Each week, Voice of Bulls Football Paul Peck will preview the upcoming game.
Buffalo vs. Duquesne
I know, it'll be weird for me too. It's been so much fun watching #46 sack the quarterback, #32 run for touchdowns and #19 make clutch catches. It'll be strange not to see them on the field. But while iconic Bulls Khalil Mack, Branden Oliver and Alex Neutz have moved on (as always happens in college football), the Bulls are ready to move up. Replacing the all-time great Bulls is the biggest storyline of this offseason, and the next chapter will start to be written Saturday against Duquesne. There are very good players ready to step up and replace the production and leadership. While some of the replacements are young and inexperienced, they are very talented. That's the difference in where UB the program finds itself. Head Coach Jeff Quinn and his staff have been preparing for this season, and they are ready to unveil the Next Bulls In.
Bullseye on: Buffalo Defense
How do you replace Mack, the fifth pick in the NFL Draft? You tell Defensive Coordinator Lou Tepper to go write a book. At least a second edition. Tepper did just that, putting Mack on the cover of his updated Complete Linebacking. Then, you tell Jarrett Franklin to read that book from cover to cover. The sophomore will be Mack's replacement at outside linebacker. Franklin was on the field for over 200 plays as freshman, and showed impressive skills and pass rush ability….While not at the same position, defensive end Brandon Crawford will also fill the pass rush void. Impressive as a freshman (remember the sack and forced fumble in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl), Crawford has added 30 pounds of muscle without losing any quickness. He's my pick for break-out Bull in 2014…Adam Redden may be the Bulls best and most versatile weapon on the defense. Redden will play a slightly different role in the defense this year, but he's still too good a playmaker to not have an impact in every game…Okezie Alozie will play more of the role that Redden played last year. He's bigger and more physical, and has already shown that he has a knack for being around the ball and making plays….The key to the entire Buffalo defense may be nose tackle Kristjan Sokoli. Not only does he hold down an important position on the defensive line, he has proven to be more than just a big body. He had 2.5 sacks and 5.0 tackles for loss last year, and at times he was unblockable….Along with Redden, the secondary will rely on cornerback Cortney Lester to lock down the opponent's best receiver. Marqus Baker, solid as the nickel back in 2013, takes over for Najja Johnson at the other corner spot…Freshman Brandon Williams is the only true freshman on the defensive two-deep lineup. He earned that spot with an impressive preseason…Duquesne's offense is led by a very good young quarterback named Dillon Buechel. As a freshman last year, he set school records for completions and attempts…His top threats are wideouts Devin Rahming and Chris King…The Dukes offensive line is young, and they'll start a freshman center…Turnovers were so huge for the Bulls defense last year. UB was among the nations leaders with 30 takeaways. We'll see if that will continue this year.
Bullseye on: Buffalo Offense
No surprise it may take three running backs to replace Oliver. But all three have shown us that they are ready for the challenge. Anthone Taylor will be the starter. He's the closest in style to Oliver, and runs with that same relentless style. Taylor proved his worth with 100 yard games against Stony Brook and Miami last year…Two years ago, Devin Campbell ran for over 500 yards when Oliver was hurt. He played wide receiver last year, and didn't run much. But he's back at his natural position, and will be the lightning to Taylor's thunder… Like a WNY thunderstorm, Jordan Johnson brings the thunder and the lightning. Buffalo sports fans have seen him lead Sweet Home High School to state championships. Now they get to see what Johnson can do at running back. He's the third guy in the RB rotation. Johnson is big and powerful, but also fast and elusive. That was on display when he ran for 114 yards and 2 TD in the Blue-White spring game….How good was Alex Neutz? It may take 8 players to replace him and Fred Lee. Not really, but eight receivers will see the field at various times as the UB offense looks to find Joe Licata key weapons. Boise Ross is back, and based on some of his preseason plays, is ready to emerge as the top threat….Devon Hughes has the most experience, and he's been patiently waiting to be a starter…Ron Willoughby was a preseason standout. He looks and plays like Neutz, and as Licata's roommate, has already developed a connection with the Bulls QB…Marcus McGill looks like a linebacker, and hits like one after making a catch. He's an intriguing option in the slot, as no corner or safety will be as big and strong…John Dunmore is steady, with great hands and reliability…Youngsters Jacob Martinez and Jamarl Eiland bring speed, and Malcolm Robinson is a big body much like Ross…When thinking about replacing Neutz and Lee, don't forget the tight ends. Matt Weiser and Mason Schreck will be a much bigger part of the offense. No Bulls tight end has had 200 yards receiving since Jesse Rack in 2009. That streak might end twice, with both guys getting there…Of course, with the passing game in Licata's hands, I might be able to catch 200 yards of passes. This is Joe's offense now, and he is ready for that responsibility. I keep thinking of the second half against Toledo (382 yards and 4 TD) to have an idea what a pass-happy, Joe Throw attack might look like…Joe will be the first to tell you that it starts with a veteran offensive line returning all five starters….Jake Silas, a legit NFL prospect, will move to left tackle in a flip-flop with John Kling….Duquesne's defense will be missing their best player. Linebacker Christian Kuntz led FCS in tackles last year. But he's out with a knee injury…The Dukes start two FBS transfers on defense. Kuntz' replacement is Purdue transfer Armstead Williams. Former Florida special teams player Chris Johnson starts at safety…Nose tackle Zach Zidian is a 325-pound nose tackle who has been a dominant, all-conference player.
Bullseye on: Bulls Football Network
We've got a lot new for our radio listeners. First, we have a new home in Buffalo on ESPN 1520. Thanks to their 50,000 watts of power, night games can be heard all up and down the east coast. We're also on across the state for the first time, with the games airing in Rochester, Albany and New York City.
You'll hear a new voice on our broadcast. Ed O'Neil is the new color analyst. He's been involved in football for over 50 years. A former Penn State linebacker, Ed was a 1st round draft pick of the Lions and played 8 seasons in the NFL. He's coached in college, NFL Europe and the CFL. Ed was UB's defensive coordinator under Craig Cirbus from 1994-1998. His sons Keith and Kevin played college football, with Keith a part of the Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl Championship. Ed's son-in-law is UB great Drew Haddad. He'll bring a wonderful new perspective to our broadcasts.
Please join me, Ed, sideline reporter Scott Wilson, game host Brad Riter and postgame host Kevin Sylvester for the broadcast on the Bulls Football Network. Our pregame show starts at 2:30pm. You can hear it in Buffalo on ESPN 1520 (www.espn1520.com), in Rochester on Sports 1280 WHTK (www.whtk.com), in Albany on 104.5 The Team (www.1045theteam.com) & in New York City on 570 WMCA (www.wmca.com).