At the beginning of last season, UB Football was in the midst of a quarterback battle. That didn’t bring much surprise considering the Bulls graduated four-year starter Joe Licata, one of the best passers to don the blue and white. But that battle wasn’t what it was cracked up to be once Tyree Jackson showed a lot more upside over Iowa State grad transfer Grant Rohach in the first game of the season.
Fast forward to 2017 and there is shockingly an extremely fair argument on two sides when it comes to starting quarterback. This year, the role of signal caller was in the sole possession of Jackson and for many solid reasons. Firstly, there’s his exorbitantly stated stature of 6-7 and 245 pounds. Secondly, he widens the scope of the offense as a dual threat, something that’s proved successful in many college offenses. Thirdly, he has a strong arm that is becoming incredibly accurate with each passing year. The list of positives Jackson carries far outweighs the negatives.
Little did everyone know that once Jackson hobbled to the sideline with a weakened knee, questions about who starts at QB in the long term would manifest in the ensuing weeks.
Drew Anderson is as under the radar as it gets. The California native only started his senior season of high school, and although he put up impressive numbers, it wasn’t enough to get the Division I schools knocking on his door. After a walk-on stint at San Diego State, Anderson erupted on the JUCO level at Diablo Valley College. That opened the door to Buffalo, but Tyree Jackson quickly became the number one QB on the depth chart.
Anderson finally got his first real opportunity as a Division I quarterback in a week four matchup against FAU when Jackson left shortly before half time. At that moment, Anderson surprised Bulls fans in a game that will be looked on as one of the turning points for the 2017 season.
However, it was only half of a game that the Junior needed to do well in. At that point in the season there was an argument that FAU was just bad enough to lose to a backup QB. But, just two games later, the narrative changed.
Anderson is leading the Bulls with the poise of a top quarterback in the MAC. He doesn’t force anything and his accuracy is not lauded enough. Go back and watch the hour of overtime football that this past week’s game had to offer and you’ll see that Drew placed almost every pass in the perfect spot. He absolutely torched WMU’s secondary. What’s even more impressive was his ability to perform under pressure. UB doesn’t reach overtime to begin with without Drew Anderson, and I can’t help but have a little doubt in my mind that Jackson would’ve done the same in Anderson’s position.
This isn’t to discount Jackson because no matter what, he’s one of the better quarterbacks in the conference right now. But, he’s missed over two games and Anderson has all of the momentum in the world right now despite finishing on the wrong end of the win-loss column on Saturday.
As we’ve learned today, Tyree Jackson remains UB’s starter, but the Bulls should continue to ride the momentum Anderson has. In my opinion, Jackson has a much higher ceiling to develop, but we still have two more years of great things to come from him. Is there a threat of Jackson transferring in this case? Yeah, but it’s a bad move in my opinion considering the upward trajectory the program is moving at.
This is the year Lance Leipold needs results and I think he gets the best results with Anderson at this point in time. At the very least, I wouldn’t mind a dual-QB system. I’m too afraid that bringing Tyree back after missing time could stall the offense and put the Bulls’ bowl hopes in jeopardy.
I’m usually one that hounds for consistency. Typically I’d want a team to have one go-to quarterback and stick with that choice, but Drew Anderson is not your average backup quarterback. He’s an asset that came out of nowhere. He’s a gift that the Bulls need to capitalize on and give a role to that’s bigger than “backup.” But most of all, he’s the best quarterback on the roster at this current moment.