2013 Buffalo football's 10 things to know: Extensions and experience

Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE

Buffalo heads into 2013 loaded with experience and a play-making defense. If the Bulls are to return to bowl eligibility, now's the time. Schedule, roster, projections and more below.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Jeff Quinn got himself a contract extension

You can understand fan discontent. In 2010, Jeff Quinn took over a Buffalo team that had won 18 games in three seasons after winning just 12 in the preceding eight years. Buffalo won six games per year in 2007-09 and has won just three per year since. That's not good. And when Quinn received a contract extension in November, as a 4-8 campaign was wrapping up, one had to figure Buffalo fans weren't altogether pleased. And they weren't.

Honestly? I kind of liked the move. It's true that Quinn still had two years left on his deal and was therefore not yet entering "lame duck" status. But it's also true that, after bottoming out in 2010 (2-10, No. 110 in the F/+ rankings), the Bulls improved in 2011 (3-9, No. 103), then improved again in 2012 (4-8, No. 92). Most programs are not in a place to fire somebody after two consecutive years of improvement unless they know they can get somebody better; Buffalo probably can't. In extending Quinn's deal, Buffalo was essentially saying that it sees what's ahead in 2013 -- an extremely experienced, rather interesting UB squad facing a MAC in transition -- and likes it. Progress has been both undeniable and slow, but the faith in Quinn could pay off in 2013.

(And if you want to question what the core of talent will look like after 2013, after a couple of years of pretty horrid recruiting rankings, go ahead. I only kind of liked the extention, after all.)

2. There are two ways to win in the MAC

Teams that win big in the MAC have either a breakthrough talent (probably at quarterback) or the most experienced squad. It is difficult to compile more experience than what Buffalo will have in 2013: two experienced starting quarterbacks (each of whom threw at least 160 passes last year), a solid pair of running backs (and an interesting junior college transfer), an interesting No. 1 receiver, 72 returning starts on the offensive line, and an aggressive 3-4 defense that returns eight starters, including linebacker Khalil Mack, who has amassed at least 20 tackles for loss in back-to-back seasons.

In all, Buffalo returns 17 starters -- a total that all but guarantees improvement -- and its entire special teams unit (which, honestly, might not be a good thing, but still). Quinn has been building with an eye on 2013 for a while now, and if the team stays healthy and grows as projected, the Bulls should expect to return to a bowl for the first time since Turner Gill's 2008 Bulls won the MAC.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 4-8 | Adj. Record: 4-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 92
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
1-Sep at Georgia 23-45 L 24.7 - 32.7 L
8-Sep Morgan State 56-34 W 41.6 - 48.6 L
19-Sep Kent State 7-23 L 14.8 - 22.8 L
29-Sep at Connecticut 17-24 L 29.2 - 36.8 L
6-Oct at Ohio 31-38 L 30.3 - 23.5 W
13-Oct at Northern Illinois 3-45 L 19.1 - 29.7 L
20-Oct Pittsburgh 6-20 L 22.0 - 20.2 W
27-Oct Toledo 20-25 L 17.5 - 23.5 L
3-Nov Miami (Ohio) 27-24 W 22.2 - 20.0 W
10-Nov Western Michigan 29-24 W 25.8 - 23.6 W
17-Nov at Massachusetts 29-19 W 22.6 - 25.3 L
23-Nov Bowling Green 7-21 L 15.5 - 19.9 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 21.3 101 28.5 69
Adj. Points Per Game 23.8 100 27.2 58

3. Three seasons in one

It was an odd fall at UB. In September, a good Buffalo offense was betrayed a bit by a shoddy defense. In October, the defense improved dramatically, and the offense regressed. In November, the defense improved even more, and the offense regressed again.

