Buffalo Preview 2006 - Offense

Posted Aug 7, 2006

Buffalo Bulls Preview 2006 - Buffalo Bull Offense

What you need to know ... Ten points per game. Ten. That's what the 2005 UB offense cranked out scoring a mere seven points in the first quarter. New offensive coordinator Gerald Carr has his work cut out for him. The first step to respectability will come from better play on the line, but that won't happen for a while. Drew Willy is a decent quarterback prospect who needs time to work, the receiving corps is full of decent prospects that need time to develop, and the backfield is full of decent prospects who need room to move. That means it's up to the huge, inexperienced line that has to be far, far better than last season.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Drew Willy
149-246, 1,481 yds, 6 TD, 12 INT
Rushing: Steven King
136 carries, 532 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Brett Hamlin
38 catches, 371 yds

Star of the offense: Senior TE Chad Upshaw
Player that has to step up and become a star: The entire offensive line
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman OT Derek Newell
Best pro prospect: Upshaw
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Upshaw, 2) FB Steven King, 3) QB Drew Willy
Strength of the offense: Running back
Weakness of the offense:
Scoring, offensive line

They're not horrible, but the team's best quarterback is the head coach. Fine, so the UB QBs combined to throw seven touchdown passes and 15 interceptions, but Drew Willy showed good accuracy as a true freshman and the promise that he might be the player to build around over the next three seasons. James Starks is too fast and too explosive not to play somewhere, and he'll get several cracks at winning the starting job. Stewart Sampsel has starting experience and will make more of a push for time this summer.
The key to the unit: Efficiency. Drew Willy completed his throws last year, and now he has to make bigger plays and get the ball in the end zone.
Quarterback Rating: 4.5

Projected Starter
- Drew Willy, Soph. - 149-246, 1,481 yds, 61%, 6 TD, 12 INT
Thrown to the wolves when things started going south, Willy had a better true freshman season than the stats might indicate. He threw 12 interceptions bottoming out with a four picks in the season finale against Eastern Michigan, but he set a school record completing over 60% of his throws. He's a big 6-3, 213-pound passer with decent mobility and a live arm. Now he has to be a better decision maker and can't press so much.

Top Backups
- James Starks, RFr.
While he's not ready yet, he'll be a key player in the mix as the season goes on. The 6-2, 206-pound redshirt freshman isn't nearly the passer Drew Willy is, but he's a phenomenal athlete who might end up seeing time at receiver or running back just to get him on the field.

- Stewart Sampsel, Sr. - 25-61, 41%, 310 yds, 2 INT, 26 carries, 41 yds, 1.6 ypc
The 6-3 Sampsel got the call in the first three games of last year before getting knocked out with a collarbone injury. The light was starting to go on has he was having a strong game against Rutgers before getting hurt.

Running Backs
This should be one of the team's strengths if the offensive line can open up a few holes. 2005 was a nightmare averaging 2.9 yards per carry with only 1,199 net rushing yards, but there are four good options with the speed of Jared Patterson, the power of Steven King and Ike Nduka, and the all-around ability of Chris McDuffie combining to form a decent group of runners. There isn't a special, All-MAC type of talent in the group, so getting the most out of each player's abilities will be vital.
The key to the unit: Get a good rotation going using all the backs to generate more than 108 yards per game.
Running Back Rating: 4.5

Projected Starters
- Chris McDuffie, Jr.
McDuffie has the best blend of speed and power in the running back corps and will be a key all-around factor after missing all of last year hurt. He ran for 404 yards in 2004 highlighted by a 74-yard scoring run. A cutback runner, he'll explode if he gets a few holes to run through.

- Fullback Steven King, Sr. - 136 carries, 532 yds, 3.9 ypc, 3 TD, 20 catches, 137 yds, 6.8 ypc
The leading rusher over the last two seasons, the 209-pound King will be used as a big runner and a blocker for Chris McDuffie and Jared Patterson. He'll also be a more dangerous receiver used even more as a safety valve after finishing fifth on the team in catches. He'll also be used to crank out the tough yards.

Top Backups
- Jared Patterson, Sr. - 90 carries, 374 yds, 4.2 ypc, 2 TD, 9 catches, 31 yds, 3.4 ypc
Health has been Patterson's problem over his career, but he has been productive when given the chance. He's the team's fastest back with the hands to grow into a more dangerous receiver. Combining with Chris McDuffie to share the workload, he'll be asked to become a home-run hitter.
- Ike Nduka, Fr.
The star of the recruiting class, the 220-pound true freshman got to school early and proved he can grow into a workhorse. He'll start out behind Steven King at fullback, but he has too much size and potential not to get the ball at least five times a game.

