It was a wild ride for the Bulls in 2017 as they sandwiched a four-game losing streak in between a pair of three-game win streaks. Finishing with an upset home win over preseason MAC East favorite Ohio, the Bulls got a little momentum for 2018.
With some serious talent at several skills positions, UB is now considered a serious contender. While Ohio was a clear MAC East favorite (21 of 24 first place votes) in the preseason MAC Media poll. UB was second or third in most preseason publications. “There are a lot of pieces coming back to this puzzle, and now we are excited to see where it can take us,” Fourth-year head coach Lance Leipold said.
Here’s more on the Bulls . . .
⚑ Big Tyree Jackson (6-7, 245) runs an offense that returns eight starters from a unit that set a school record with 5,183 yards of total offense in 2017. Jackson provided 2,096 passing yards, with 12 TDs. Nine came over the final four games as UB’s offense really began to click. By season’s end, UB ranked 22nd nationally in passing (290.8 ypg).
⚑ “When he came (back) off the injured list … and focused on being a pocket passer, running the offense and giving the ball to our playmakers, … you really saw this team elevate over the last four games,” Leipold said.
⚑ Leipold is bullish on having enough receiving talent to “make it tough on defenses to focus on one person” i.e. Johnson. Other passing targets include K.J. Osborn, Antonio Nunn and tight end Tyler Mabry.
⚑ Buffalo ranked second among MAC teams in pass efficiency.
⚑ With an experienced group and some depth up front. Two-time All-MAC center James O’Hagan - a four-year starter -- anchors the offense trenches.
⚑ Emmanuel Reed is back after leading the Bulls in rushing (199 carries, 840 yards, 9 TDs), but junior Jonathan Hawkins is also back after missing much of 2017 with an injury
⚑ There’s some big talent on defense, as well. Senior linebacker Khalil Hodge recorded 154 tackles (second in the nation) last year. Junior Jordan Collier had 66 hits of his own.
⚑ LB Chuck Harris notched 73 tackles and four sacks on the way to All-MAC honors in 2017.
⚑ There’s experience at the corners, including Cameron Lewis. He started all of 2016 but missed part of 2017 with an injury. He’s “a special player for us. Pound-for-pound, , he’s one of the toughest guys we have,” Leipold said.
Brandon Williams and Tatum Slack both have starting experience. A battle to replace safety positions carried into fall camp. “We have some additions there that are going to improve our competition at safeties”
⚑ Seniors Justin Brandon and Chuck Harris are returning starters up front, anchoring a unit that Leipold hopes can be productive. “We have to get to the quarterback without just manufacturing pressure he said, adding that the Bulls have been working on building depth along the D-line..
⚑ Buffalo allowed 24.8 ppg last year. That was fifth among MAC teams. The Bulls were eighth in total defense, surrendering 399.8 ypg.
⚑ Only four MAC teams had a positive turnover margin for the entire year. One of those was Buffalo with a +1.
⚑ UB's 49.8 ypg in penalties was fifth best among MAC teams. The Bulls tied Ohio for second in total penalties (67).
⚑ Non-conference foes are Delaware State, Temple (A), Rutgers (A) and Army. While Ohio and Miami are facing Northern Illinois and Western Michigan from the East, Buffalo gets Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Toledo. The Bulls are at Ohio Nov. 14 and host Miami two weeks earlier.