Adj. Points per Game (first 4 games): Opponent 35.3, Buffalo 27.6 (minus-7.7)
Adj. Points per Game (next 4 games): Opponent 24.3, Buffalo 22.3 (minus-2.1)
Adj. Points per Game (last 4 games): Opponent 22.2, Buffalo 21.5 (minus-0.7)

Over the final seven games of the season, Buffalo had one of the best mid-major defenses in the country. The Bulls were aggressive on all downs, and it looked good on them. Of course, having wrecking ball Khalil Mack at outside linebacker didn't hurt, but he got plenty of help. The offense, meanwhile, just couldn't quite fall into place. Quarterback Alex Zordich was competent, if scatter-shot, but results were sporadic, and he missed the final four games of the season with injury. His replacement, Joe Licata, wasn't any more accurate. In the end, Buffalo had a decent run game, a good line, and a couple of interesting receivers, but the passing game was just too inefficient, and it became more so as the year progressed. But that defense ... you can talk yourself into Buffalo because of the defense alone.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 85 111 113 107
RUSHING 47 89 93 84
PASSING 97 109 113 101
Standard Downs 97 105 90
Passing Downs 114 112 112
Redzone 49 48 51
Q1 Rk 109 1st Down Rk 74
Q2 Rk 100 2nd Down Rk 117
Q3 Rk 81 3rd Down Rk 108
Q4 Rk 99

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Alex Zordich 6'3, 222 Sr. ** (5.3) 106 208 1,254 51.0% 9 7 11 5.0% 5.5
Joe Licata 6'2, 217 So. *** (5.5) 86 163 1,045 52.8% 7 3 16 8.9% 5.3
Tony Daniel 6'5, 203 So. ** (5.3) 1 2 10 50.0% 0 0 0 0.0% 5.0
Collin Michael 6'5, 224 RSFr. *** (5.5)








4. Accuracy is good

Alex Zordich looks the part. He's the proper size of an NFL quarterback, and he's a solid runner. But as the UB Bull Run meme above would suggest, he's got a bit of an accuracy problem.

In three starts as a freshman in 2010, Zordich completed just 41 percent of his passes, and while he absolutely improved in 2012 -- 14-for-24 against Georgia, 18-for-29 against Northern Illinois, 23-for-41 against Pittsburgh, 16-for-21 against Morgan State -- his low notes were still awfully low. In a 23-7 loss to Kent State, he had a rather unfathomable passing line: 4-for-22 for 92 yards, a touchdown and two picks. If you count his interceptions as completions, it still only raises his completion rate to 27 percent. Brutal. He also completed just 13 of 30 against UConn and five of 16 against Toledo.

Now, it's probably unfair to stick this all on Zordich. First of all, his replacement, Licata, really didn't fare any better when Zordich was hurt. Licata's completion rate was slightly higher but was more than mitigated by his propensity for taking sacks. That suggests that the receiving corps also left something to be desired. Despite two different quarterbacks, none of Buffalo's top six passing targets managed a catch rate better than 58 percent. That's not good.

Buffalo wants to lean on the run as much as possible, and with Zordich carving out yards alongside backs Branden Oliver and Devin Campbell, that could be a good thing. But they'll need to pass at some point. Can they?

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Branden Oliver RB 5'8, 202 Sr. *** (5.5) 148 821 5.5 5.1 5 -2.6
Devin Campbell RB 5'11, 195 So. ** (5.2) 115 502 4.4 4.1 2 -2.6
Alex Zordich QB 6'3, 222 Sr. ** (5.3) 89 543 6.1 4.9 1 +11.2
Brandon Murie RB 5'9, 186 Sr. NR 56 221 3.9 2.7 2 -4.9
Rashad Jean FB 17 73 4.3 1.7 0 -3.0
Joe Licata QB 6'3, 222 Sr. *** (5.5) 12 37 3.1 1.6 0 -2.7
Alex Dennison TE 6'1, 246 Sr. ** (4.9) 7 18 2.6 0.5 2 -1.3
James Potts RB 5'11, 196 Jr. *** (5.6) 2 54 27.0 N/A 1 N/A

