2007 Buffalo Preview - Offense

Posted Jul 15, 2007

Preview 2007 Buffalo Bulls Offense

Buffalo Bulls

Preview 2007
- Offense

- 2007 Buffalo Preview | 2007 UB Defense Preview
2007 UB Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Buffalo Preview 

What you need to know: The overall offensive production improved from ten points per game to 18.33. Now the attack has to be more consistent and explosive, and that all comes from the offensive line. It's a big, experienced line that has to give the promising skill players a chance to do their thing. UB can win with QB Drew Willy and RB James Starks, but they haven't had any chance to show what they can do with no time or room to work. Naaman Roosevelt has to be used somewhere. If he's not the starting quarterback, he'll provide a boost to a mediocre receiving corps.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Drew Willy
138-231, 1,391 yds, 6 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: James Starks
175 carries, 704 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: James Starks
34 catches, 226 yds

Star of the offense: Sophomore RB James Starks
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior WR Ernest Jackson
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT Jordan Jerrold
Best pro prospect: Sophomore QB/WR Naaman Roosevelt
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Starks, 2) Roosevelt (as a kick returner), 3) C Jamey Richard
Strength of the offense: Running back, quarterback
Weakness of the offense:
Offensive line


Projected Starter: It would be interesting to see what Drew Willy could do with a little bit of time. The 6-3, 209-pound junior had his moments throwing for 321 yards against Ball State and 250 against Northern Illinois, but he was under constant pressure and was always on the move. Eventually, he got knocked out for the year with a banged up thumb finishing with 1,391 yards and six touchdowns with six interceptions. With a live, accurate arm, he's a decent talent who has to stay healthy with undeveloped backups behind him.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Naaman Roosevelt is the team's star kick returner and caught 31 passes for 429 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver. Now he'll be the backup quarterback throwing a change up with his speed and mobility. He doesn't have a huge arm, but he wasn't just a runner in high school throwing 35 touchdown passes. Willy will be the starter, but Roosevelt will get his shot to see playing time.

True freshmen Ed Young and Zack Ingle will be the emergency options, but the coaching staff would much rather redshirt them. Ingle is a big-armed bomber, while Young is a more mobile option. Running back James Starks is a former quarterback who could be used in a pinch.

Watch Out For ... Roosevelt to see plenty of action throughout the year. He has too much speed an quickness to be kept on the sideline.
Willy's accuracy. He didn't throw a pick over the first four games of the season before throwing six in four games including three in the loss to Miami University. When he's able to set his feet, he'll deliver.
Backup quarterback. Roosevelt would make far more of an impact as a receiver or runner. If he gets hurt, there's absolutely no one to count on to check in if Willy is also out.
Outlook: Willy has the skills to carry the offense and make the passing game solid if he can stay on the field. As good as he is, many opposing defensive coordinators would hate to see Roosevelt come in. If anyone else is playing this year, that means UB is having a disastrous season.
Rating: 5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: It'll be up to sophomore James Starks to be the running game, at least early on, with a slew of young, inexperienced players behind him. A good enough athlete to have originally been slated as a backup quarterback last season, he stepped in right away to be the team's best all-around weapon. At 6-2 and 210 pounds, he's a tough runner who led the way with 704 yards and six touchdown runs with a few huge games including a 162-yard, three touchdown effort against Kent State and a 113-yard, one touchdown day against Miami University. Able to be used as a wide receiver if needed, he has great hands out of the backfield finishing second on the team catching 34 passes for 226 yards.

Junior Chris Scharon will get the call at fullback after spending last year as a blocker. At 6-2 and 242 pounds, he's a power player who didn't get a carry but caught four passes.

Projected Top Reserves: 202-pound sophomore Mario Henry will be the main backup behind Starks after starting his career at defensive back. Small but speedy, he's one of the team's faster players who'll be a quick change of pace.

Sophomore Da'Von McCune is the only backup tailback with any experience running three times for 11 yards. He's a quick back who'll also get the ball more as a receiver.

210-pound redshirt freshman Brandon Thermilus was all set to be a factor last year but was never healthy and redshirted. The son of former Miami Hurricane star Alonzo Highsmith, he has the size and speed to quickly become a factor.

Sophomore Ike Nduka was the program's star recruit two years ago and saw a little bit of work in five games. At 220 pounds, he'll be a backup fullback but could see time as a tailback.

Watch Out For ... a variety of backs to work behind Starks. The coaching staff would like to find one player to count on to get five to ten carries in place of Starks, but there might be several who see time.
Quickness. Henry, Thermilus and McCune can all move. They're darting backs who could give the slower MAC teams a few fits.
Depth and fullback. There's not a sure-thing fullback to rely on yet, although Nduka has all the skills to eventually become a major factor. Coming up with a pecking order behind Starks will have to wait until fall.
Outlook: Starks has the talent to become a 1,000-yard back who can carry the workload, but he needs room to move and the passing game has to be there to take the pressure off. The backups might not have any real game experience, but they have the potential to be good with more athleticism than the program has had in a long time.
Rating: 5


Projected Starters: Junior Ernest Jackson is a 6-2, 215-pound physical receiver who caught 11 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown last season. While he has the size and the speed, he has to show he can be consistent with eight of his grabs coming in two games.

