Khalil Mack made program history when he was chosen 5th overall by the Oakland Raiders, and UB stalwarts Alex Neutz and Branden Oliver have both caught on with the Cincinnati Bengals, and San Diego Chargers respectively. With those program defining men on to bigger and better things in the NFL, which current Bulls will be the most likely to join them on Sundays?
There's plenty of talented players on the Bulls roster currently, and with last season's success NFL scouts and front office personnel have certainly taken notice of UB. So, here are 3 current UB players that could be suiting up on Sundays in the not too distant future....
Joe Licata, Quarterback
I've already talked about how I believe Joe Licata can be an NFL-ready passer by the time his career in Amherst is over. With the departure of Oliver, Neutz and Mack, the proverbial keys have been handed to Licata and he is now the unquestioned leader and face of the team. Coming off of the best season by a UB quarterback since Drew Willy roamed UB stadium, with 2,824 yards passing, and 24 touchdowns through the air (one shy of the single season record) the expectations for Licata heading into his final two seasons will be very high.
In order to really catch the attention of NFL scouts Licata will need to build upon the successes of last season with unproven weapons on offense and a defense that will be missing a transcendent player. Licata has shown the ability to take over a game and put up ridiculous offensive numbers (see UB v. Toledo, 2013), and with his physical tools he can only improve. While some may question if Licata's arm is strong enough to make all of the requisite NFL throws; I say that Licata is a West Coast style quarterback that can thrive in a system with 3 step drops, play action and a solid running game.
If Joe can rise to the occasion and lead UB to back to back bowl births for the first time in school history, while putting up a better statistical performance than last year I truly believe he could be the first UB quarterback to be drafted into the NFL.
Prediction: 6th Round Pick, 2016 NFL Draft
Trevor Sales, Center
The Houston Rockets may have "Fear the Beard" with guard James Harden, but the Buffalo Bulls have "Fear the Belly" with center Trevor Sales.
Sales figures once again to be an anchor for a very talented Bulls offensive line, arguably UB's strongest position group. Sales has the size (6-2, 327) to be an NFL offensive lineman, he also has the technically sound ability to be a line general at the next level. What Sales needs to improve on are his quickness and his strength at the point of attack. When Sales is able to get the first step on defensive tackles and get his hands in position, he can be an immovable object in the middle of the offensive line. However, as evidenced in the UB-BGSU game this past season, Sales had some trouble with the quicker BGSU tackles that were able to have a quick first step and get their hands under his pads.
With his size and intelligence, Sales could be a solid contributor at either center or guard at the next level, which bodes well for his prospects of an NFL future given that coaches and GM's love lineman that can play multiple positions. With the Bulls returning the entire offensive line from the end of last season, Sales will be anchoring a seasoned group and will have his opportunity to shine.
Prediction: 7th Round Pick, 2015 NFL Draft
Andre Davis, Guard
Last, but certainly not least, is stalwart guard Andre Davis. Davis has experience at both left tackle and left guard, but due to his size (6-4, 320) his best fit at the next level will be at guard. Davis was recently named to Phil Steele's Preseason All-MAC First Team, and for good reason. Davis has the raw power to be a road grader at guard, and he was a key piece in Branden Oliver's record breaking career, opening up massive holes for the former Bull. Like Sales, Davis will anchor the left guard position on a very talented and very experienced offensive line and will look to be the most dominant line in the MAC.
Davis compares very favorably to former Kent State guard Brian Winters, in both size and ability, who was taken in the 3rd round by the New York Jets in the 2013 draft and started 12 games for the Jets. Davis will have every opportunity to shine this year, and a strong senior season my mean him getting his name called next spring.
Prediction: 4th Round Pick, 2015 NFL Draft