Most offensives can overcome a weakness at one position with the right scheme. In a spread you can play call around your Quarterback, Running Back or a set of receivers. But nothing works if you line is ineffective as the line UB put out last season.
There were two huge reasons for the struggle last season:
Firstly there was an entirely new scheme. One which was almost a 180 from the offenses that coach Barrett put on the field. Coach Quinn made a point of physically changing the line into something 'leaner' and as a result they were a bit undersized.
Secondly the line was riddled by injury last season. At one point last season UB had just one actual offensive line backing up the entire unit, Jansen Carlson. Kenny Scott, a converted defensive lineman offered some depth but once Matt Ostroski went down against UCF the Bulls line was paper thin.
The Experience gap has, hopefully, been addressed with several returning starters. The Bulls graduated three linemen, including Peter Bittner, but retain the bulk of the front five. There are three seniors on this years roster and they all have 12 painful games in the spread 'experience' can't be an exuse this season.
Depth should also be better. In addition to Jeff Veinotte coming back after getting knocked out last spring UB has two more mid year admissions from the northlands. That's eleven linemen coming into camp before the freshmen even get to campus.
Curiously nearly all of our linemen have all added bulk. Last spring and summer the message seemed to be 'slim, tone, strong, and fast'. This year the linemen are enormous compared to last season:
Coach Duval needs to be commended for the work he did with the line during the off months. The average UB Lineman is going into spring 23 pounds heavier than they ended last season.
After signing day I thought that there was a good chance for Guy and Barbe to be starters coming out of spring but the jump in weight by the rest of the line might give them a year to redshirt.
There are five returning linemen who have spent time on the field and six freshman, or redshirt freshman heading into this years camp.
When Ostrowski broke his leg last season the line fell apart. His injury was the last nail in the coffin for UB football 2011.
After red shirting in 2007 and plying mainly special teams in 2008 Ostrowski took over the right tackle spot in 2009, starting eleven of twelve games.
Last season Ostrowski was a solid anchor on the line until his season was lost to injury.
It's hard to see anyone but him going into spring ball as the likely center. On top of his experience at the position Matt is one of the big gainers this season. He is up 24 pounds which should fit pretty well on a frame of 6-6.
A local kid from Saint Francis High School who walked on in 2007. Eared his way into the backup center role in 2008 and starter in 2009. Violante moved from a walk-on, to a contributor, to a starter over the course of two seasons.
Like everyone else on the offensive line Violante gained a bit of weight this off season. He is still one of the lighter linemen so a move over to tackle is not out of the question.
Violante is likely the front runner for center.
Ozkan was a mammoth before he put on thirty pounds this off season. At six foot seven and 322 pounds he is going to be one of the bigger linemen in the conference. He came to Buffalo having won All-State honors his junior season as a defensive tackle and All-League as an offensive lineman his senior season.
Ozkan took place in four games last season season before an ACL injury in October. One of three Bulls to have their season ended by an ACL injury.
His experience, and his size should put him somewhere on the interior line going into spring ball. No word on how well his knee has healed up since last season, that could be the only actor slowing him down.
Carlson was thrust the mix while still a true freshman.
Multiple injuries before and during the season forced coach Quinn to dig into his redshirts. Carlson saw action in seven games. Those included a start against Temple.
Jasen was a huge part of southwestern's back-to-back state titles, he was so key to the effort that he was twice earning New York State Class C Player of the Year honors as a lineman.
Wilson was a first-team All-Western New York and first-team All-Catholic who football played basketball at Canisius. He used his red shirt in 2009 and quickly earned a starting job under Coach Quinn.
Last season he started eleven games, missing only the Temple game. Towards the end of the season he was starting at left tackle, and is probably still a front runner for that position.
Whinery started every game last season after seeing only spot duty as a reserve lineman during the 2009 season. He has an amazing pedigree, his father played at Auburn and grandfather played at Notre Dame.
Most games he played left Guard and he will be challenged for that spot this season by some of the freshman. His aggressive style, and his size might see him moved off the interior line to add depth to the tackle positions.
Newcomers (true and redshirt freshman)
Among the newcomers are three Canadian linemen who may eventually form the core of UB's offensive line. Each may be a factor in this spring but with so much experience returning the entirety of the 'Canadian Shield' may not be together until 2012.
Huge lineman coming out of Canada who looked great last spring before losing the season to injury. He was already massive at 300+ pounds but over the off season he bulked up even more, now closing in on 340.
If he knee can support the frame and if the extra 32 pounds has not slowed him down too much Veinotte will get a good long look at the interior line. Of the three Canadians Veinotte is the most likely to start.
Guy has been playing for the Ottawa Sooners, a Canadian Junior Football team with a reputation for player development. Guy has tagged as a player to watch for future CFL drafts, even before he earned his NCAA ride. Before playing Junior Football he was the 2009 All-Canadian Offensive Line award winner and a member of the 'world' team in the US versus the World.
He enrolled at UB this January so he goes into spring as a true freshman that has been through Coach Duval's gauntlet.
Gabriel came to Buffalo from CEGEP du Vieux in Montreal. During the 2009 and 2010 seasons Barbe earned first-team All-Star honors and aided his team to the Quebec Province Championship (2009).
He also enrolled in January and enters camp as a true freshman.
Coaches have described him as a big, athletic tackle and at 6-7 314 Silas, a red shirt freshman out of Michigan, was selected for the Michigan East-West All-Star game at Michigan State. He was All-Conference and all regional
Davis was A two-time all-conference performer who had 36 tackles, six sacks, a blocked field goal and a defensive touchdow in just three games of his senior season.
initially picked up as a defensive lineman but is now listed as an offensive lineman, tipping the scales at 315 Davis bulked up 40 pounds from last season.