This is not a piece aimed at running Licata down or tarnishing one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in UB's history. Joe Licata gave UB fans the most successful four season span since the 1960's. I remain convinced Licata was our best option behind center this season. Calls to throw in Tony Daniel were born out of frustration and had they been heeded UB would not have done any better.
Here are the top 10 UB quarterbacks by yardage since 1954 (minimum 100 attempts). Notice that Licata is top three in pretty much every stat.
The one that really sticks out to me here is his touchdown to interception ratio. Nobody else is even close, and its that decision making and mistake avoidance that made Licata such a good quarterback over his career. He does not have a rocket arm and was not the kind of guy who beat teams with his legs but in general he managed the game well.
Licata's one big strength as a quarterback was his ability to keep the team from beating themselves while Branden Oliver, or Anthone Taylor punished our foes on the ground.
Until this season. Here is Joe's year by year stats including his touchdown to interception ratio.
Partially because of Licata's struggle to manage games UB is sitting home this offseason rather than going to a bowl game. Licata was asked to throw the ball too much and our one dimensional offense was unable to overcome our opponent. Worse yet Licata's throws were off or he missed key reads.
In all but one of UB's losses Joe threw the ball more than 40 times. The lone exception was CMU where UB spent most of the first half suffering 3 and outs.
In all but one of UB's wins Licata threw the ball 32 or fewer times. The lone exception was the Bulls' late comeback win over Kent State.
The trend of 40 throw games ending badly is nothing new to UB. It goes back throughout Quinn's tenure. But the long standing nature of the trend does not excuse the offensive coaching staff's failure to mitigate the problem this season. Despite not being the hot hand we are used to Licata still threw more per game than in any of his first three seasons.
The loss to UMass is a perfect example.
Late in the second quarter, trailing 21-17, UB had a first and goal from the four yard line. At this point in the game Jordan Johnson is averaging better than 4 yards a carry and UMass has not seen a single run on the drive. Beyond that Buffalo had more than 1:30 and a timeout to burn.
How do you not try some play action, or even a power run to see if you can pick up 4 yards? Instead the Bulls run two passes. The second pass - identical to the first, except with a different receiver - is picked off and leads to a UMass drive which effectively seals the game.
Aside from Diamond Joe Licata UB fans saw very little in the passing game.
Fellow senior Tony Daniel threw five passes this season and redshirt freshman Chris Merchant managed a single attempt.
So where do we go from here?
UB loses their number one and two quarterbacks. The only QB returning with any game experience is Merchant, who played a few snaps when UB was getting throttled by Central Michigan.
Merchant was a 2013-2014 recruit and one of the better quarterbacks to come out of Canada that season. UB picked him up as a pro-style option.
Another player vying to replace Licata will be 2014-2015 commit Tyree Jackson. Jackson, out of Muskegon, Michigan, is an impressively built dual-threat quarterback. Buffalo beat out one of the MAC's best recruiters, Western Michigan for Jackson. After Lance Leipold was hired, UB's new staff quickly shored up the commit and held off late pushes from UConn and Pitt.
The final guy to keep an eye on is Iowa State transfer Grant Rohach. Recently Rohach announced he will transfer from the Cyclones to the Bulls and as a graduate student he is immediately eligible to play. The only major "problem" is just a single year of eligibility remaining.
Before Rohach signed I had a feeling that Jackson would win the job this spring. While that may still be the case it's hard to fathom Rohach coming here unless he really thought he could win the job.
Whoever wins the job will have to better fit into the Leipold offense than Licata did. Between Merchant, Jackson, and Rohach I am not worried about a "talent cliff" behind center. The big question I have is how effectively will the staff work with our starter on game day?
Joe struggled this year but pinning our 5-7 record on a quarterback whose *worst* year saw a positive TD/Interception ratio and a QB rating of 112 would be wrong. Many areas of the offense struggled in 2015, and we will be getting to those later.