Buffalo Bulls

The Bulls have had only one winning season since their move to IA ball in ’99. That was 2008 when Turner Gill, the dynamic playmaker from Nebraska, was the head coach. Entering his 4th year,  Jeff Quinn has seen slight improvement every year in the win column (2,3,4), but hasn’t had nearly the impact of  Turner Gill. This is a big year for Quinn and Buffalo as continued and possibly marked improvement needs to be seen. 16 returning starters, a veteran SpTeams, and the 4th yr of the  Quinn PS system will give Buffalo’s it’s best chance of getting out of the losing column once more. The schedule is not easy, but 5-7 or even a non losing year of 6-6 are not out of the question. Anything under 5 wins may put Quinn’s job in jeopardy.
 
COACHING
 Jeff Quinn is a protege of coaching great, Brian Kelly – his OC/OL Coach at Grand Valley St., Central Michigan and Cincinnati. After originally bringing with him his own coaches from Cincy’s staff, Quinn has made wise decisions the last couple of years to help change the fortunes of the Bulls. First he brought in Alex Wood who was last seen coaching the WRs at Miami of Ohio under Mike Haywood in 2010.  More importantly, that was the year that Haywood brought in OC, Morris Watts, out of retirement. To understand the implications of this move in regard to Alex Wood, I must shed light on Miami’s one great year under Haywood.  
 
Watts and other old time DC and friend, Carl “Bull” Reese were the main cogs behind Miami’s 1 yr resurgence – a 10 win season surrounded by losing seasons 4 sessons prior and moving forward in 2011/12. Watts was an old school Offensive coach from Michigan State who, during his retirement, studied these new PS offenses. He was too intelligent to dismiss these innovations as a passing fancy and set about incorporating them into Miami’s offense in his one and only year as OC. Bull Reese also incorporated some of these PS philosophies into his already aggressive approach on Defense. This is the atmosphere in which Alex Wood grew and now works on incorporating into the Buffalo offense.
 
The problem for Buffalo is that the talent left behind by Gill, while of high quality for Gill was a great recruiter, was fit for a pro style passing offense, not the spread. Quinn has had to tweak some elements to better suit the down hill runner Branden Oliver, a drop back QB in Joe Licata and a more downhill blocking Oline, than a zone blocking one. Thus, the very slow results. 50% PS is not as good as 100% PS.
 
On Defense Quinn made a good move to get old school to notch DC Lou Tepper. The question is whether Tepper is too old school and if he can incorporate the PS concepts of Passive Aggression, Zone Blitz, Land Mine Flexibility, etc. So far there was significant improvement in his one year. This year is a big one with 7 starters back there must be another jump in stats. 
 
 
OFFENSE
9 starters returning.
 
This could be the best Oline under Quinn or at least as good as last year which will be good enough. Returning starters LG Carlson, C Sales, and LT Davis are among the best in the MAC.
 
One of their best RBs and best WRs of all time return in Branden Oliver and Alex Neutz. Oliver was overlooked due to size, 5’8″, but is built like a fire hydrant with arms bigger than his head. Ironically he is not the scatback type suited to spread offenses, but a downhill runner. After Quinn tweaked the offense, Oliver became a big time threat, but now he’s a threat to be injured as well due to his style. Quinn now has some backup runners who more fit the Spread style offense. 
 
Neutz has grown from a lowly walkon recruit into a tall athletic receiver who’s consistency and big playmaking will much to do with any success Buffalo has this year. In fact most of the Buffalo WRs are over 6 foot and athletic. 
 
Now the problem is finding the right QB. Quinn would love to use Alex Zordich, who’s in the mold of the Dual Threat QBs he had at Cincy and CMich. Problem is that he’s been slow to pick up the passing game. Therefore less mobile, but more highly recruited, QB Joe Licata is listed as a starter. This is the one area that could hold Buffalo back if they are having any kind of controversy. If they must go with Licata, the Wildcat and other PS options are always available. The PS isn’t only dependent on a dual threat QB. Either way, the key is to avoid controversy and have leadership and the full TEAM involved. 
 
This offense could explode this year if the QB situation works out. If not it may implode and Quinn could lose his job.
 
 
DEFENSE

7 Starters Returning

 

Improvement must be expected as most of the back 7 return and a top DE as well. The LBing corp, let by Khalil Mack (NFL) and Lee Skinner is tops in the MAC. Appropriate for LBing Guru Tepper. The DBs all return and have tall athletic corners and safeties led by Najja Johnson.  Again, tops in the MAC. Colby Way a top DE, but the NT and LE must be replaced. This is the only potential weakness.
 
Defense should be improved and if the Offense explodes this will be a big year for the Bulls. If the offense implodes, I’m not sure the defense will be strong enough to hold on it’s own. It might be though with the addition of a strong SpTeams.
 
 
SPECIAL TEAMS
Everyone returning and the Bulls should have their first decent SpTeams in years. Some top true Frosh WRs should help pump up the Return game. This could be of great help if the Offense struggles. 
 
 
SCHEDULE
Not easy, but after the jokes against Ohio State and Baylor it will be manageable. 
 
 

OUTLOOK

My only scare is QB. If that works out well this could be the second ever Bowl Season for Buffalo. If not they still have a shot at 5 wins. I feel Quinn turns the corner this year due to all the leadership and returning starters. The QBs may struggle at times, but if it’s early against OSU and Baylor then who cares. By midseason the Bulls will roll and I see them getting to .500 and possibly better. A good shot for their 2nd Bowl Season ever!
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