Each week, Voice of Bulls Football Paul Peck will preview the upcoming game.
Buffalo (0-0) vs. Albany (0-0)
It's my goal in this web story to give you a comprehensive preview of the 2016 Bulls. But the best advice I can give you is to go here: http://www.ubbulls.com/sports/fball/2016-17/roster. That's the Bulls roster, and I suggest you do some studying. There are a lot of new players. 42 new players from a year ago. There are 11 players on the two-deep that were not here last year. There's a total of 18 players on the two-deep who did not appear in a game last year. That's a lot of new names who will be counted on to be key players in 2016. Why? A few reasons. Graduation and departures from last year, combined with transfers and freshmen this year are the main reasons. The Bulls needed to replace 13 starters from 2015. Transfers and young players are the ones who will do that.
Bullseye on: Buffalo Offense
The quarterback position will feature two new players, both who will play against Albany. Grant Rohach is a 5th year senior transfer from Iowa State. He started five games for the Cyclones in his career, including wins against West Virginia & Kansas in 2013. He is a savvy, steady veteran who has looked comfortable running the Bulls offense. Redshirt freshman Tyree Jackson is a big, strong-armed and mobile young QB who has an incredible upside. He also had an impressive preseason. That's why even though Rohach will start against Albany, Lance Leipold says Jackson will play "meaningful" snaps. There is no set rotation, so stay alert and keep your eyes out for whoever is taking the snap. Something else about the quarterbacks to keep your eyes on: their running. Both Rohach and Jackson can move, and that will now be a much bigger part of the UB offense. There will be more read-option, and some straight option to keep defenses guessing who has the ball. If the QB's don't keep the ball, they'll be giving it to a typically deep Bulls backfield.
Jordan Johnson moves into the starting spot, after splitting time last year but still scoring 12 touchdowns. The Sweet Home High School grad has been a preseason star, and says he's "in better shape than last year." He'll be pushed by highly-touted Johnathan Hawkins, who moves into the backup spot.
Wide receiver will feature a number of new names. Marcus McGill is coming off a 50-catch season, and he's the clear #1 wideout. Malcolm Robinson gets his chance to start and show off his deep speed. JC transfer Kamathi Holsey has earned the other starting spot. He's the tallest UB wideout at six-foot-four. Holsey was a preseason standout making diving catches and using his size to become a red zone threat. Backup WR's K.J. Osborn, Mike Demonte and Jamarl Eiland are all getting their first chance to play significant minutes. The Bulls will be without injured veteran receiver Jacob Martinez.
Leipold admits his biggest questions come from the offensive line. That's because only regular starters C James O'Hagan and G Brandon Manosalvas return to their usual positions. Roubbens Joseph moves to left tackle after 3 starts at guard in 2015. Tyler O'Henly mans right tackle, where he started once last year. The new right guard will be JC transfer David Goldsby, who switches over from his natural tackle spot. The new line has talent and size, but not much experience. Leipold calls the unit "a work in progress."
Albany returns five starters on their defense. They are strong in the front seven. That group includes two FBS transfers. Former Maryland player Abner Logan is the middle linebacker. Former Eastern Michigan player Nick Dillon starts at defensive tackle. The Great Danes also return linebacker Michael Nicastro. An all-conference player and the team's leading tackler in 2014, he missed the season after injuring his knee against the Bulls in last year's opener.
Bullseye on: Buffalo Defense
There are also plenty of newcomers on the Bulls defense, even though eight starters return. Some are JC transfers, like LB Khalil Hodge and S Tim Roberts. Some are grad transfers like DT Remaine Douglas and DE Joe Keels. Even LB Jarrett Franklin is sort of new, having missed all of 2015. This year's defense features much more depth at linebacker and defensive line…The D-Line could go ten deep. The entire starting line (Harris, Ford, Perisse, Crawford) are all back. Douglas and Keels join Charles Harris and Justin Brandon as key backups, along with Torey Hendrick and Randy Anyanwu. Look for lots of combinations and substitutions at the position.
The same could happen at linebacker. Defensive coordinator Brian Borland thought his linebackers wore down last year due to lack of depth. Brandon Berry, Hodge and Ishmael Hargrove are the starters, but will be rested by Franklin, freshman Matt Otwinowski and Jordan Collier. Franklin is back and healthy, and will be key player much like he was in 2014. Remember, he played very well as Khalil Mack's backup in 2013. Franklin will team up with Berry at one outside spot, and may even see snaps behind Hodge in the middle. There is an amazing stat about Hodge, the 6-2, 240 pound middle linebacker. In high school in California, he had 262 tackles as a senior.
The defensive backfield features two new starters. Cameron Lewis mans a cornerback spot opposite of Boise Ross. Lewis was impressive as a freshman in last year's role as the #3 CB. There is more depth there with Brandon Williams and JC transfer Tatum Slack. Ryan Williamson is back at safety, and will be joined by Roberts. The JC transfer is a hard hitter, and he'll split time with Andrews Dadeboe. William Rembert and Dev Lamour also figure into the depth at the safety position.
The stat of 2015 for the Bulls defense was the seven defensive touchdowns, which was second in the NCAA.
Albany returns seven starters on offense. That includes quarterback Neven Sussman, who played against the Bulls last year. He started four times last year for the Great Danes. The other quarterback, D.J. Crook, is also expected to play. He started Albany's other 7 games, including last year's opener against the Bulls. Albany has a veteran offense line, with three seniors and two juniors. Orchard Park native Michael Senn starts at guard.
Bullseye on: 2016 Schedule
On the surface, the Bulls schedule doesn't appear too difficult. There are no ranked teams, no big names schools like Penn State or Ohio State. All four non-conference games (Albany, Nevada, Army, Boston College) are chances for the Bulls to compete and win. But a closer look at the schedule reveals the challenge. The best teams UB will face all come on the road. Five of the six 2015 bowl teams that the Bulls will face come on the road. All four of their MAC road opponents are picked to finish first or second in their division. The combined 2015 winning percentage of the road opponents is .556. So the young Bulls will have to grow up fast, especially away from UB Stadium.
Please join me, color analyst Jim Kubiak, sideline reporter Scott Wilson, game host Brad Riter and postgame host Bob Gaughan for the broadcast on the Bulls Football Network. Our pregame show starts at 6:00pm. You can hear it in Buffalo on ESPN 1520 (www.espn1520.com). A link to the online broadcast is also available at http://www.ubbulls.com/video/test-live2.