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Head-hunting rule has Tepper concerned

By Rodney McKissic

NCAA referees are placing an emphasis on head hunting or targeting this season, which has Lou Tepper concerned.

The UB defensive coordinator understands the intent of the rule – concussions are a huge point of discussion – but he would prefer that instant replay was involved.

If a hit to the head is deemed intentional or if a player lowers his head and leads the crown of his helmet, the player will be ejected from the game. If the play occurs in the second half, the player will be tossed and also suspended for the first half of the next game.

Tepper said during training camp a defender hit a player on the shoulder pad with his head and Tepper figures if that were a real game he would have been ejected.

“There’s going to be errors and there’s going to be prejudice toward the defense,” Tepper said. “I’m very concerned about the rule. If we were going to have instant replay and they say, ‘Hey, that’s a good penalty or not’ but they don’t. They throw you out and then afterwards they decide whether you’re going to play the next week.”

There are tailbacks who lead with their helmets, and Tepper figures defenders will get hit with penalties more often than not during those kinds of collisions.

“They’re coming head first and right into you and that’s rarely ever called,” he said. “We can be aiming for your chest and you could come with your head down and we’re going to get called for spearing. I think it’s troublesome legislation.”

Tepper teaches the “biting the ball” technique where if a ball carrier has the ball in either arm, the defender puts his facemask wherever the ball is.

“I want to attack it as though I were biting it and that keeps my face and not my head down,” Tepper said. 

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Junior tailback James Potts appears to have progressed nicely after tearing his ACL which kept him sidelined for most of last season. Other than missing a day when he sat out for precautionary reasons because of a knee bruise, Potts has participated fully in practice.

He said he has shown no ill effects from the surgery, cutting with ease on the left knee, and added he feels fast than when he arrived from Boynton Beach, Fla., four years ago.

“My freshman year during the summer, I ran a 4.37 but I haven’t run it since then but I definitely think I’m faster,” he said. “Every year you get bigger, stronger and faster so it’s only right that I get faster.”

Running backs coach Matt Simon said there was evidence of Potts’ increased speed prior to suffering the injury during the team’s win against Morgan State.

“He’s playing faster,” Simon said. “He’s more knowledgeable so his reaction and execution is a step quicker.”

UB has good depth in the backfield and they need it because it’s been rare when the Bulls had a leading rusher who appeared in all 12 games in a season.

Bulls' young fourth TE Schreck could be red-zone option this year

By Aaron Mansfield

If you hear people talking about Schreck at UB camp, they aren’t referencing the beloved ogre.

No, they’re talking about redshirt freshman tight end Mason Schreck, who made several impressive catches in traffic Monday. The book on Schreck’s career is thus far short: the 6-foot-5, 229-pounder was a high school quarterback and starting center on the basketball team, but he hasn’t seen any college action yet.

“He’s working extremely hard,” said head coach Jeff Quinn. “Mason came out of high school as a quarterback, so he understands offensive football. Now he’s growing into that tight end position and he’s got great ball skills. He judges the ball very well in the air.”

Schreck is still fourth on the depth chart behind first-stringer Jimmy Gordon, Alex Dennison and Matt Weiser, but he’s a formidable fourth option who has shown loads of potential. Quinn predicts his team could go to Schreck at times in the red zone this year to take advantage of his size and leaping ability.

“He’s still young, it’s still early, but I think he’s proven to all his teammates and coaches that he’s somebody who’s really put himself in position to get a chance to get on that field,” Quinn said. “Schreck gives us an added feature. Most people don’t have that ability to have four tight ends. That’s a pretty good group of kids.”

* * *

Follow reporter Aaron Mansfield on Twitter @aaroncmansfield.

Locals among youngsters looking to get playing time on UB football team

 

Redshirt freshman Jordan Johnson (2) has bulked up to play the H-back position in Jeff Quinn's offense.
Courtesy of The Spectrum -- Redshirt freshman Jordan Johnson (2) has bulked up to play the H-back position in Jeff Quinn's offense.

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.

 

NFL scouts hanging around UB Stadium

 

Colby Way
Aaron Mansfield/Buffalo News -- Senior defensive end Colby Way is one of several players on the University at Buffalo football team working on a training camp beard.

By Aaron Mansfield

Head coach Jeff Quinn came to the UB Stadium sidelines after practice Monday saying he doesn’t want affability among his players. He quizzed one reporter on the term’s definition. In case you’re wondering, here are some synonyms: Gracious, pleasant, polite.

Affability seems to be an endearing quality, but Quinn wants malice on the field. He often says he wants to play “consistent, violent and aggressive” football.

