2008 Buffalo Preview - Offense
Buffalo WR Naaman Roosevelt
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Buffalo Bull Offense
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What you need to know:
With ten starters returning to a not-that-bad, but
inconsistent attack, this should be the best Buffalo attack since the
program made the jump into the big-time. QB Drew Willy is a solid,
efficient veteran who makes everyone around him better. The receiving
combination of Naaman Roosevelt and Ernest Jackson will combine for
close to 120 catches, and James Starks is a 1,000-yard back who can
carry the team through the rough patches. The line should be decent, but
it needs to find one thing that it does well. Backups across the board
are an issue, but a slew of recruits will get their chances to make
noise early on.
Passing: Drew Willy
258-377, 2,572 yds, 15 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: James Starks
251 carries, 1,103 yds, 12 TD
Receiving: Naaman Roosevelt
63 catches, 766 yds, 4 TD
Star of the offense: Junior RB James Starks
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior C
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Brandon Thermilus
Best pro prospect: Junior WR Naaman Roosevelt
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Starks, 2) QB Drew
Willy, 3) Roosevelt
Strength of the offense: Experience, running back
Weakness of the offense: Backup quarterback, consistent
Projected Starter: It only seems like senior Drew Willy
has been the head of the offense for 13 years. The 6-3,
209-pounder has grown into the job and has become an
ultra-efficient passer completing 68% of his throws last year
for 2,572 yards and 15 touchdown with six interceptions. With a
good arm and an excellent command of the offense, he's due for
his best season yet as the unquestioned leader of the UB
offense. While he's not a runner, he's not immobile with two
rushing touchdowns. The key will be staying healthy with
undeveloped backups behind him.
Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshman Ed
Young is a more mobile option than Willy, but his accuracy
wasn't there throughout spring ball. Even so, the 6-0,
180-pounder will likely be the No. 2 man in the crowded mix and
could see a little time here and there to add another dimension
to the offense.
Redshirt freshman Cory Jorgensen, a 6-3, 205-pound
walk-on, got every change to take the backup job, but struggled
throughout spring ball and was lousy in the spring game. Even
so, with a decent arm, he'll have a shot this summer to move by
Young and be Willy's backup.
Watch Out For ... the battle for the backup job.
It was Young vs. Jorgensen this spring with neither getting the
win. Now they'll have to deal with a host of decent recruits.
Jerry Davis is a multi-dimensional playmaker and Zach
Maynard is a big dual-threat,
Strength: Willy. It all started to come together last
year, and now with an improved line in front of him, good
receivers, and a nice back in James Starks to take the workload
off, Willy should come up with an ultra-efficient season.
Weakness: Backup quarterback experience. There are at least five
different options behind Willy the coaching staff can go to in
an emergency, but there isn't any experience. A lot of work
needs to be done to develop a reliable No. 2.
Outlook: The passing game should be the best in
the brief D-I history of Buffalo football as long as Willy stays
healthy. He's a good, sound veteran who won't make mistakes, but
he'll have to take more chances and push the ball down the field
a bit more to open up the offense. The backup situation is a
mess. There's a lot of work to do. A lot.
Projected Starters: 6-2, 210-pound junior James Starks
was red-hot over the second half of last year with a
tremendous two-game stretch against Ohio and Toledo when he ran
for 414 yards and five touchdowns. A scoring machine with ten
touchdowns over a five-game stretch, he cooled off a bit but
remained the the team's rushing workhorse with 251 carries for
1,103 yards and 12 scores. He's also a proven receiver finishing
third on the team with 41 catches for 311 yards and two scores.
One of the team's most versatile players, he can be lined up as
a wide receiver, or even at quarterback if the coaching staff
wants to get quirky.
Working again at fullback is 6-2, 242-pound senior Chris
Scharon, who was used almost only as a blocker getting just
one carry for one yards and seven catches for 48 yards and a
score. He's a powerful blocker who knows what he's doing. Starks
is great running behind him.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Brandon
Thermilus, the son of former Miami Hurricane star Alonzo
Highsmith, had a nice spring and moved himself into a
good position to be the backup behind Starks after finishing
third on the team with 85 yards and three touchdowns. At 5-11
and 226 pounds, he's a powerful runner who can get between the
tackles and could be used more around the goal line. He can also
see time at fullback if needed.
Junior Mario Henry started out his career as a defensive
back before turning into a nice backup rushing for 345 yards and
a touchdown, highlighted by a 125-yard day against Temple, and
catching 15 passes for 75 yards. He was never able to get into
the open and use his tremendous speed and quickness, but the
coaching staff will do what it can to get him the ball more in
Adding another big body at fullback is 240-pound Lawrence
Rolle, a junior who'll only see time as a blocker if
something happens to Scharon.
Watch Out For ... more from Thermilus and Henry.
Starks proved he could be a workhorse and he's more than tough
enough to take a pounding, but he might not have to. Thermilus
and Henry are veterans who can keep Starks fresh and give
defenses more to worry about.
Strength: Veterans. The top three tailback options have all been
around long enough to know the offense and know what the
coaching staff expected. All three can carry the rushing attack
Weakness: Home runs. Starks tore off a 92-yard dash, but there
weren't too many big runs with the ground game averaging just
3.7 yards per carry. There's enough speed to hope for more
Outlook: Starks showed what he could do with a
good line in front of him. If he stays healthy, he'll be a
1,000-yard back again, but he might not have to carry it 251
times again if Henry and Thermilus are allowed to get more work.
There's no question that Starks is the star of the show, and he
needs to be kept 100% for the big MAC games.