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Alex Neutz WR 6'3, 205 Sr. ** (4.9) 118 65 1070 55.1% 9.1 33.1% 56.8% 9.1 107.5
Devon Hughes WR 6'0, 190 Jr. *** (5.5) 40 23 228 57.5% 5.7 11.2% 60.0% 5.7 22.9
Fred Lee WR 6'2, 201 Sr. ** (5.2) 33 17 261 51.5% 7.9 9.3% 51.5% 7.8 26.2
Rudy Johnson WR 6'1, 186 Jr. ** (5.3) 32 16 182 50.0% 5.7 9.0% 43.8% 6.4 18.3
Jimmy Gordon TE 6'5, 260 Sr. ** (4.9) 30 17 162 56.7% 5.4 8.4% 60.0% 5.4 16.3
Cordero Dixon WR 5'11, 186 Jr. ** (5.4) 28 10 96 35.7% 3.4 7.9% 67.9% 3.5 9.6
Devin Campbell RB 5'11, 195 So. ** (5.2) 27 21 171 77.8% 6.3 7.6% 48.1% 6.5 17.2
John Dunmore WR 6'0, 177 Jr. NR 18 10 106 55.6% 5.9 5.1% 61.1% 5.9 10.6
Alex Dennison TE 6'1, 246 Sr. ** (4.9) 12 6 64 50.0% 5.3 3.4% 50.0% 5.4 6.4
Branden Oliver RB 5'8, 202 Sr. *** (5.5) 9 7 25 77.8% 2.8 2.5% 22.2% 1.7 2.5
Matt Weiser TE 6'5, 244 So. ** (5.3) 5 1 15 20.0% 3.0 1.4% 40.0% 4.5 1.5
Brandon Murie RB 5'9, 186 Sr. NR 2 1 4 50.0% 2.0 0.6% 0.0% 0.8 0.4
Marcus McGill WR 6'1, 211 RSFr. ** (5.4)






Jamari Elland WR 5'11, 175 Fr. *** (5.5)






Boise Ross WR 5'11, 180 Fr. ** (5.4)








5. If the quarterback position is capable, things fall into place

Whoever wins the starting job -- be it Zordich, Licata or a third-party candidate -- inherits a strong backfield, a solid line (the left side of it, anyway) and a receiving corps that is, at least, quite a bit more experienced than it was last year. Junior college transfer James Potts joins the party at running back, Alex Neutz is a big-play threat in the No. 1 receiver spot, and some interesting youngsters could carve out a niche in the passing game. Two-year starting left tackle Andre Davis returns, and while the line must replace two starters on the right side, experienced former starters are available to replace them. There are plenty of reasons to assume Buffalo's offense will improve in 2013, but the velocity of the improvement will be determined by the reliability of the quarterback.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 105.3 3.09 3.36 39.9% 75.8% 15.9% 85.1 6.2% 6.9%
Rank 46 45 52 56 22 17 83 89 70
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Graham Whinery RG 36 career starts
Andre Davis LT 6'4, 303 Jr. ** (5.2) 24 career starts
Gokhan Ozkan RT 24 career starts
Jasen Carlson LG 6'1, 301 Sr. ** (5.2) 19 career starts
Trevor Sales C 6'2, 318 Jr. ** (5.4) 12 career starts
Pat Wilson LT 6'4, 278 Sr. ** (4.9) 11 career starts
Dillon Guy RG 6'4, 318 Jr. ** (5.2) 6 career starts
John Kling LT 6'7, 310 So. ** (5.2)
Robert Blodgett LG 6'5, 306 So. NR
Jessie Back LG 6'4, 294 So. NR
Gabriel Barbe C 6'6, 298 Jr. NR
Jake Silas RT 6'7, 316 Jr. NR
Robert Riche OL 6'6, 270 RSFr. ** (5.4)

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 37 62 63 62
RUSHING 56 64 66 60
PASSING 31 65 60 70
Standard Downs 61 64 62
Passing Downs 57 55 58
Redzone 45 44 48
Q1 Rk 24 1st Down Rk 74
Q2 Rk 79 2nd Down Rk 59
Q3 Rk 108 3rd Down Rk 52
Q4 Rk 20

