course, now all that matters is that Gill comes up with wins, but for a
program that hasn’t won more than three games in a season since making
the move to D-I, it’s not like it’ll take a quantum leap to generate a
Step one was to finally field an offense that could put some points on
the board, and Gill did that with his West Coast style proving to be
slightly effective against the mediocre to lousy teams. No, it didn’t do
much of anything against the Wisconsins and Auburns on the schedule, but
the Bulls will never compete among the nation’s elite. They just have to
start moving the ball on the MAC’s better teams.
While the offense should come around and be better, the defense still
might take a while even though it’ll have its moments against teams that
can’t protect the passer. Gill and his staff are slowly building around
speed and athleticism with several freshmen playing key roles in the
building process. 17 starters and almost all the reserves return, so
it’s possible a few improvements can be made on both sides of the ball
in the long process.
Buffalo might be an impossible program to put together, but Gill has
time. Winning the close games is a must, catching teams by surprise is a
necessity, and improving from week to week is a hope. If Gill is as good
as many think he’ll be, UB will eventually stop being the MAC’s doormat.
What to watch for on offense:
More pop. The team’s top quarterback, Drew
Willy, had injury problems including a banged up thumb which hurt the
overall offensive production, but now he’s back along with promising
back James Starks and game-breaking return man/receiver/quarterback
Naaman Roosevelt. The biggest improvement has to come up front with four
starters returning to a huge line that did next to nothing last year. If
the front five gives Willy and the others time to work, they’ll produce.
What to watch for on defense: More pressure, more attacking, more
speed. While the UB defense might not have stopped too many offenses, it
made its presence felt in the backfield. The D brought the pressure from
all angles and sold out to dictate the action. While that worked well on
passing plays, the front seven got ripped apart by anyone who could run.
There’s just enough size up front to hope for an overall improvement
against the power teams.
The team will be far better if … the line can pass protect. The
Bulls gave up a whopping 42 sacks and countless hurries. There’s not
enough quickness at tackle, while the interior struggled against the
blitz. Jordan Jerrold has the potential to be a rock at tackle, but he’s
only a true sophomore and will still need time before he’s the team’s
anchor. Center Jamey Richard is a good one to revolve the line around.
The Schedule: The opening day slaughter-to-be at Rutgers is a key
tune-up before a must-win at Temple. A loss to the Owls will likely mean
a really, really tough start with four road games in the first five, and
the one home game against Baylor, before facing Ohio and an improved
Toledo. Follow that up with a trip to Syracuse, and even if UB is
improved, 1-7 is roughly the best to hope for before facing Akron. If
that wasn’t bad enough, the Bulls close out with two road games in the
Best Offensive Player:
Sophomore RB James Starks. He can do it all as the team’s best runner
and a top receiver out of the backfield. The former wide receiver can
become a workhorse, but he’ll need more room to move behind a line that
didn’t provide much help.
Best Defensive Player:
Trevor Scott. One of the MAC’s premier pass rushers, Scott made nine
sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. With nice size and a great motor, he’ll
be the one player opposing offensive coordinators worry about every
game. The rest of the line should see plenty of single blocking with all
the attention paid to Scott.
Key player to a
The entire offensive
line. There’s potential there to be far better. Richard is an All-MAC
caliber center, Jerrold, a 6-8, 306-pound sophomore, has all the tools
to be great, and the rest of the line is experienced and large. Now they
have to produce and do at least one thing well.
The season will be a
... Buffalo wins three games. The program has only won three games in
the last two years and hasn’t won three games since 2001, so getting to
the three-win mark is a bigger deal than it might seem. Considering the
Bulls will likely only be favored against Temple, it’ll likely take a
few upsets for the Gill’s group to take a step forward.
Oct. 6 vs. Ohio. UB
might be coming off a tough stretch to start the season, but a win, or
at least a great performance, over the defending East champion might do
wonders for the program. With only four home games, the Bulls can’t
afford to give away any opportunities.
2006 Fun Stats:
- First half scoring: Opponents 252 – Buffalo 57
- Average yards per carry: Opponents 4.7 – Buffalo 2.8
- Average yards per play: Opponents 6.3 – Buffalo 4.4