We are days away from the start of the Maurice Linguist era and the experienced Buffalo fan in me is spending too much time focusing on the last transition from a successful UB coach to the “new guy”
That would be Turner Gill to Jeff Quinn.
This differs of course. Gill was coming off of a 5-7 season, and Lance Leipold led the Bulls to what was clearly their best season since the 50’s, maybe ever. So we have farther to fall.
Gill took Buffalo from the joke of College football to a team that could win, as a fan base we went from nothing, to enjoying close games, to a bowl game. He made us believe we could win in Buffalo, but he did not make us expect to win. Hence he followed his 8-6 run with a 5-7.
Quinn, of course, cratered that. Thanks to a few amazing Gill recruits he managed one good year but Quinn’s reign took us, at best, laterally. A good season, and a lot of bad seasons. His greatest failure may have been managing to lose the MAC east in a year when he had Khalil Mack and Branden Oliver on the roser.
So Buffalo took a bet on Lance Leipold, the king of Division III ball. Leipold first two seasons left us wondering if that was the right move. Buffalo went 5-7 and then 2-10. In some ways the 5-7 season hurt more because UB ended on a three game losing streak capped by a home loss to UMass which cost Buffalo bowl eligibility.
But Leipold endured, built up a solid program that went 24-10 in his last three seasons with two division titles, three bowl games, and two bowl wins.
That brings us to Linguist, a late call up from Michigan who has taken over a team had lost all their coaches, saw a mass exodus of talent, and a fan base that does not want to go back to mediocre football.
But it’s not just challenges that Linguist has in front of him, despite the short term turnover he takes over a football program that has more resources and more support than any Buffalo Bulls coach has ever had.
Everything from physical infrastructure, like a field house, to a focused media attention not just from niche sports blogs but also the local news networks.
And the more time goes on the more I think Linguist is up to the task. I’m a lot less worried that he’s Quinn and a lot more sure that if we have to replace him in four years it will be because Buffalo get’s poached again.
PJ Fleck’s wife once commented that Linguist reminded her of the Minnesota coach. And when Fleck hired Linguist in Minnesota he tabbed him to be the lead recruiter for the team. At Michigan, once again, his recruiting and ability to connect to young players was key.
Linguist seems he man for the job, even if 2021 is going to be a bit painful. The game this Thursday will be the start of an era, and it looks to be a good one.