6-2 MAC East (2nd)
Head Coach: Jeff Quinn
2014 MAC Media Preseason Pick – 4th in MAC East
Good attendance can be related to a number of factors. One of those factors is often winning. The Buffalo Bulls led MAC schools in football attendance in 2013. Coincidentally, UB enjoyed one of its best football seasons in school history. Eight regular season wins (and six MAC victories) were the most in Buffalo D-1 history. The Bulls also earned a trip to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Can UB overcome the loss of All-American defender Khalil Mack, record-setters Brandon Oliver (RB) Alex Neutz (WR) and other contributors to make a run on the MAC title?
Several productive weapons are gone. Oliver averaged 127.9 ypg running the ball while Neutz averaged 16.8 ypc and scored 12 touchdowns on the way to a school record 31 career TD receptions. Wideout Fred Lee also finished his UB career.
All played a part in Buffalo’s balanced offense. The Bulls ranked fifth in scoring and total offense. They were fifth in rushing and fourth in pass offense.
Of course, quarterback Joe Licata was a key part of that offense, as well. The junior threw for 2,824 yards and 24 TDs while completing 58 percent of his passes in 2013. Hip surgery kept him out of spring drills, but he should be ready for fall and the opener.
Anthone Taylor got 82 carries last year, averaging 4.9 yards per rush. That’s just a smidge under Oliver’s 5.0 average. It was Taylor (5-10, 209) who scored the winning TD in a five-overtime win over Stony Brook that head coach Jeff Quinn called the turning point of the season.
Devin Campbell (5-11, 205, JR) has been productive as both a running back and receiver. He had 502 running yards, 176 receiving yards and three touchdowns with just three starts (11 game appearances) as a freshman. He rushed just 11 times last year and had 19 receptions but really made his mark on special teams by leading the league in kickoff returns (23.9 ypr). Campbell is likely to get more carries in the run game now that Oliver is gone.
Boomer Brock and Kendall Patterson will help the grind game out of the fullback position.
As for receivers, not only is Neutz gone, but also a very dynamic Fred Lee (58 receptions, 692 yards, 5 TDs). That’s a lot of production.
Senior Devon Hughes will be one of the more experienced UB wideouts. He has 48 receptions for 442 yards and four TDs for his career to date. Several other receivers have at least some experience, including Boise Ross. He recorded 13 catches for 156 yards as a true freshman in 2013.
Mason Schreck (17 catches, 147 yards, 2 TDs) and Matt Weiser (13, catches, 154 yards, 1 TD) were the most productive tight ends in 2013 and return for this season.
Among the departed on defense are two All-MAC First Team and one All-MAC Third Team selections.
Mack, of course, was voted the conference’s top defender and went fifth overall in the NFL Draft. However, defensive back Najja Johnson was also a first team pick.
Defensive end Colby Way (All-MAC Third Team) is gone, along with starter Beau Bachtelle. Senior Kristjan Sokoli (6-5, 300) , however, returns after starting all 13 games last year at nose tackle and will be counted on to anchor the D-line. He had 29 tackles, including five for loss and 2.5 sacks. Senior DE end Tedroy Lynch and Sophomore Max Perisse picked up some experience in 2013 and will be in the mix along with several redshirt freshmen.
Senior Lee Skinner (6-2, 233) will be a key for the linebacking corps. He has 37 starts to his credit and ranked second on the team in tackles in each of his first three seasons. He totaled included 79 tackles, 3.5 TFL and one interception in 2013.
The Bulls can also fill two more LB spots with seniors. Adam Redden (6-1, 202) had 10 starts last year and finished third on the team in tackles. Among his 65 stops were a whopping 12.5 TFL en route to All-MAC Third Team honors. John Stockman (6-2, 237) logged three starts while playing in all 13 games. He recorded 43 tackles, 5.5 TFL and had one INT over the campaign. Meanwhile, junior Nick Gilbo was having a strong start to 2013 before being sidelined by an injury.
It’s a mixed bag in the final line of defense. In addition Johnson, the Bulls also lost starting safety Derek Brim. What remains is a variety experience – but none more than Cortney Lester, who is entering his fourth season as a starter at cornerback. Lester had three of his nine career interceptions last year, along with 32 tackles.
Marqus Baker (16 tackles, one INT) or Dwellie Striggles could be at the other corner.
Senior Witney Sherry is back in the safety picture after getting sidelined by injury in 2012. Brim moved into the spot and stayed there. Okezie Alozie has seen significant action over his first two seasons and could contend for a spot, as well. His 45 tackles last year was seventh among the Bulls.
Patrick Clarke is entering his third full season as the Bulls kicker. He made 13 of 20 FG attempts (65%) with a long of 51 yards last year. He was successful on field goals of 50 and 49 yards in the Bulls victory over UConn. The senior converted 45 of 48 PATs.
As for punting, Tyler Grassman finished 2013 eighth among MAC punters with a 40.0 average on 71 punts.
The Bulls were a bit of a surprise to some last year when they made a good run at the MAC East title. Had BG not been so strong, the Bulls likely could have pulled it off. Their success should give them confidence in their system and ability to compete.
Bowling Green returns a lot and is favored to win it all in the MAC this year, so the Oct. 4 matchup at BG will be huge for both teams. A preseason media poll picked Buffalo for fourth in the MAC East, but the potential is there to finish higher.
Even with the loss of several key performers on offense, the Bulls have enough in Licata and the offensive line to make the newcomers productive.
There are some question marks up front on defense, but the linebacking unit should be solid. How well the defensive backfield holds up may depend, at least to some extent, on how much pressure UB can bring up front. Mack had 12 sacks (9 solo) last year when the Bulls were ranked No. 1 in sacks (38) and No. 2 in interceptions (15). Meanwhile, Bowling Green ranked first in pass efficiency.
Although BG and Ohio are on the road, Buffalo’s overall schedule is pretty favorable. For example, there is no Toledo on the schedule this year. The Bulls will need replacements to step up in order for UB to contend again. If they do, it could be another good year at the turnstiles.