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 98.0 2.82 2.95 35.7% 69.8% 16.9% 151.9 5.6% 13.4%
Rank 68 46 38 27 79 94 5 31 3
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Steven Means DE 12 58.5 8.8% 11 6.5 0 2 0 0
Colby Way DE 6'4, 276 Sr. ** (5.2) 12 43.0 6.4% 10.5 7 1 2 0 1
Wyatt Cahill NG 12 17.0 2.5% 0.5 0 0 1 0 0
Kristjan Sokoli DE 6'5, 287 Jr. ** (5.2) 12 14.0 2.1% 3 0 0 1 0 0
Dalton Barksdale NG 6'3, 297 Jr. NR 11 7.5 1.1% 0.5 0 0 1 0 0
Beau Bachtelle DL 6'5, 272 Sr. ** (5.2) 12 7.0 1.0% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Albert McCoy DL 6'4, 276 RSFr. ** (5.4)

Tedroy Lynch DE 6'2, 250 Jr. ** (5.2)

Brandon Crawford DE 6'3, 228 Fr. ** (5.3)

Solomon Jackson DE 6'2, 230 Fr. ** (5.3)






6. Buffalo was rock solid in the trenches (on both sides of the ball) in 2012

Top 50 in offensive Adj. Line Yards, top 70 in defensive Adj. Line Yards, great short-yardage blocking and a fierce pass rush? Buffalo's trench work was quite good in 2012. Two starters are gone from the defensive line, but a) end Kristjan Sokoli was solid in backup duty, and b) part of the defensive line's success had to do with support from the linebacking corps, three-fourths of which remains intact.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Khalil Mack OLB 6'3, 245 Sr. ** (4.9) 11 73.0 10.9% 21 8 0 2 4 0
Lee Skinner ILB 6'2, 226 Jr. NR 12 62.5 9.4% 8.5 5 0 1 1 0
Jake Stockman ILB 6'2, 235 Jr. ** (5.4) 12 43.0 6.4% 4 2.5 0 2 1 0
Willie Moseley OLB 12 38.0 5.7% 5.5 2.5 1 0 0 1
Dalonte Wallace OLB 6 18.0 2.7% 1.5 1 0 0 0 0
Scott Pettigrew ILB 8 9.0 1.3% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Khari Brown ILB 6'1, 229 Jr. ** (5.4) 12 6.0 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kendall Roberson LB 6'2, 227 Jr. ** (5.2) 11 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Imani Chatman OLB 6 0.5 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Blake Bean LB 6'1, 235 Jr. ** (5.2)






7. Khalil Mack is a badass

Sometimes you uncover the proverbial diamond in the rough. As a recruit, Khalil Mack barely even garnered a two-star rating. But in three years, he has been one of the most terrifying mid-major defenders in the country. As a redshirt freshman in 2010, he was better than most upper-classmen, logging 14.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. In 2011, he raised his game: 20.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks. And despite constant attention from opposing offenses, he somehow improved his stats again last fall: 21.0 TFLs, 8.0 sacks. He gets special attention and still thrives, and that (not surprisingly) does wonders for the players around him. Lee Skinner and Jake Stockman combined for another 12.5 TFLs from the inside, and returning end Colby Way had 10.5. Buffalo's pas rush was strong enough that opponents had to run to move the ball, and over the final two months of the season, Buffalo was equally strong at defending that. UB does have some losses to deal with in its front seven -- on the first string of the line and the second string of the linebacking corps -- but Mack and company should still expect to make a lot of stops in 2013. Two months of sustained improvement in 2012 suggests very good things about 2013.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Derek Brim S 6'0, 188 Jr. NR 12 40.0 6.0% 2 0 0 2 0 0
Najja Johnson CB 6'0, 182 Sr. NR 12 35.0 5.2% 0.5 0 5 6 0 0
Witney Sherry FS 6'0, 185 Jr. ** (5.2) 7 32.5 4.9% 0 0 0 3 0 0
Cortney Lester CB 6'0, 179 Jr. ** (5.2) 11 30.5 4.6% 0 0 4 6 0 0
Isaac Baugh SS 12 29.0 4.3% 1.5 0.5 0 2 0 0
Adam Redden SS 6'1, 193 Sr. ** (5.2) 10 22.5 3.4% 2 0 1 2 0 0
Okoye Houston SS 6'0, 201 Sr. *** (5.6) 12 19.0 2.8% 3 1 1 0 0 0
Carlos Lammons CB 5'8, 176 Sr. ** (4.9) 10 15.5 2.3% 1 0 0 1 0 1
Marqus Baker CB 5'10, 177 So. ** (5.3) 12 15.0 2.2% 2 0 0 6 0 0
Kyndal Minniefield FS 6'0, 185 So. ** (5.2) 12 5.5 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dwellie Striggles CB 5'10, 185 Jr. ** (5.4) 11 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Okezie Alozie DB 6'0, 200 So. ** (5.3) 10 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Berry DB 6'0, 201 RSFr. ** (5.4)

