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Buffalo’s Running Backs, 2021 and beyond

Syndication: Akron Beacon Journal Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK

Sitting here on a mid-December morning, 4-8, and for the first time in several years, I’m thinking about next season before Christmas.

The Grinch came early for Buffalo, he snuck down from Kanas in the middle of the night and took our coaching staff, and a huge number of players. He’s still at it by the way, Nolan Gorczyca, just announced he’s going the the Jayhawks.

But anyway, this leads me to the running game.

It’s no secret that the success that was built by Lance Leipold was squarely based on a ball-control offense that was helmed by a great game-managing quarterback, a solid line, and a couple of all-conference quality backs.

So last off-season, when Kevin Marks peeked in the portal and decided to stay at Buffalo it looked as if that recipe was going to hold again. Then.. Well, we’ve already talked about what happened.

The new line and new system did not help highlight Kevin Marks. The Senior had his worst season of the year. He got banged up and was never really the same after, eventually being supplanted by Dylan McDuffie.

Marks is off to try his hand in the NFL, and his body of work at Buffalo may be more than enough to get him a chance with someone in the spring.

Next Year:

Buffalo will start next year, likely, with McDuffie as the main back.

With all the challenges this team faced up front McDuffie put together an amazing season.

  • 10th best single-season yard total in program history
  • 14th highest number of carries in a season
  • 12th highest yards per carry, in a season with at least 100 carries.
  • 14th highest number of rushing touchdowns in a season
Rank Single Season Yards Year Yards Single Season Attempts Year Att Single Season YPC Year YPC Single Season TD Year TD
1 Jaret Patterson 2019 1799 Jaret Patterson 2019 312 Jaret Patterson 2020 7.60 Jaret Patterson 2020 19
2 Branden Oliver 2013 1535 Branden Oliver 2013 310 Kevin Marks 2020 6.62 Jaret Patterson 2019 19
3 Anthone Taylor 2014 1403 Branden Oliver 2011 306 John Hartman 1990 6.02 James Starks 2008 16
4 Branden Oliver 2011 1395 Anthone Taylor 2014 282 Jaret Patterson 2019 5.77 O.D. Underwood 1986 15
5 James Starks 2008 1333 James Starks 2008 272 Branden Oliver 2012 5.55 Branden Oliver 2013 15
6 O.D. Underwood 1986 1,189 James Starks 2007 251 Jaret Patterson 2018 5.54 Jaret Patterson 2018 14
7 Anthony Swan 1996 1117 Anthony Swan 1996 244 Dave Dawson 2003 5.30 Kevin Marks 2018 13
8 James Starks 2007 1103 Anthony Swan 1995 236 Jordan Johnson 2016 5.20 Branden Oliver 2011 13
9 Jaret Patterson 2020 1072 Aaron Leeper 2002 235 O.D. Underwood 1986 5.19 Jordan Johnson 2015 12
10 Dylan McDuffie 2021 1049 O.D. Underwood 1986 229 Jim Barksdale 1966 5.19 Anthone Taylor 2014 12
11 Jordan Johnson 2016 1040 Kevin Marks 2019 227 Pat Whitehead 1982 5.13 James Starks 2007 12
12 Kevin Marks 2019 1035 Alan Bell 1991 225 Dylan McDuffie 2021 5.09 Pat Whitehead 1982 12
13 Alan Bell 1991 1017 O.D. Underwood 1987 209 Josh Roth 1998 5.07 Lee Jones 1967 12
14 Jaret Patterson 2018 1013 Dylan McDuffie 2021 206 Alex Zordich 2012 5.01 Dylan McDuffie 2021 11

So after McDuffie who’s in the mix?

The guy who will most be pushing for the job, or a spot on some sort of running back committee would be Ron Cook Jr. Over the course of the year he supplanted Kevin Marks in terms of workload and managed it well.

Cook was also the most effective UB back in the passing game. Ending up third on the team in receptions and fourth on the team in receiving yards.

Also pushing for more work will be Mike Washington, the only freshman who got significant carries this year.

The concern for next years offense is not really going to be around the running backs, McDuffie showed enough this year to carry the load but the line in front of him was shredded by the portal and graduation.

If the rebuild goes well in the off season then McDUffie and Cook should be able to put in sold seasons next year.