2010 Buffalo Preview – Offense
Buffalo OG Peter Bittner
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Buffalo Bulls Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Offensive coordinator Greg Forest and head coach Jeff Quinn want the offense to be fast, fast, fast. The tempo will be sped up big-time, but that might not match the strengths of the personnel. The Bulls get back four starters from one of the MAC's strongest lines, and a four man rotation of backs should be among the best in the league. The problem is at quarterback, where rising star Zach Maynard bolted for Cal leading behind a battle between two young prospects, Jerry Davis and Alex Dennison. The receiving corps has potential, but it's unproven and it has to prove it can quickly make up for the loss of Naaman Roosevelt and the team's top three targets from last year.
Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Jerry Davis and/or Redshirt freshman QB Alex Dennison
Passing: Jerry Davis
8-15, 145 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Ike Nduka
96 carries, 598 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Terrell Jackson
25 catches, 250 yds
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore QB Jerry Davis and/or Redshirt freshman QB Alex Dennison
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman RB Brandon Oliver
Best pro prospect: Senior OG Peter Bittner
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bittner, 2) RB Brandon Thermilus, 3) Davis
Strength of the offense: Line, Running Back
Weakness of the offense: Proven Quarterback, Proven Receiver
Projected Starter: While there might end up being a rotation at quarterback, sophomore Jerry Davis will get the first look. A dangerous dual-threat option, he's an almost perfect fit for what the new offense will ask for. At 6-1 and 194 pounds, he's not all that big, but he's extremely quick and has a good, accurate arm with the ability to make things happen on the move. If he's consistent and doesn't make a slew of big mistakes, he'll be the best option.
Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshman Alex Dennison is being given every shot at the starting job. At 6-2 and 227 pounds he's bigger than Jerry Davis, but he's not quite the same runner. An excellent athlete with the team's best arm, he can run as well as work as a pocket passer. He saw a little bit of time last year completing 8-of-15 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown
The third man in the mix, lefty junior Cory Jorgensen will strictly be an emergency option. The 6-2, 213-pound walk-on has a decent arm and has been around the program long enough to know what he's doing, but he'll work mostly on the scout team.
Watch Out For … a rotation. The coaching staff likes the quarterback situation and will sink or swim with the young options, but no one's in any hurry to determine a starter. Both Davis and Dennison will be used.
Strength: Mobility. Jeff Quinn wants to get his quarterbacks running, and Davis and Dennison can do that. Not only can they run, but they can throw on the move, too.
Weakness: Experience. There isn't any. Davis saw a wee bit of time, but not enough to call him a veteran. There will be some major growing pains before the Bulls have a polished starter.
Outlook: After the unexpected transfer of last year's starter, Zach Maynard, the coaching staff had to put all their faith into Davis and Dennison. They're green, but they have excellent upside and should be solid with a little bit of work in the high-octane, up-tempo style.
Unit Rating: 5
Projected Starters: Thrown into the starting role after James Starks went down for the year last offseason, senior Brandon Thermilus ran for 560 yards and four touchdowns as the team's power back. The 5-11, 224-pound son of former Miami Hurricane star Alonzo Highsmith doesn't have much in the way of speed or wiggle, but he's a powerful runner with a better nose for the goal line than he showed last year. He doesn't get tackled behind the line and is always moving forward as both a runner and a blocking fullback. While he wasn't used much as a receiver last year, he has 33 career catches for 281 yards and two scores.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Ike Nduka went from being a special teamer to the team's leading rusher tearing off 598 yards and six touchdowns averaging 6.2 yards per carry. The 5-11, 217-pounder isn't going to tear off any home runs, but he's strong and showed a workhorse ability in the middle of last year running for 172 yards on 22 carries against Central Michigan and followed it up with a 131-yard effort against Gardner-Webb and 172 yards and three scores against Western Michigan a few weeks later. However, he wore down missing the last three games of the season with an ankle injury.