Junior Brett Hamlin played in three games before getting knocked out for the year with a foot injury. While he isn't explosive, he's one of Drew Willy's favorite targets with the potential to be the go-to guy on key short passes. Tight end will be a slight concern early on needing to replace leading receiver Chad Upshaw.

6-3, 247-pound Jesse Rack caught two catches for 15 yards, and now he's expected to become a key target with the hands, athleticism and route running ability to soon become another Upshaw.  

Projected Top Reserves: The team's best wide receiver prospect, Naaman Roosevelt, will start the season as the backup quarterback after catching 31 passes for 429 yards and two touchdowns. He could still move back to receiver if needed. The team's leading returning receiver, senior Terrance Breaux, will start out behind Jackson at the flanker. With good hands catching 34 passes last year, he only average 6.6 yards per grab and didn't score. His one big game came against Northern Illinois catching eight passes for 104 yards and a score, but he didn't get over 100 yards the rest of the way.

Sophomore Alex Pierre is a former defensive back who made the move over to receiver early in his career. He saw action in five games catching three passes for 35 yards and now will play behind Hamlin. Working with Rack at tight end will be junior Robert Yealu, a field-stretching receiver who averaged 16.2 yards per grab making six catches for 97 yards.

Watch Out For ... Roosevelt to quickly go back to receiver. There aren't a lot of gamebreakers in the corps, and Roosevelt is the team's most dangerous player.
Experience. All the key players have seen game action and aren't going to come in cold. Everyone has their role and everyone knows what they're doing. It's not necessarily a bad thing when the leading returning wide receiver is a second teamer.
Danger. With Roosevelt starting out at backup quarterback and James Starks entrenched as the team's best running back, there isn't a whole bunch of pop or players who can come up with yards after the catch.
Outlook: Is there anyone here who'll make opposing secondaries sweat? Of the top five pass catchers from last year, Upshaw is gone, Starks and Steven King were running backs, and Roosevelt is now playing quarterback. A true number one has to emerge right off the bat.
Rating: 4

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: The line welcomes back four starters, and a fifth with starting experience, from a group that has to be far better in all phases. The best of the bunch is center Jamey Richard, a 6-4, 301-pound senior who's been the main man up front for the last two years. While not a dominant all-around blocker, he's tough, experienced, and showed improvement as last year went on.

Next to him on the right returns 6-3, 310-pound junior Jeff Niedermier, a consistent run blocker who was one of the ironmen of the line starting in 18 straight games. One of the team's strongest players, he has to become more of a factor in the running game.

6-4, 337-pound Jon Geddes is back on the left side where he started five games in 2006. A surprisingly good athlete, his problem is keeping his weight in check needing to be around 320 to be his most effective.

The tackles are still learning, but they should be good ones. 6-6, 296-pound junior Ray Norell can play guard or tackle and will start off at left tackle where he needs to grow into a far better pass protector.

On the other side will be 6-8, 306-pound sophomore Jordan Jerrold, one of the team's rising stars. He stepped in early on in his freshman year and quickly made a big improvement to the line. If there's a possible All-MAC candidate in the front five, he'll turn out to be it.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-4, 293-pound redshirt freshman Peter Bittner is a smaller, quicker option at left guard than Geddes. A star high school defensive lineman, he's on the verge of becoming a regular in the offensive line rotation.

6-9, 359-pound senior Jon Burgio is a monster on the left side playing tackle behind Norell. His lack of pass protecting skills keep him from making too much of an impact, but he's too big not to be used more for the running game.

6-6, 313-pound sophomore Andrew West will start out behind Jerrold on the right side but could move inside if needed to provide a big, relatively athletic guard.

Watch Out For ... the experience to turn into production. Horrible line play has been the team's problem over the last several years, but this group might be the best since UB joined the MAC. Although that's not saying much.
Size. This is a big, big, big, big group with all but two of the ten players on the listed two deep over 300 pounds. There's not excuse for there not to be more production in the running game considering the combination of size and experience.
Talent. This still isn't a very good group of offensive linemen. Cohesiveness will have to be the key to make up for a general lack of athleticism. This line might be too big for its own good.
Outlook: There was an improvement last season; the line gave up 42 sacks after allowing 43 the year before. However, the rushing production went further into the abyss. Basically, this group has to find one thing it can do well. Either give Drew Willy time to throw, of blow open holes for the running game. It can't do both well enough to win on a consistent basis. There are plenty of veteran options to work with and finally, for the first time in years, some good backup options to play around with.
Rating: 4


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