runner who came up with a steady 65 catches for 1,015 yards and 11 scores. While four of his touchdowns came against Morgan State, he scored in every game he played except for the Northern Illinois loss, but he caught seven passes for 81 yards. He's smart, tough and great at getting in the open, but he has a hard time staying healthy getting knocked out as a sophomore with a broken wrist and getting dinged up in the middle of last year.
The Bulls need the secondary targets to take advantage of everything Neutz does. Senior Fred Lee caught 17 passes for 261 yards and a touchdown, but he missed half the year hurt. A good deep threat who averaged 15.4 yards per grab, and with 6-2, 201-pound size, he has the tools to come up with a big final year. 6-0, 190-pound junior Devon Hughes was a good prospect when he came to UB and started to show off a little of what he could do finishing second on the team with 23 catches for 228 yards and a score. He's just coming into his own and should grow into the No. 2 job. while 6-1, 186-pound former quarterback Rudy Johnson showed the ability and potential to be a key part of the rotation after catching 16 passes for 182 yards.
Junior Cordero Dixon is a 5-11, 186-pound speedster who did most of his work as a punt returner, but caught ten passes for 96 yards – he has to get the ball on the move and make more big plays. 6-4, 202-pound sophomore Ron Willoughby is a big, athletic target who was supposed to be a big part of the rotation, but wasn't. He has the talent to be a key factor.
Former quarterback Alex Dennison has grown into a reserve tight end making six catches for 64 yards. While he's not huge at 6-1 and 246 pounds, he's effective when needed and can see time at quarterback when needed, running for 18 yards and completing all three of his passes for 82 yards and a score. Senior Jimmy Gordon is the main tight end option catching 17 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns. A terrific blocker, the 6-5, 260-pounder has the size and the versatility as a top special teamer, too.
Watch Out For … top recruit Jamari Eiland, a 6-1, 185-pounder from Michigan might be moved around, but he's a very smart, very good athlete who might play a big role right away. He has too many skills to not be a part of the mix.
Strength: Neutz. There are plenty of good-looking options who started to show what they could do last season, but everything works around Neutz, a strong No. 1 target who takes the heat off of everyone else.
Weakness: Deep plays. Neutz came up with a 55-yarder, and that was the only 50-plus play by the receiving corps all season. It's partly a quarterback problem, but overall the receiving corps has to make more big plays.
Outlook: Receivers started to emerge last season with Hughes and Johnson just two of the decent-looking targets who can fill out the receiving corps. As long as the quarterback play is better, and if Neutz can stay in one piece, this could be a surprisingly good group.
Unit Rating: 5
The line wasn't great in pass protection, but it was a cohesive, steady unit for the ground game that gets three starters back. 6-4, 303-pound junior Andre Davis started out his career on the defensive line, moved to offensive guard and spent last season at left tackle. While he's not great against the speed rushers, he's a blaster for the running game and is a tough fighter who doesn't get off the field. Next to him is versatile senior Jasen Carlson, a 6-1, 301-pound guard who could also move over to center if needed. He's a big, consistent veteran, while 6-2, 318-pound junior Trevor Sales took over as a starter at center after transferring over from Delaware State.
The right side of the line needs replacing, hoping for 6-4, 318-pound Canadian Dillon Guy to take over for Graham Whinery at right guard after starting six times as a freshman left guard and spending last season as a key backup. Gokhan Ozkan is gone a right tackle, and now the hope is for relatively untested junior Jake Silas to be ready. At 6-7 and 316 pounds, he has the size, and now he needs the experience. 6-6, 298-pound junior Gabriel Barbe spent last season as a backup center but could move over to tackle if needed.
Watch Out For … Guy. Really strong and really tough, he has the potential to be a killer for the ground game at right guard. It might not seem like a key position to worry about, but he could become a big factor once he gets a little more work.
Strength: Cohesion. Davis, Carlson and Sales know what they're doing after spending all of last year entrenched at their respective spots, and there isn't much concern on the right side with Guy and Silas ready. The running game should be a plus.
Weakness: Pass protection. Davis is a player, but and the rest of the line has to be better at keeping linemen out of the backfield after giving up 27 sacks.
Outlook: This is a big, veteran line full of experience and toughness. The line has improved by leaps and bounds over the last several years, and now this could potentially be a major strength if the depth can be developed right away and if the right side is settled.
Unit Rating: 5
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