After a dismal 2010 in which the offense averaged 14 points per game in Jeff Quinn’s first season at the helm, the Bulls get nine players back and seem poised to improve upon the #120 ranking. Quinn just might need those offensive tools because his defense has been decimated by graduation with just three starters back. The bottom line is that Buffalo needs to make some positive steps going forward and must realize that the 2008 miracle season when Turner Gill roamed the sidelines is just a reminder of the good times and how fleeting success can be.
The quarterback situation for the Bulls wasn’t a controversy as much as it was trying to find a replacement for Zach Maynard who transferred to California. Jerry Davis began the year as the number one before being replaced by Alex Zordich who struggled also and suffered a season ending rib injury. Both combined completed only 45% with 17 scores and a disturbing 23 interceptions. The rushing attack produced an unheard of one score from the running backs and the feeble passing game allowed opposing defenses to easily control the Bulls on the ground. The backfield might be a three pronged attack with Branden Oliver leading the way with Jeffvon Gill and speedy freshman James Potts getting opportunities. As poor as the Buffalo air game was in 2010 the team has a decent receiving corps with Marcus Rivers and Terrell Jackson combining for 93 receptions and over 1,000 yards to give the Bulls two solid options. Alex Neutz might be the guy to watch (26-414) and his nearly 16 yard average giving the Bulls something of a downfield threat. The offensive line has good size and strength but was hit hard by injuries so if this group can remain healthy the running game might get a much needed boost.
The one thing Buffalo did well was defend with nations #32 unit a year ago. The defensive line had some issues getting to the quarterback but benefited from a solid secondary. The only player back from their 3-4 alignment is DE Steve Means (50 T-4.5 S-8.5 TFL) and he will probably be asked to meet or exceed his 2010 numbers with several new faces around him. The line backing corps was solid in all phases but lost Justin Winters and Raphael Akobundu, the Bulls second and fourth leading tacklers respectively. However, third leading tackler Khalil Mack (68 T-4.5 S-14.5 TFL) returns Overall this group has talent and experience with some depth and should perform well once again. The big question mark is in the secondary that was wiped clean by graduation. Okoye Houston and Isaac Baugh have experience at safety in limited action while Carlos Lammons is an able body at cornerback but Buffalo has several players at each spot so others will get playing time.
Place kicker AJ Pricipe holds the school record for points and with his departure Peter Fardon takes over. Fardon was the backup punter and has a decent leg but his experience comes from Australian Rules Football. The Bulls need a better effort from punter Jacob Schum who averaged 38.5 yards per boot and combined with Fardon to net just over 33 yards which was a dismal 111 th in the country. The good news is Terrell Jackson and his whopping 16.7 punt return average although he managed just under 20 yards per return on kick offs which has to get better.
I would expect a certain degree of improvement on the offensive side of the ball but that might be relative given the struggles in 2010 because the only place for the Bulls to go is up. The defense will need to win the field position battle but Buffalo will need to pull a few upsets to greatly improve their record. They do play Akron and Bowling Green which are winnable games but to get out of the bottom half of the MAC East might be asking too much.