Projected Starters: Finally, junior Naaman Roosevelt
is able to focus on being a wide receiver. Needed as a
backup quarterback before last season, he quickly moved back to
wide receiver and led the team with 63 catches for 766 yards and
four touchdowns. An explosive playmaker, the 5-11, 184-pounder
didn't do much in the way of coming up with big plays, but he
came up with a nice year as a returner.
6-2, 215-pound senior Ernest Jackson is a dependable
veteran who finished second on the team with 53 catches for 645
yards and a team-leading six touchdowns highlighted by a
nine-catch, 118-yard, one touchdown day in the finale against
Kent State. He's a physical receiver who came into his own with
the size and speed to become a perfect No. 2 to Roosevelt.
Junior Jesse Rack was banged
up in spring ball, but he's expected to be ready for the season
after catching 15 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown. At 6-3,
and 247 pounds, he's built like a big receiver and turned into a
decent midrange threat. He has the hands and the speed to get
the ball more.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Brett Hamlin
will once again work behind Roosevelt after making 38 catches
for 415 yards and a touchdown. A good 6-1, 182-pound target, he
came back 100% after suffering a foot injury that kept him out
of all but three games in 2006. He led the team in catches with
38 as a true freshman, and now he'll work mostly in three-wide
Playing behind Jackson will be 5-9, 170-pound Gary Rice
after making ten grabs for 49 yards. The former defensive back
has excellent quickness and could be used as a kick returner,
but first he has to do more to get the passing game going. He's
too good an athlete to essentially be a possession receiver.
The tight ends were banged up throughout spring ball, but there
are three decent backup options for the start of the season.
Senior Robert Yealu is a 6-3, 241-pound field stretcher
who missed all of last year with a knee injury. Sophomore
Aaron Connacher caught five passes for 28 yards as a true
freshman, and former fullback Kyle Brey made two grabs.
When healthy, Connacher is the best receiver of the three, while
Brey is the best blocker.
Watch Out For ... the tight ends to be used a bit
more. QB Drew Willy is all about efficiency, and if given the
chance, he'll get his midrange targets more involved.
Strength: Roosevelt and Jackson. These two will form one of the
most consistent, steady 1-2 combinations in the MAC. These two
are good veterans who'll combine for around 120 catches.
Weakness: Danger. This has been an ongoing problem for the Bulls
over the last several years. The aren't enough really big
downfield plays, and while things were a bit better, the
10-yard-per-catch average isn't anything special. The more
Roosevelt and Jackson can spread and stretch the field, the
Outlook: The corps is full of talented veterans
who should flourish with an experienced quarterback under
center. Roosevelt and Jackson are a strong twosome who should be
crisper and even more consistent, while Hamlin is a nice backup
to throw into the mix. The tight ends have had injury issues,
but it could be a good position if and when they're healthy.
Projected Starters: The line only has to replace one
starter, center Jamey Richard, and it appears to have found another good
one in 6-2, 300-pound senior Chris Lauzze. While he might not be
Richard, he's a veteran long snapper who more than held his own in
spring ball and appears ready to become a consistent producer in the
Richard was an all-star, and so was 6-3, 310-pound senior Jeff
Niedermier as he earned All-MAC honors at right guard. A consistent
run blocker and the one the offense works behind for the hard yards,
he's an ironman who's been dependable and tough. One of the team's
strongest players, he should be the anchor.
Next to Niedermier at right tackle will once again be junior Jordan
Jerrold, a 6-8, 306-pound monster who has been a starter since his
true freshman season and is still growing into the job. While he's been
a good run blocker, he needs to be more consistent in pass protection
and he has to use his long arms to neutralize the speed rushers.
6-6, 296-pound senior Ray Norell is one of the team's more
versatile linemen able to play either tackle or guard spot. While he's a
good athlete and is great on the move, he needs to start doing more in
pass protection and he has to use his experience to dominate for the
Returning to his left guard spot is 6-4, 293-pound sophomore Peter
Bittner after a good first season. While he's still developing, he's
the future star of the line with good toughness and run blocking
ability. A star high school defensive lineman, he's still growing into
Projected Top Reserves: 6-4, 337-pound senior
Jon Geddes was a spot starter in 2006 and was able to keep his
weight in check enough to see time in the rotation at left guard. While
Bittner is the better option, Geddes can step in and start without a
6-6, 313-pound junior Andrew West
is an athletic backup who'll work behind Norell at tackle. With a great
combination of skills, he'll grow into a starter before his career is
over. He has starting experience and will push a little bit for a first
string job somewhere up front.
Watch Out For ... more backups thrown into the
mix. This is a veteran group of starters that should form a solid front
line, but others need to be developed for the future. There will be a
bit more of a rotation in some spots to get the younger players like
tackle Matt Ostrowski and center Brandon Flanagan some
Strength: Experience. With four starters returning and a fifth
in Lauzze who has seen time as the long snapper, with experience. This
is a fully jelled group that should only get better.
Weakness: Pass protection. There wasn't enough done against for
the running game, but with good size all across the front, this group
can hit when it has to. Protecting Willy is the bigger issue having
given up 27 sacks and too many hits. On the plus side, this was a huge
improvement after allowing 85 sacks over the previous two years. A
little more time for Willy will do wonders for the attack.
Outlook: The veteran line made huge strides last
season after a few horrendous years, and now everything should come
together with possibly the strongest front five in the history of UB
football. Now it needs to be dominant in one area. There's all-star
potential on the right side in Niedermier and Jerrold, and everything
has to work around them.