Preview 2017: Buffalo Bulls
Previewing and looking ahead at the Buffalo Bulls season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The Buffalo Offense
The O can’t and won’t be any worse after averaging just 354 yards and 16.5 points per game – among the worst in the country in both categories.
Hope for a turnaround starts with 6-7 quarterback Tyree Jackson, who doesn’t look like a dual-threat playmaker, but can take off as well as push the ball deep. He needs more help from his new receivers after losing his top three targets, including All-MAC tight end Mason Schreck.
It also doesn’t help to lose RB Jordan Johnson, one of the few parts of the offensive puzzle that worked. Jackson will make noise for the ground game from his quarterback spot, but Johnathan Hawkins needs to rise up and become a factor after getting in a little work last year.
Fortunately for the UB O, the line should be a major plus with four starters back and Rutgers transfer Jacquis Webb almost certainly taking over the left tackle gig.
Biggest Key To The Buffalo Offense
Jackson has to be sharper. The passing game had its moments – Jackson threw for 306 yards and three scores against Ball State – but there wasn’t much of anything happening down the field.
The Bulls averaged just 5.7 yards per throw and had a whole slew of issues on third downs. Now, Jackson is the unquestioned main man for the offense, and he has to lead it to more big things despite all the new parts to the receiving corps.
What You Need To Know About The Buffalo Defense
It wasn’t as bad as the offense, but the defense didn’t do enough to hold up its end of the bargain, especially against the run. Fortunately, the top six tacklers return from what should be an improved group.
The line should be the biggest issue, at least early on, losing a few key starters along with a little bit of depth. Chris Ford has to be a bigger factor – literally – on the nose, while Demone Harris has to start generating more of a pass rush.
Fortunately for the Bulls, almost the entire back seven is back. All three starting linebackers return, starting with Khalil Hodge in the middle after coming up with a team-high 123 tackles. There’s production returning around him, but they’ll have to clean up a whole slew of messes left by the revamped line.
There’s only one loss in the secondary, but he’s a big one. CB Boise Ross was the star of the show, but there’s talent and upside back, especially at safety with Ryan Williamson and Tim Roberts returning. There are plenty of options at corner to go along with solid pass defender Cameron Lewis on one side.
Biggest Key To The Buffalo Defense
Come up with a third down stop. Getting the run defense working is Job One, leading the problems coming up with big plays on third downs. UB held offenses to under 46% on third downs just three times last year. Once was in the weird loss to Albany, and the other two were against Army and Akron – the two wins. The Bulls allowed offenses to march hitting 50% or more of their third down tries a whopping seven times.
Buffalo Will Be Far Better If …
It isn’t so miserable awful coming out of the locker room. Ten points. Ten. That’s how many the Bulls scored in the first quarter. The third wasn’t much better, getting outscored 76-22. For a team without a ton of proven downfield firepower, it can’t get down so quickly. The O has to go on a few big scoring marches to take some of the pressure off.
Best Buffalo Offensive Player
QB Tyree Jackson, Soph. – The 6-7, 245-pounder stepped in as a freshman and showed the promise and potential to eventually be a star. He can run, taking off for 472 yards and five scores, but he’s going to be the most dangerous spreading the ball around with a live arm that can start cranking up the downfield passes that weren’t there in his first season. he only completed 53% of his passes for 1,772 yards and nine scores with nine picks. The tools are in place to be great, and he has a little experience, but it’s going to be a growing process.
2. C James O’Hagan, Jr.
3. RB Johnathan Hawkins, Jr.
4. OG Brandon Manosalvas, Sr.
5. OT David Goldsby, Sr.
Best Buffalo Defensive Player
LB Khalil Hodge, Jr. – He tried doing everything for a run defense that did a whole lot of nothing. The 6-1, 240-pound JUCO transfer out of San Francisco came up with a dominant season in the middle, coming up with 123 tackles with a sack and seven tackles for loss. While he’s not a pass rusher – don’t start confusing him with another Buffalo star linebacker with the same first name and the last name Mack – he’s a machine when it comes to cranking up big hits.
2. LB Ishmael Hargrove, Sr.
3. S Tim Roberts, Sr.
4. LB Jarrett Franklin, Sr.
5. CB Cameron Lewis, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
DT Chris Ford, Sr. – If the Bulls are going to improve one of the nation’s worst run defenses, it’s up to the 6-3, 315-pounder to hold his own in the middle of the line. He’s not an interior pass rusher in any way, but he’s made his share of tackles with 57 over the last two years on the nose. It’s a rebuilding line that has to be a whole lot better – he’s got to be the anchor.
The Buffalo Season Will Be A Success If …
The Bulls win six games. It was a young team that took its lumps last year, and there are plenty of replacements needed to be made at some key skill spots, but still, bowl eligibility is possible.
They have to beat Army again, get by Colgate, fight past Kent State and handle Akron, but it’s going to be a push to avoid a losing season. At this point under head coach Lance Leipold, the wins have to start coming.
Key Game To The Buffalo Season
Sept. 23 vs. Florida Atlantic – It’s not a conference game, but it’s a winnable home date – UB needs those. September is the easiest month of the season by far, and it’s possible to potentially be 4-1 if they can handle Lane Kiffin and his crew. Lose, and it’ll mean the Bulls will probably need a few road wins to have any hope of a winning season.
2016 Buffalo Fun Stats
– 1st Quarter Scoring: Opponents 88 – Buffalo 10
– Rushing Yards: Opponents 3,039 – Buffalo 1,839
– Time of Possession: Opponents 33:02 – Buffalo 26:59