There is a fundamental lack of respect for Joe Licata in the Mid American Conference. This, along with UB's losses to graduation, is part of the reason why UB was picked to finish fourth in the MAC. A QB starting his 18th consecutive game in the same system is somehow less likely to succeed than Ohio's first time starter, Akron's (likley) first time starter and a good QB in Bowling Green playing in a brand new system.
Unfortunately before giving us the reasons Licata will be fine in 2014, The Buffalo News' Bucky Gleason rolls out the reasons Licata was a product of his teammates:
Mack wasn’t coming back for Licata’s junior year, and neither were Alex Neutz, Branden Oliver and Fred Lee. They had supported him and protected him and led him for two years, three if you count another season as a redshirt freshman. They were his big brothers, his body guards, his backbone.
Lee Career Before Licata: 31 Receptions, 250 yards and 2 TDs.
Neutz Career Before Licata*: 23.5 games played, 88 receptions, 1,362 yards and 10 TDs.
Lee Career With Licata: 72 Receptions, 924 yards and 6 TDs..
Neutz Career With Licata*: 16.5 games played, 81 Receptions, 1,412 yards and 15 TDs.
Neutz was 64% more effective with Licata at QB, Lee was 324% more effective with Licata at QB.
UB won 8 games by an average of 26 points in 2013. Mack, Oliver, Lee and Neutz were great, but they got better the moment Licata took the reins.
*excluding FCS games
Indeed, this is Licata’s team.
What a scoop, this just happened today. Not like we've been banking on him to lead the team after years of losing amidst Quarterback instability.
Last season, he made fewer mistakes and continued to improve, but he was still a work in progress.
Last season, Licata threw 16 more touchdowns than interceptions, second best of any UB QB in the FBS era behind Willy's +19 season in 2008. He led the team to what amounted to the MAC Semifinals. Does Bucky wish to explain how he was a work in progress?
How about this, since 2007, fifteen MAC Quarterbacks have thrown for over 2,800 yards while throwing ten or more touchdowns than interceptions, including six of the last seven MAC Champions.
How is that a work in progress?
He was a good player on a good team.
Still, UB was never really his team until this season. The question now is whether he can lead them back to another winning season. It’s a tall order considering the players who walked out the door.
I disagree with everything here. A good player on a good team? The team wasn't good until Licata came around.
With Neutz, Mack, Means, Lee, Oliver and all the stars we love under QBs not named Licata: 6-26, (19%) with 3 FCS wins. Those Bulls with Licata as QB: 11-6 (65%).
Licata didn't take over a good team and now has to prove he can do it without UB's stars. Licata took a bad team to a winning record. It's everyone else's job to prove they can step in as the Next Bulls In.
Normally, the saying goes, Quarterbacks get too much praise and too much blame. This is the rare case of a Quarterback getting too little praise, this has been Licata's team since his near comeback against Toledo in 2012.
But lets ignore that, there is a narrative to be had.
The rest of the story is a good story, outlining why Licata should have a good 2014. This along with the weak schedule makes a winning season expected, not a "tall order."
To frame the 2014 Joe Licata story as the QB who finally has to prove it without his stars, really only proves one thing.
You haven't been watching UB Football.
It's Licata's team, it has been Licata's team, and Licata will do what Licata has done: throw touchdowns, protect the ball, and win football games.