By: Steven Lassan | 6/3/11, 1:41 PM EDT
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MAC East PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Jeff Quinn, 2-10 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Alex Wood | DEF. COORDINATOR: William Inge
The key for Buffalo is finding a capable quarterback, which the Bulls have lacked since Zach Maynard transferred to Cal. The Bulls received some good news in early July, when Cincinnati quarterback Chazz Anderson decided to transfer to Buffalo. Anderson will be eligible immediately and is the favorite to win the starting job. Sophomore Alex Zordich, junior Jerry Davis, redshirt freshman Rudy Johnson, and two incoming freshmen will push Anderson for playing time in the fall.
Almost anything the Bulls’ running game produces will be an improvement over a year ago, when they finished in a tie with Akron for 101st in the nation. In sophomore Branden Oliver, junior Jeffvon Gill and redshirt freshman James Potts, the Bulls believe they have the personnel to run the football effectively. Oliver, the team’s leading rusher in 2010, started last year because his speed is perfectly suited for the spread and its multiple vertical seams. Gill, a punishing north-south runner, averaged 4.3 yards a carry, while Potts is the most elusive in the group.
Based on experience alone, the receivers should be improved. The Bulls return their top five in seniors Marcus Rivers, Terrell Jackson and Ed Young and sophomores Alex Neutz and Fred Lee. The Bulls finished 89th in the nation in passing offense with 184.3 yards per game.
While the offensive line limited opponents in terms of sacks, the unit couldn’t create enough space for the running game. Three starters return — center Josh Violanti, right guard Graham Whinery and left tackle Pat Wilson — as does right tackle Matt Ostrowski, who started the first three games last year before breaking his leg.
The entire secondary has to be rebuilt, and the two inside linebackers, nose guard and one defensive end must be replaced as well. But Buffalo doesn’t expect much of a drop-off. Junior end Steven Means is up 15 pounds to 250, and coaches would like to see him add another 20 before his senior year. Means is now looking to reduce his celebration penalties, get to the quarterback more often and play better against the run.
The linebackers are the strength of the defense, led by sophomore Khalil Mack and junior Jaleel Verser on the outside and junior Scott Pettigrew, who redshirted last year after tearing his ACL, and senior John Syty on the inside.
Sophomore Okoye Houston and juniors Isaac Baugh and Ray Anthony Long all saw playing time at safety last season. The most experienced cornerback is sophomore Carlos Lammons, who started four games last season. Senior Joe Petit played on special teams, but will be counted upon for a bigger role in the secondary in 2011. Sophomore Romel Dismuke, a transfer from Cincinnati, was expected to compete for a starting position, but was ruled ineligible in late July.
Kicker A.J. Principe, the school’s career scoring leader, is gone, but the Bulls signed Patrick Clarke as his replacement. Junior Jacob Schum, who averaged 38.5 yards per punt, and senior Peter Fardon, who has 41 kicks inside the 20 in his career, are competing for the punting job.
If Quinn keeps up his early pace of recruiting, he’ll have quite a collection of talent in Buffalo before long. His recent signing class may be the best in school history. So the future looks bright.
The present, however, isn’t looking so good. Buffalo will be better, but it’s tough to envision this club making too big of a leap in the MAC East standings. The Nov. 19 home game vs. Akron could be a showdown to see which team escapes last place.