Before going down late in spring ball with a knee injury, redshirt freshman Branden Oliver was the star of the offseason. The 5-8, 196-pound Miami native is one of the team's most explosive players with home run hitting ability and the quickness to make the first man miss in the backfield. He'll be used on kickoff returns and as a third down back when he's not making things happen in the backfield.
When Jeffvon Gill got his chances, he was fantastic. Working over the second half of his true freshman season, the sophomore ran for 252 yards and two scores averaging 6.3 yards per carry. At 5-11 and 211 pounds, he's tough between the tackles and he has the burst to crank out big runs on the outside. He'll be the workhorse back next season.
Watch Out For … Oliver. His knee injury doesn't appear to be that big a deal, and that means the Bulls have a dangerous option for around ten touches a game. He could go ballistic in the new offense with big holes to run through.
Strength: Depth. The four backs in the mix can all start and they can all produce when given the chance. From the power of Thermilus and Nduka, to the speed of Oliver, to the all-around ability of Gill, the Bulls are loaded with promising backs who'll crank out yards in chunks.
Weakness: Receiving. It's nitpicking a bit, but the backs don't get too many opportunities to make things happen in the passing game. Thermilus and Nduka each caught nine passes, but they're not going to be a big part of the passing game.
Outlook: The Bulls are loaded and should have the best group of backs this side of Temple. There might not be a signature star, but the four options should work well in the rotation behind a veteran line. They might not be featured all the time in the new spread attack, but they'll come with several big plays and they should be the team's steadying force to control the ball and the tempo.
Unit Rating: 7
Projected Starters: The team's top three receivers from last year are gone meaning junior Terrell Jackson needs to step up into the No. 1 role. At 5-11 and 183 pounds he has decent size to go along with tremendous quickness catching 25 passes for 250 yards with 14 grabs over his final three games. While he struggled as a kickoff returner averaging just 16 yards per try, he has the speed to do far more.
6-1, 193-pound redshirt freshman Fred Lee has a good burst and the potential to be a dangerous deep threat on the outside. Tall and with decent hands, he should cause a few matchup problems in single coverage if the quarterback play is solid.
Junior Marcus Rivers was expected to blossom into a big role last year, but he only caught five passes for 35 yards and a score as he never got into the rotation on a regular basis. At 6-4 and 207 pounds he has tremendous size and is a great athlete with the potential to be a killer on jump balls around the goal line, but he has yet to do anything of note on the field. The skills have to translate into production.
JUCO transfer Michael Marr caught three passes for 31 yards last season, and now he replaces Jesse Rack as the main receiving tight end. An athletic 6-3 and 225 pounds, he has the potential and the talent to be a decent midrange receiver and a good safety valve. While he's not a big blocker, he's physical enough to help the ground game.
Projected Top Reserves: While he'll be a reserve going into the season and he'll start out behind Marcus Rivers, redshirt freshman Alex Neutz was too good this offseason to not see plenty of playing time. A playmaker who can get deep, the 6-3, 200-pound glider played like a seasoned veteran in spring ball and showed he has the potential to grow into a No. 1 target before his career is up.
Junior Ed Young was a start dual threat high school quarterback who's still learning the ropes at receiver. The 5-11, 192-pounder is extremely quick and has tremendous athleticism, but he hasn't done much catching just two passes for 39 yards. A kick returner, he struggled averaging a pathetic 16.4 yards per try, but he has the athletic ability to do far more.
A special teamer last year, 6-3, 255-pound junior Aaron Connacher will be a key part of the tight end rotation. He got a little bit of starting time as a true freshman making five catches, but he redshirted in 2008 and didn't do much last year. He has the size and the hands to become a decent safety valve for the passing game.
Redshirt freshman Jimmy Gordon will be used as a regular part of the tight end rotation as mostly a blocker. A star high school defensive end, the 6-4, 249-pounder is physical with just enough quickness to become a receiver over the next four years.
Watch Out For … Neutz. For a team looking for playmaking receivers, Neutz's spring was an eye opener. He's a deep threat who isn't afraid to battle for the ball, and he could end up being a major factor as the season goes on.