Houston Glass DB 6'1, 190 Fr. ** (5.3)

James Coleman DB 6'3, 195 Fr. ** (5.3)






Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Tyler Grassman 6'1, 190 So. 80 35.3 3 28 19 58.8%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Patrick Clarke 6'1, 197 Jr. 51 52.9 13 25.5%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Patrick Clarke 6'1, 197 Jr. 28-29 7-10 70.0% 4-5 80.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Okoye Houston KR 6'0, 201 Sr. 13 19.1 0
Brandon Murie KR 5'9, 186 Sr. 11 18.4 0
Devin Campbell KR 5'11, 195 So. 10 21.9 0
Cordero Dixon PR 5'11, 186 Jr. 10 3.1 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 119
Net Punting 121
Net Kickoffs 122
Touchback Pct 96
Field Goal Pct 57
Kick Returns Avg 109
Punt Returns Avg 106

8. Special teams was flaky

Buffalo had its moments in special teams -- the Bulls blocked two PATs versus Toledo, turned the UMass game around with a blocked punt, and got steady play from kicker Patrick Clarke all year -- but the unit was still lacking overall. Punt and kick coverage was dreadful (suggesting that there was not much athleticism on the team beyond the first string, since the coverage units are typically made of reserves), and the return men were lacking, too. This probably isn't going to change in 2013, but some more timely blocked kicks would certainly mitigate some of the damage here.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2012 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug at Ohio State 10
7-Sep at Baylor 36
14-Sep Stony Brook NR
28-Sep Connecticut 58
5-Oct Eastern Michigan 118
12-Oct at Western Michigan 93
19-Oct Massachusetts 124
26-Oct at Kent State 80
5-Nov Ohio 83
12-Nov at Toledo 62
19-Nov at Miami (Ohio) 106
29-Nov Bowling Green 67
Five-Year F/+ Rk 97
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 123
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -6 / +1.4
TO Luck/Game -3.1
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 16 (9, 7)
Yds/Pt Margin** +4.9

9. There are expectations

The folks at UB Bull Run are calling for 7-5 (6-2) against the above schedule. That may seem like a lot for a team that has won seven games in the last two years, but if it's going to happen, it's going to happen in 2013. Most of this team's difference-makers -- Mack, Oliver, Neutz, etc. -- are seniors. We don't know if a new window of opportunity will open for Quinn in 2014, but this one closes soon.

10. Buffalo should meet those expectations

Honestly, after a couple of blood-lettings against Ohio State and Baylor to start the year, the Bulls should have a chance in almost every game they play, aside from perhaps the trip to Toledo. A mature team with an interesting defense, Buffalo should expect at least six wins and bowl eligibility in 2013; anything less than that will represent a terrible missed opportunity and make that Quinn extension look awfully misguided.

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