By Aaron Mansfield
Head coach Jeff Quinn has a promising problem: He might have too many good players at his skill positions. It seems egregious to say that of a UB football team, but his roster might have too much talent – barring injury, some players who would have started in recent years might not even get in the game.
So he’s looking at different ways to get some talented, inexperienced players involved. For locals Jordan Johnson (Amherst, Sweet Home High School) and Marcus McGill (Rochester, Rush-Henrietta), that means getting accustomed to some different positions.
Johnson was a star quarterback for the Panthers in 2011 but switched to running back and redshirted last season. He has packed on the weight – the 6-footer has gained 20 pounds in the past year to reach 233 pounds – to play a unique position this year.
“Jordan’s been running with the second team of running backs,” Quinn said. “He’s in the big skill position, which is an H-back, fullback, running back. He’s not right now playing tailback, but he’s a guy that we’re slipping out, blocking with.”
McGill, a sophomore, was the starting long-snapper last year, but this year the Bulls brought in freshman Corbin Grassman (the younger cousin of starting punter sophomore Tyler Grassman) to handle those duties so McGill can focus on developing as a wide receiver.
“We like his physical presence,” Quinn said of the 6-foot-1, 227-pound McGill. “He’s working on being an every-snap player.”
Quinn also has youngsters involved in the punt-return game, where true freshmen Jamarl Eiland and Boise Ross have as good a shot as anyone to be the starting return man. They were on the field today shagging punts along with standout senior wide receiver Alex Neutz (Grand Island).
The Bulls have used Neutz in that position before, as he is sure-handed and they’ve had issues finding someone who can cleanly haul in punts, but it’s doubtful they’ll put him out there this year because of his tremendous value to the team as a receiver.
Sophomores Devin Campbell and McGill have also gotten looks at punt returner, but don’t be shocked if it’s one of the newbies who ends up back there against Ohio State Aug. 31. True freshman Jacob Martinez wasn’t back there today but is also in consideration.
“Giving them an opportunity to go out there and just demonstrate what they can do, a potential opportunity to just get out there and play as a true freshman,” Quinn said. “Some of those kids, that’s why we recruited them. Guys have to step up to give us the kind of confidence that position requires. There were too many times we had the ball on the ground and not judging the ball correctly. It was a tough situation to deal with, so I brought in some young players who were high school punt returners.”
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Follow reporter Aaron Mansfield on Twitter @aaroncmansfield.