“I want some mean, tough people,” he said, peering through a pair of black Oakleys.

It’s no secret that one of those mean, tough people is Khalil Mack, UB's all-everything linebacker viewed highly in NFL circles. Scouts have been hanging out frequently at training camp this year, and today the Eagles, Redskins and Rams had representatives taking in the action.

Speaking of NFL circles, former UB defensive end Steven Means (Grover Cleveland) played his first preseason game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Thursday. Tampa Bay fell, 44-16, to Baltimore. Means, who was also a track & field and basketball star at Grover Cleveland, got some time with the Bucs’ first-team ‘D’ and recorded one solo tackle.

“Just to get out there, get a feel for it, was amazing,” Means told reporters in Tampa Bay. “I felt right at home. You know, I’m looking forward to playing a lot more games.”

Means made an impressive leaping interception in practice Saturday (which should come as no surprise to Western New Yorkers who have seen his immense athletic ability), and the Bucs put a video interview with him afterward online: Means Lets His Talent Take Over.

Means co-starred on the D-line last year opposite senior Colby Way, who is also getting some NFL looks. NFLdraftscout.com has him ranked 18th out of 252 defensive ends.

Way is becoming the anchor of the line and he helped lead summer practices, at which the coaches are not allowed to participate.

“The thing that I’ve seen all along from Colby is just his maturity level,” Quinn said. “He takes a great deal of pride in his performance, his understanding of the game. He prepares extremely hard. Very knowledgeable football player.”

See an in-depth story on Way in Tuesday’s Buffalo News.

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Follow reporter Aaron Mansfield on Twitter @aaroncmansfield.

 

No Frills Scrimmage

By Bob DiCesare

Execution was the order of the day as UB completed the first week of training camp Saturday with an hour-long scrimmage at UB Stadium. Neither punts nor kickoffs factored in the trial run although three Patrick Clarke field goals accounted for nine of the 16 points produced by the offense. The lone TD came on a 6-yard Bo Oliver run.

Although the Bulls trotted out some of the new formations and personnel groupings they've shown throughout camp, the approach Saturday was rather vanilla, and by design.

“Let’s get after the fundamentals, I told them that,” head coach Jeff Quinn said. “Our defense purusing the ball, our offense finishing. Just aligning correctly and understand your assignments and get after it until the echo of the whistle. And not getting too fancy by out-scheming each other from that standpoint, just seeing good, old-fashion, sound fundamental football -- blocking, tackling, throwing catching. And we saw that today.”

X   X   X

Alex Neutz reprised the great catch he made Friday by outdueling cornerback Cortney Lester yet again for a long 50-50 ball.

"You should expect to see a lot more of those," said quarterback Joe Licata. "Because if he gets one-on-one coverage, he's one of the best guys in the MAC, one of the best guys in the country. So I'm going to keep going to him until someone can stop him."

X    X    X

Practice reps suggest redshirt freshman QB Collin Michael has leapfrogged sophomore Tony Daniel and become the No. 3 QB behind Licata and Alex Zordich. . . . Offensive line depth was a question mark entering camp and remains so. Zordich was afforded little time on pass play while working behind the second-team "O" line. . . . Wideout Fred Lee came up with a couple nice catches early in the scrimmage. Redshirt freshman corner C.J. Stancil picked off a Michael pass.

Mack Goes With New Look

By Bob DiCesare

Add Khalil Mack, UB’s standout linebacker, to the growing list of collegiate and NFL defenders who’ve switched to the Bane facemask, so-named because it loosely resembles the mask worn by one of Batman’s arch villains.

Justin Tuck of the New York Giants is credited with the debut model of the Bane, which featured eight narrowly spaced crossbars. The facemask already has evolved to include a series of vertical bars that makes it close to impossible for blockers to get a fingerhold on the device.

“I got it just because the offensive linemen, they like to grab the facemask from time to time, so I grabbed this one just because you can’t get your fingers in it,” Mack said. “It’s a little heavier but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

 Mack picked up on the trend while watching games on television.

 “I was looking at other teams, like Notre Dame, and even like on the next level, the NFL players were playing with it on the line, the pass rushers,” Mack said. “I saw that it could really help.”

Mack did not participate in Saturday’s scrimmage and didn’t take part in 11-on-11 drills the last two days. Neither he nor head coach Jeff Quinn is saying why that is, although it appears nothing more than a precaution. He has taken part in other drills.

 “He’s right on track with what he needs to do,” Quinn said. “I think our other guys have benefited greatly. You got to be prepared for all scenarios.”

Bulls High on Bean

By Bob DiCesare

Blake Bean received a few football offers coming out of high school but nothing that caught his fancy. He wanted to play Division I ball. He wanted to prove he had skills that schools were overlooking.

