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Top 50 MAC Football Players of 2014: No. 19 Joe Licata, Buffalo Quarterback

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Coming in at number 19 on the countdown of the top MAC football players is UB's face of the franchise, Joe Licata.

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Joe Licata is a Buffalo man through and through. He was one of Western New York's most decorated high school quarterbacks setting all sorts of passing records for Williamsville South. Coming out of high school as one of the most highly touted players in Western New York, Licata held offers from Syracuse, Buffalo, and Akron; but ultimately spurned Doug Marrone and the Orange to play for his hometown Buffalo Bulls.

Entering his Sophomore year hopes were high for Licata, as he was coming off a 4 game stretch at the end of his redshirt-freshman year in which he led the Bulls to a 3-1 record. Long story short: Licata didn't disappoint. He threw for 2,824 yards, with 24 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions leading the Bulls to an 8-4 regular season record and a birth in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the programs second ever bowl birth.

In a season that was the best statistical performance since Drew Willy graced UB Stadium, Licata was graceful under pressure, and had several excellent games. In the season opener against No. 2 Ohio State, Licata showed the poise and confidence of a hardened veteran not being phased at all by a crowd of over 100,000 rowdy fans at the Horseshoe, in what ended up being a 40-20 loss. The highlight of his season was in a 51-41 loss to Toledo, in which Licata put the team on his back in the second half and nearly led a Frank Reich-esque comeback from a 38-0 halftime deficit. Licata put up video game numbers going 36-58 for 497 yards and 4 touchdowns; Licata stepped up and led the Bulls behind his truly Herculean effort, and ended up earning MAC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

"It's different for me being from here. I have a special connection with my hometown and it's driven me to give back."   -Joe Licata

While he is an excellent player on the field, Licata is an even better citizen off the field. He volunteers his time to work with children at local schools around the UB campus. He was recently recognized for his work off the field by being named a finalist to the 2014 AFCA Allstate Good Works Team. The AFCA annually recognizes a group of a college football players who have done work to better the lives of those around them and to provide to the greater good of their communities.

Licata has good measurables standing at 6-2 and weighing 227 pounds; he also has good footwork and mechanics which help him deliver laser strikes on short and medium passes. He has shown some flashes throwing deep balls, but some tend to float as they travel through the air, but this can be easily rectified with more time in a strength program.

Entering the 2014 season Licata will be throwing behind one of the most experienced offensive lines in the MAC; while he will need to make up for the losses of Branden Oliver, Alex Neutz and Fred Lee, Licata has the experience, and leadership abilities to lead the Bulls on a successful 2014 campaign and to a second consecutive bowl berth. If he continues to improve at the exponential rate he already has he could be a dark horse candidate for this year's MAC Offensive Player of the Year award, and he could be laying the foundation for a future career in the NFL.