While this season saw most eyes on Khalil Mack's record breaking performances there was another Buffalo Bull putting his name on top of everyone else.
Branden Oliver, known simply as "Bo", is a 5 foot eight 208 block of solid muscle who broke almost every Buffalo career and season rushing record. Even those held by Green Bay Packers running back James Starks.
After emerging from a field of young backs in a moribund 2010 season Oliver erupted during his sophomore year in 2011. By the time the year was over it was obvious that the Florida native was one of the best running backs in the Mid American Conference and all of Division I. Oliver rushed for 1,395 yards on 306 carries, breaking UB’s single-season rushing record, held by James Starks, on the final day of the season.
He suffered an injury early in 2012 which hampered a campaign which looked to put him in the top 10 running backs nationally. Oliver was a preseason member of the Maxwell, Doak Walker, and Walter Camp preseason watch lists. He ran for 111 against Georgia to open the season and he had 426 rushing yards through the year's first ten quarters.
This past season Oliver broke his own season high rushing record and ended his year with 310 carries for 1,535 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also had 173 yards receiving, one reception for a touchdown, totaling 1708 all-purpose yards.
Oliver is a solid downhill runner who also has the ability to make one or two solid cuts before he really hits the gas. BO specializes in gaining yards after the initial contact. He is not by nature a shifty runner or a burner but he has demonstrated an ability to stop and start on a dime.
Mentally Oliver has developed to the point where he lets the play develop and lets the holes open up in front of him. Once the hole opens he gets downhill in a hurry, making one cut, planting his foot and exploding up field.
Currently Oliver is rated as the 45th best running back in this years NFL draft which puts him in undrafted free agent neighborhood. The main concern is his size and durability. He is about three inches shorter than the average NFL running back and has missed a bit of time over the past two seasons due to physical issues.
But there has been a trend of shorter running backs in recent years. Ravens RB Ray Rice (5’8"), 49ers RBs Frank Gore (5’9"), and Jacquizz Rodgers (5’6") among others show that a compact back who knows who to use his size can succeed on an NFL field.
Oliver could be a late round sleeper for a team who's running back needs were met in the earlier rounds. Say Miami or Cleveland.
Oliver needs to put up numbers at pro day that rival some of the top 15 performances in this seasons NFL combine.
That would be a 4.5 40 time, a 35 plus inch vertical, 15 reps on the bench, a 4.1 in the shuttle, and perhaps a sub seven time on the cone.