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Football Season Wrap up - The Offensive Line

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Many of the Bulls problems this season began on the line.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Following the 2014 season three UB offensive linemen ended up in NFL camps. Andre Davis, Jake Silas, and Trevor Sales spent the spring trying out for NFL jobs. None of them stuck in the NFL but they were good enough to get a shot in camp and Silas ended up signing a contract with the Canadian Football League's Ottawa REDBLACKS.

Between that talent loss and a coaching staff it would have been fair to some real struggles. Despite the warning signs may people, including yours truly, saw the size of UB's line and figured that things would be fine.

We were wrong.

While the line did make huge strides in their discipline later in the year boneheaded penalties early on were huge factors against Bowling Green and Nevada. They also stalled more than a drive or two against Penn State in what was a close game.

But while the number of penalties went down later in the year what did not go up were the number of big plays. The Bulls ranked 10th out of 13 MAC teams in pass plays of 20 yards or more. Mark Gaughan from the Buffalo News brought up some other troublesome stats.

UB football looks to get up to speed - Sports - The Buffalo News
The UB offense ranked eighth in touchdowns and seventh in yards in the MAC. But the Bulls scored 15 fewer offensive TDs and gained 52 fewer yards per game than last year. The No. 1 reason? The schedule was tougher. UB played seven games last season against bad defensive teams (those that allowed 430 yards or more and ranked 90th or worse in the country). This year they played two. The No. 2 reason? The offensive line wasn’t dominant like last season. Offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki maintained good balance, running on 48 percent of the plays. Third down wasn’t good enough. UB converted 38.7 percent in MAC games, seventh-best. Kotelnicki used three receivers 60 percent of the plays and used spread formations 65 percent overall. UB used two tight ends on 27 percent of the plays. The UB offense couldn’t play physical and impose its will. On first down, it ran much better out of spread formations (5.0 yards a carry) than out of regular or two-TE formations (3.53 a carry).

Throwing in two tight ends and averaging under four yards per carry is not where you want to be. Especially when you know that Anthone Taylor is capable of so much more. Taylor was proven last year and Jordan Johnson showed tremendous potential this season but too often the running backs were met at the line, or in the backfield.

Maybe that is why, by the end of the season, first and goal from the five was passing territory for a team with a big running back and a bulky line. If UB can run the ball there the UMass game is completely different going into the second half.

What we are losing

The Bulls are losing two starters and a backup to graduation. John Kling and Robert Blodgett are the starters and Todd Therrien is the backup. Kling and Blodgett are tackles who checked in at 320 and 315 pounds.

Based on the depth charts near the end of the season next year's tackles would be Albert McCoy and Tyler O'Henly.

McCoy will be a senior and had some limited playing time this past season. O'Henly is a junior from Ontario who played in five games.

Both check in at more than 300 pounds but we learned this year that being a big bulky offensive line is not, in and of itself, enough to promote a healthy running game.

While overall team speed may be something of an issue it did not stop the Bulls from making big plays in the past. Anthone Taylor had a good season last year and Joe Licata was able to hit more deep balls under the offense of Alex Wood.

Daryl Agpalsa needs to fit in McCoy and O'Henly while at the same time giving UB's line the tools it needs to drive big plays. The size and depth are there, if the line comes together next year could be something special for the Bulls.