2009 CFN Buffalo Preview
Buffalo RB James Starks
Buffalo RB James Starks
Posted May 26, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Buffalo Bulls

Buffalo Bulls

Preview 2009

By Pete Fiutak

- 2009 CFN Buffalo Preview | 2009 Buffalo Offense
- 2009 Buffalo Defense | 2009 Buffalo Depth Chart
- 2008 UB Preview | 2007 UB Preview | 2006 UB Preview

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Head coach: Turner Gill
4th season: 15-23
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 25, Def. 25, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best Bull Players
1. RB James Starks, Sr.
2. WR Naaman Roosevelt, Sr.
3. SS Davonte Shannon, Jr.
4. FS Mike Newton, Sr.
5. LB Justin Winters, Jr.
6. QB Zach Maynard, Soph.
7. LB Darius Willis, Fr.
8. CB Domonic Cook, Jr.
9. WR Brett Hamlin, Sr.
10. RB Brandon Thermilus, Jr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6
2009 Record: 0-0

9/5 at UTEP
9/12 Pitt
9/19 at UCF
9/26 at Temple
10/3 Central Michigan
10/10 Gardner-Webb
10/17 Akron
10/24 at Western Mich
11/3 Bowling Green
11/10 Ohio
11/18 at Miami Univ.
11/27 at Kent State

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record:

8/28 UTEP W 42-17
9/6 at Pitt L 27-16
9/13 Temple W 30-28
9/20 at Missouri L 42-21
9/27 at Central Mich L 27-25
10/11 West Mich L 34-28 OT
10/18 Army W 27-24 OT
10/28 at Ohio W 32-19
11/4 Miami Univ. W 37-17
11/13 at Akron W 43-40 4OT
11/21 at BGSU W 40-34 2OT
11/28 Kent State L 24-21
Ball State W 42-24
International Bowl
1/3 Connecticut L 38-20

Everything came together for Buffalo to not only get to the MAC title game, but to ruin Ball State's dream season, win the championship, and get to a bowl game. As great as that was, now the question becomes whether or not the program has staying power. At the very least, the head coach has staying power ... for the moment.

In the biggest upset of 2008, Turner Gill stayed with Buffalo. Whether or not the rumors are true that he didn't interview well, it doesn't matter. He came up with a building job (it wasn't a rebuilding job, since the program had never done anything before he got there) on par with anything in the recent history of college football. Remember, Buffalo football was non-existent. It was one of the nation's biggest doormats on a yearly basis, and it wasn't even on the map. 

It took a few years of good recruiting, a four-year starting quarterback in Drew Willy, a couple of NFL-caliber playmakers in RB James Starks and WR Naaman Roosevelt, and every good break in the book.

When you're Buffalo, and you've spent years getting shoved around by the world, you're owed a few four-leaf clover moments. To be fair, good teams make their own breaks, and UB certainly did its part with an aggressive defense that forced a ton of turnovers and an offense that didn't give it away. However, there was a Hail Mary to beat Temple, three overtime victories, and a few unbelievable bounces on turnovers in the MAC championship game. Can UB get the same breaks twice, and more to the point, can it make the positive things happen again? Gill certainly believes so.

Buffalo might have a great attitude, thanks to Gill, but it doesn't hurt that the talent is starting to shine through. Willy might be gone, but Starks and Roosevelt are back to lead the offense. The defense that struggled so much last year might not have much to count on up front, but it has a slew of young, athletic prospects on the end, a veteran linebacking corps, and a great secondary led by the MAC's best safety tandem of Davonte Shannon and Mike Newton.

Buffalo won a share of the MAC East title in 2007, won the MAC in 2008, and has a good team returning in 2009. With Gill still the head man, and not at Auburn or some other big name school, this is still the team to beat in the division.

What to watch for on offense: Mobility at quarterback. Drew Willy might have been a fantastic leader and a great passer, but he wasn't a runner. Zach Maynard is an excellent dual-threat quarterback, while backup Jerry Davis can move, too. The rushing attack that was so reliant on James Starks last year, and Brandon Thermilus early on, will get a big boost and should finish with well over 2,000 yards as a team (after netting 1,858 last year).

What to watch for on defense: The redshirt freshmen defensive ends. The Bull back seven is loaded with experience and proven producers, but the line has to be better. Far better. It'll all start with more of a pass rush from a few new ends that will upgrade the athleticism of the defensive front. Jaleel Verser, Steven Means, and Willie Moseley are all very quick and very promising. They need to camp out in the backfield, or the defense won't see any major improvement.

The team will be far better if … the defensive line can do something positive. The biggest shocker out of the championship season was how the Bulls were able to produce and come up with the big year despite getting little to nothing out of the front four. There's turnover on the ends, but that's not a bad thing. The tackles have to be far stronger against the run and there has to be a little collapsing of the pocket.

The Schedule: On the plus side, the Bulls have a nice midseason stretch of five home games in six, but that means there are road games to deal with starting out away from home in three of the four September games and in the final two games of the year at Miami and Kent State. The worst break is the draw from the West, getting the two best teams, Central Michigan (at home) and Western Michigan (on the road). The non-conference schedule is hardly a killer, with the toughest game at home against Pitt to go along with road games at UTEP and UCF and a home battle against Gardner-Webb.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB James Starks. WR Naaman Roosevelt might be the most dangerous playmaker, but Starks is now the offense. Not just a power runner, he's a special receiver with the build to work on the outside as a wide receiver and the hands to be one of the team's top pass catchers. He was second on the team in receptions last year and ran for 1,333 yards and 16 scores. The NFL types have him on the radar; he could be a top 100 pick next year.

Best Defensive Player: Junior SS Davonte Shannon. How's this for the first two years to start a career? 244 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, four interceptions and four forced fumbles. He's one of the nation's most active tackling safeties, and while he needs to be better when the ball is in the air, he doesn't miss a stop and he's always in on every play. Not just flashy, he's consistent. He doesn't have a bad game.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Zach Maynard. The lefty won't throw for 3,304 yards and 25 touchdowns like Drew Willy did, but he could throw for 2,000 yards and run for 500 more. He's an accurate passer who'll keep defenses on their toes with his speed and mobility. Most importantly, he has to keep the mistakes to a minimum. Willy only threw six interceptions, but he was a four year starter. If Maynard can have a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio, he'll have a good season.

The season will be a success if ... Buffalo wins the East again. Getting Central Michigan and Western Michigan from the West won't help, but if UB can split the two games, the potential is there for another great season with Akron and Bowling Green, two of the East's best teams, coming to UB Stadium. 5-2 in MAC play should get it done, and this team is good enough to do it.

Key game: Sept. 26 at Temple. If it's close to as good as last year's thriller, with Buffalo answering a late Temple scoring drive with a Hail Mary for the win, it'll be one of the best games of the year. It's also a tone-setter for the Bulls considering it's not just the MAC opener, but it's a key game against the East with Central Michigan, the best team in the league going into the season, coming up the following week.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Fumbles: Opponents 38 (lost 25) - Buffalo 16 (lost 8)
- Fourth down conversions: Buffalo 18-of-24 (75%) - Opponents 12-of-27 (44%)
- Sacks: Opponents 30 for 193 yards - Buffalo 14 for 97 yards