More explosion is needed after averaging only 9.8 yards per catch. Brett Hamlin is a rising star for the offense as a reliable number one receiver, and now speedy Evan Wallace has to break things open on the outside. Tight end Chad Upshaw is good enough to eat defenses up underneath and be among the MAC's best. The reserves need experience and time with Earnest Jackson needing to play like he did over the final four games of last season and Gary Rice and Alex Pierre adding a little bit of quickness.
The key to the unit: More big plays and home runs are needs from the two receiver slots and from Chad Upshaw at tight end. Reliable depth needs to quickly be developed.
Receiver Rating: 4

Projected Starters
- Brett Hamlin, Sr. - 38 catches, 371 yds, 9.8 ypc
Hamlin turned into the shining star to of the passing attack leading the team as a true freshman. Even though he wasn't explosive and didn't get into the end zone, he showed a good chemistry with QB Drew Willy becoming a reliable go-to receiver. With his experience, he has to become a more dangerous target and has to make more plays after the catch.

- Evan Wallace, Sr. - 25 catches, 357 yds, 14.3 ypc, 2 TD
With the best speed in the receiving corps, the 5-9, 174-pound Wallace has to find more of a role as a field stretcher. He made a few big plays and was by far the team's top deep threat. The more he's able to hit teams deep, the better things will be underneath for the possession receivers like Brett Hamlin.

- Tight end Chad Upshaw, Sr. - 37 catches, 359 yds, 9.7 yoc, 3 TD
He'd be an All-MAC star if he played for anyone else. The 6-4 senior has 59 career catches for 553 yards and six touchdowns highlighted by an eight-catch, 116-yard day against Ohio last season. He has fantastic hands and is one of the league's most reliable blocking tight ends.

Top Backups
- Ernest Jackson, Soph. - 7 catches 89 yds, 12.7 ypc
Jackson made a bit of an impact an impact in his freshman season catching seven passes over the final four games. He's a big, physical 6-2 and 214 pounds adding a stronger option behind the speedy Evan Wallace.
- Gary Rice, Soph.
The speedy sophomore was one of the surprises of spring ball challenging for time behind Brett Hamlin. While he's not all that big at 5-9 and 163 pounds, he's extremely quick.
- Tight end Jessie Rack, RFr.
He has the potential to grow into a key receiver in the offense. While not as big as Chad Upshaw and not nearly the blocker, he's athletic enough to be used in two tight end sets and potentially be dangerous on third downs.

Offensive Linemen
The line has to be night and day better after an awful season giving up 43 sacks and paving the way for a mere 109 rushing yards per game despite having veterans like Mike Schifano, Zack Love and Leroy Auguste to work around. It's a big line averaging 313 pounds per man among the two-deep; now it has to learn how to play. There's only one senior in the group, tackle Gerry Weissinger, and he's replaceable. It's a young line that needs every practice and every game to jell and get better.

The key to the unit: Do one thing well. It's not a good enough line to be dominant, so it has to be good at either run blocking or in pass protection.
Offensive Line Rating: 3.5

Projected Starters
- OT Ray Norell, Soph.
Norell saw a little bit of time as a true freshman getting three starts. He's 292 pounds with the feet to grow into a decent left tackle.
- OG Jon Geddes, Soph.
Geddes got in much better shape working his way town to 328 pounds and now should be a force on the left side. He's a surprisingly good athlete with a little bit of experience seeing time in three games. Once he gets his feet wet he should grow into one of the line's better run blockers.
- C Jamey Richard, Jr.
The 6-4, 301-pound junior started every game on the inside and was decent, but not dominant. With his size and experience, he needs to become one of the lead blockers and a stronger quarterback on the line calls.
- OG Jeff Neidermeier, Soph.
Niedermeier took over the starting role half way through his redshirt freshman season and never gave it up. One of the line's stronger players, he'll grow into the job over the next three years at right guard.
- OT Gerry Weissinger, Sr.
The former defensive lineman is 6-5, 310 pounds and aggressive, but he struggled through the first half of last season and was replaced after starting the first five games. Now he'll have to turn into a steady pass blocker at left tackle.

Top Backups
- T Jon Burgio, Jr.
At 6-9 and 358 pounds, Burgio is needed for his bulk on the right side behind Gerry Weissinger. He hasn't made much of an impact yet, but he's too big not to be used.
- T Derek Newell, Fr.
Expect the true freshman to quickly find a starting spot. He's 6-5 and 322 pounds with more athleticism than the other tackles. All he's missing is playing time.

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