In the years after UB's last coaching change, many for far too long beat the drum that Jeff Quinn inherited a football team bereft of talent.
It's disingenuous to look at one or two units and declare "the cupboards are bare." Sure, the line was thin and Zach Maynard ran off to play with his half-brother but there was quality talent on the team Quinn came to coach. Jeff Quinn's Gill Era holdovers included incredible depth at running back (Bo Oliver) and a solid receiving core highlighted by the young Alex Neutz. On defense there were a number of playmakers and the greatest player in UB history: Khalil Mack.
We've talking about this at length at Bull Run: While Quinn did inherit a team thin at offensive line, the biggest blow was probably the transfer of the team's starting QB. Four years of Zach Maynard at UB means a very different article but for now let's look forward.
UB's next coach will inherit a record-setting senior quarterback with two and half years as a starter under his belt. Joe Licata will be expected to have a huge senior season. While his numbers look great there are some recurring concerns over Licata's mechanics and new regime might use that to open a competition for the position heading into 2015. If that happens, you'll want to be familiar with the Bulls QB Depth Chart.
Quinn's successor will get a deeper, but not more experienced, line than Quinn started with in 2010. After this season the Bulls will face the departure of three offensive line starters. Center Trevor Sales, left guard Andre Davis, and left tackle Jake Silas are all seniors now with just a few games left in the Blue and White. The other 40% of UB's starters (Blodgett, Kling) are juniors and in 2016 the o-line in Amherst will be entirely new.
Also graduating are WR's Devon Hughes and Cordero Dixon. The good news is Licata, who I expect to be the starter, has one more year with junior Ron Willoughby. The Avon Lake, OH native has Licata's complete confidence as evidenced by the number of high-risk passes thrown Willoughby's way despite double coverage this season. Also returning will be Jacob Martinez who has flared at times this season but faded in recent games.
The three-headed running attack of Anthone Taylor, Jordan Johnson, and Devin Campbell returns in its entirity. Taylor has been an extremely pleasant surprise and depending on how well the Bulls reload the left side of the line I look forward to seeing his production for his senior year.
That's the good news for the new coach of the Buffalo Bulls. On the other side of the ball defense and special teams will be a massive undertaking. A year after multiple UB seniors made their way into NFL camps, the Bulls once again lose the best player on the defensive side of the ball in defensive lineman Kristjan Sokoli. Also gone will be JUCO transfer and defensive lineman Tedroy Lynch and Dalton Barksdale
Brandon Crawford has yet to be an impact player the Bulls hoped for but will soon have monster cleats to fill. Starting linebackers Lee Skinner and Jake Stockman and are lost to graduation this year. In the secondary, Courtney Lester, Witney Sherry, and Adam Redden are all seniors as well. It's almost hard to believe how many seniors there are on a defense that has struggled so much.
Defensive players to watch that will be here next year include converted WR Boise Ross, who has grown by leaps and bounds at corner. Coming into the season we predicted Boises to be a breakout wide receiver but a dearth of quality in the defensive backfield forced him to the other side. The Bulls have also seen some positive plays on the defensive line from DL Max Perisse.
The final departure is field goal kicker Patrick Clarke, who came on years ago like a ball of fire when the kicking game was struggling mightily. Since then Clarke has gone from Mr. Automatic to falling numbers year over year.
Stop me if you heard this one before:
The next head coach will struggle to stop the ball and will need to have the offense put up thirty plus points to win games.
Another concern is the growing lack of faith in Quinn as a recruiter. Was Quinn that astute an assessor of talent? Many of his recruits did not have one FBS or even an FCS offer. Once the recruits got to Amherst Quinn further showed that he struggled to choose the best player on his very own team to put on the field.
Fans can hope that the Bulls have another Khalil Mack or two on or joining the roster, but based on the track record and I very concerned about upcoming years' depth. Then again, Turner Gill took a middling tight end named Trevor Scott and turned him into an all-MAC defensive end and an NFL draft pick.
The 2015 season will be interesting to say the least. Any semblance of success rests solely on the shoulders of Joe Licata and the remnants of this year's offensive line.
Let's hope Joe ends his career in Buffalo on a high note. If not, 2015 could be a very long sad season where a coach may to pull out some gimmicks to get fan support until he can rebuild the program.