There has been no shortage of James Starks publicity around UB Nation. This weekend the nice guy from Niagara Falls who smashed school records in an injury shortened college career will get his shot on the biggest stage in sports.
Since that fateful day in August 09 UB has lacked a feature back. Several guys had a great game or two, and there are already some potential stars in the pipeline who might be the feature back we've been missing. Last season however we saw next to nothing from our halfbacks.
To give you an idea of how bad the 2010 season was one need only point out that Alex Zordich led the team in gushing touchdowns. His two touchdowns in five games beat out Ike Nduka's one. Like the passing game much of this is the fault of the line more than the backs.
Coach Quinn lost two backs graduation. Brandon Thermilus and Ike Nduka were both experienced and at times guys who could carry a drive.
So how did Coach Quinn and company do with the Running backs?
The Need: Losing Nduka and Thermilus might seem like a real blow but the Bulls do have red shirt freshman James Potts coming in this spring. Potts was the feature player of last years class who had to fight through financial issues at his high school to even make it to Buffalo.
In addition to Potts both Gill and Oliver have both shown flashes of potential. If you put any of these backs behind a solid line and UB could do some damage on the ground. The need this year was for just one good back to keep the pipeline full. Already the Bulls have a junior, a red shirt sophomore and a redshirt freshman all vying for a spot so whoever comes in has a year to develop.
Dale Stewart: Dale Stewart was mister every skill at Niagara Falls High School. Need someone who played Quarterback, Halfback, Receiver, Some defensive back, and returned Kicks and punts? Well Stewart is your guy.
Being the Brother of UB Legend James Starks brings the disadvantage of high expectations but Stewart has spent his whole high school career. In his senior year alone he accounted for more than a thousand yards.
He also has six touchdown returns. That and his 17 touchdowns running and passing made his one of themost potent threats Upstate and earned him first team all Western New York honors.
Stewart was one of the very first players targeted by Coach Quinn last February after Quinn finished up his previous class.
"They have been contacting me the whole time and seeing how I'm doing with my grades, SATs, and everything else. They really care about me so that's the right school for me". -- Dale Stewart
A lack of potency on special teams has been a sore point over the past several years and Stewart may grow into that explosive return man that this team has so badly needed. His experience as a QB and receiver could also be huge in an offense that calls for backs to be a big part of the passing game.
Anthone Taylor: One half back per class is a must have, two is pretty standard. So as the weeks wore on and signing day approached it looked like the Bulls might not get that second back there was some concern.
Enter Anthone Taylor.
During his senior season, counting the playoffs, Taylor put up more than 1,600 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. His efforts were a big part of St. Xavier going surprisingly deep in the Ohio playoffs.
Taylor is only 5'10 but he runs several inches taller than that. A physical presence who is able to blow his way through the smallest hole he seems to have the desirable quality of always 'falling' forward when defenders do manage to wrap him up.
Running Back Grade: A
I like both of these backs, either would have been sufficient for the needs of this team but both only means more depth and more push.
Stewart might quickly find a role as a returner and maybe a gimmick back in the short term but he should find himself in the mix at some point in time. Stewart is one of those guys who you have to use, somewhere. If you get the ball in his hands you'll be ok. It might be as a returner, half back, or gimmick back but the team will be better if he is in there.
Taylor came on late but he is not scraps, the more I look into this kid the more I see a potential starter. Coach Quinn walks into spring and summer with a glut of talented backs any of whom could emerge the starter. Because he does not have the x factor he might be less in the mix this year than last but UB's need for a short yardage back and Taylor's style might be made for each other.