Strength: Size and speed. The old coaching staff brought aboard decent-sized targets who can all move. The 6-4 Rivers and the 6-1 Lee aren't going to get pushed around by anyone, and the backups are even bigger.
Weakness: Proven production. The top three receivers from last year are gone, and throwing out the production of the running backs, Rivers is the team's second-leading returning receiver making just five catches.
Outlook: Call this the team's X factor. With Naaman Roosevelt's 70 catches and Brett Hamlin's 64 grabs gone, the Bulls need new receivers to step up and shine right away. Rivert, Jackson and Lee are all very promising, but they need to be consistent as well as explosive. The passing game was a plus last year, and this crew has some large shoes to fill.
Unit Rating: 5
Projected Starters: Senior Jordan Jerrold was one of the team's top linemen before a knee injury cost him the 2008 season. He came back and was better than ever starting the second half of the year on the left side and showing off the athleticism he had before the knee injury. While he's only 247 pounds on his 6-8 frame, he moves extremely well and is great in pass protection.
With the return of Jerrold, junior Matt Ostrowski , who started the first half of last year at left tackle, will stick at right tackle, where he started for most of the second half of last season. The 6-7, 302-pounder was excellent in pass protection and was a bulldozer for the run. When the offense needs a hard yard, he's the one the team works behind.
6-4, 297-pound senior Peter Bittner has been a mainstay of the line for the last three seasons starting 38 straight games and earning Second Team All-MAC honors last year. Big, very tough, and very consistent, he's a pounder of a run blocker and moves extremely well for his size. A star high school defensive lineman, he's now coming into his own and will be the anchor of the veteran UB front.
Junior Josh Violanti was in a battle for the starting center job last year, and he ended up taking over in the fifth game of the year. The former walk-on is very smart and very feisty, and while he's not all that big at 6-2 and 268 pounds, he gets the job done. While he's not going to barrel over too many defenders, he's smart, is solid at making the right line calls, and is consistent.
At 6-7 and 316 pounds, sophomore Gokhan Ozkan is a bit tall for the right guard job, but the tackle jobs aren't open and he needs to get on the field. Mostly a special teamer last year, the big blocker has the frame, the talent, and the upside to be solid in pass protection with a long frame that will be tough to get around.
Projected Top Reserves: Is junior Solomon Richberg more of a defensive tackle or an offensive lineman? The 6-4, 290-pounder saw a little bit of time on the defensive side last year, but he'll move back to the offensive front, where he was recruited to play, to be a key backup at left guard. He has good size and the toughness to grow into a role. The hope is that he'll be a starter next year.
6-5, 276-pound redshirt freshman Pat Wilson should be the team's future at tackle. While he needs to get a bit bigger, he's a great athlete and could end up moving to tackle if needed. He can get to the second level in a hurry.
About to be a key part of the guard rotation is sophomore Jose Cortes , a 6-5, 310-pounder from California who moves well for his size and will see time at right guard behind Gokhan Ozkan. He can play either guard spot and has the bulk to be solid for the ground game as a potential spot starter.
Watch Out For … Ozkan. He's the one new starter to the puzzle, and even though he's not exactly in his right spot (he's more of a tackle), he has the potential to become a solid producer and a three-year starter.
Strength: Experience and pass protection. The Bulls get four starters back and have just enough developed backups to not crash and burn if injuries hit. The line might have been the team's biggest strength last year paving the way for 164 rushing yards per game while only allowing 20 sacks.
Weakness: The right fit at guard. Bittner is a long time starter who's a rock on the left side, but Ozkan is a tackle play right guard and Cortes is also more of a tackle. Richberg needs to show he can play after spending most of his time on the defensive front.
Outlook: The line has been a major plus over the last few years, and it could be even better with four returning starters and a good mix of size and athleticism across the board. This isn't going to be the MAC's best offensive front, and it has to adapt to the quicker pace of the new attack, but it'll be good.
Unit Rating: 5.5
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