Instead of taking the best offer on the table, Bean opted to go the junior college route. It was at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan., that the linebacker attracted attention on the football field and posted the added allure of a 4.0 grade-point average.

UB loved what he had to offer: a relentless pursuit on and off the field and high academic goals. And it didn't hurt that he accomplished the high school rarity of winning state wrestling championships in two states. He captured the 215-pound title in Oklahoma as a junior and followed up in the same weight division in Kansas as a senior.

"Just parents got a job up there so I had to go up there, give up friends down at home and go to school up in Wichita," Bean said."

As Bulls had coach Jeff Quinn likes to say, UB defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Lou Tepper has "written the book" on the position. Tepper authored his first book on linebacking more than a few years ago and is following up with another. Tepper's presence proved the bridge between Bean and Buffalo.

"I didn't know much about them at the time," Bean said. "But the more I looked into it and the more I looked at the coaches and who I have coaching me . . .

""Coach Tep has been around it all and that was something I was more attracted to than anything probably is my position coach," Bean said. "You want to get better and that's what it's all about."

Bean goes 6-foot-1, 232 pounds and has the inside track on a starting linebacker spot. He's also switched his major to Biology with an eye on pre-med.

Video: UB Bulls look sharp in practice

The News' Bob DiCesare says that in the first week of football practice, the UB Bulls' players looked sharp and motivated.

It takes two

By Rodney McKissic

How will UB replace Steven Means at defensive end? Apparently, it's going to take two players.

The likely starter will be senior Beau Bachtelle, whose strength is stopping the run, while newcomer Tedroy Lynch, a 6-foot-2, 249-pound junior college transfer from Shiremanstown, Pa., is a potent pass rusher.

The 6-5, 273-pound Bachtelle was part of the defensive line rotation a year ago appearing in 12 games and recording 11 tackles with three solos. At Lackawanna Junior College last season Lynch finished with 13 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks. Both took reps with the first team today

"He's more like Steven Means was when he first came here," UB DC Lou Tepper said of Lynch. "He may not understand the full gamut of our defense but he knows how to lay his ears back and and rush the passer. Those two will kind of combine to take Steven's place."

****
The Bulls’ offense is ready for a leap forward and here are two reasons why:

*The most recognizable one: The Bulls played the last four games of ’12 with Joe Licata at quarterback. Alex Zordich was resolute and to his credit showed great leadership but his stats tell the true saga. In eight starts, he completed 106 of 208 passes (51.0 percent) with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions.

If you take away the Morgan State game, UB’s offense scored 20 or more points three times in its first eight games. With the return of a seasoned Licata, who lead the Bulls to three wins in the final four games, prospects look much brighter.

*Think about how Branden Oliver performed last year under problematic conditions. The senior tailback missed five games because of injury and still rushed for 821 yards and five touchdowns despite playing against eight-man fronts geared to silence his production and a rickety passing game that couldn't take pressure off him. OC Alex Wood will find more ways to get him the ball in open space, including putting him in the slot.

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The first play in 11 on 11 drills drew some oohs and aahs when Licata faked a handoff to Oliver, tucked the ball under his arm and ran for a 30-yard gain. Will UB - gasp - run more read option plays with Licata.

"Oh no it wasn't a read option," UB coach Jeff Quinn said, laughing. "That was just Joe Licata doing his thing man."

****
Friday will be the first day in full pads, and the way the defense was flying around the last two days, the players appear eager to hit somebody. ... Junior wide receiver Cordero Dixon went down with a minor injury during 7 on 7 drills but returned to practice. ... Senior linebacker Khalil Mack participated in all drills but sat out the 11 on 11 portion so younger players - like true freshmen Solomon Jackson - could receive some reps. ... The depth chart at QB according to the reps during 11 on 11 is Licata, Zordich, redshirt freshman Collin Michael and sophomore Tony Daniel.

Video: UB Football: Day 3 of training camp

With no coaching turnover and the return of key players, the UB football team and coaches are basically on the same page.

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About Campus Watch

Bob Dicesare

Bob DiCesare

Western New York native Bob DiCesare covers UB football, Big 4 basketball and writes an occasional column. He still holds a grudge against Chris Ford who, he's convinced, cost St. Bonaventure the 1970 NCAA basketball championship.

@TBNDicesare | [email protected]


Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic began his journalism career in 1989 after graduating from the University of Cincinnati and has worked for The Buffalo News since 2001. A proud father of four children, he enjoys reading in his spare time.

@RodneyMcKissic | [email protected]


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered colleges for The Buffalo News since 1999. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | [email protected]

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