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Licata played with a torn hip labrum

By Rodney McKissic

UB junior Joe Licata played all of last season with a torn hip labrum and a bone impingement the quarterback confirmed on Wednesday.

The Williamsville South product who started all 13 games in 2013, said he suffered the injury during training camp last summer in early August. Licata will be limited for spring practice which started today at the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse and will miss the annual Blue/White Game on April 19.

Licata had surgery on Jan. 7.

“I went into the training room and thought it was a groin injury maybe or a hip flexor,” said Licata, who is nearly month three of the 4-6 month recovery process. “It didn’t get any better and it kept getting worse. I took a couple of helmet hits to the hip.”

A month after the injury, UB’s trainers realized it wasn’t a hip flexor but a hip labrum injury. Doctors confirmed the diagnoses after the Bulls bowl game loss to San Diego State and Licata underwent surgery.

“It hurt but I took a couple of Advil before the game,” he said. “I iced it down afterwards and I had it wrapped during games. It was wrapped for practices. I was smart about it. It’s the price you pay for touchdowns.”

UB coach Jeff Quinn said he isn’t worried about Licata missing spring workouts.

“He certainly has a sharp mind and has a handle on the offense,” Quinn said. “Joe is still going to be the guy that we develop into being an even better quarterback than he was a year ago.”

Licata was limited to sideline work as were fullback Boomer Brock and right guard Dillon Guy, a pair of seniors, sophomore offensive lineman Dan Collura and defensive linemen Zach Smekal and tailback Joe Schillace, who are redshirt freshmen.

Also, junior linebacker Nick Gilbo left practice with an apparent injury to his left knee which was wrapped heavily in ice.

****

Junior Tony Daniel took snaps with the first unit while sophomore Collin Michael was with the second team.

“We were a little bit off with our timing but that’s part of this,” Quinn said. “Spring ball is about repetition and repetition is the mother of learning and I think our kids are only going to get better.”

Licata liked what he saw from the sidelines.

“They looked good, it’s a great opportunity for them to get more reps during the spring,” he said. “It’s weird to watch the backside of it, but I get to help coach those guys up and I think Tony did a great job today as did Collin.”

****
Early enrollees Juwan Jackson and offense lineman Matt Murphy participated in practice on Wednesday. Jackson is a 6-foot4, 215-pound linebacker from Newark N.J., while the 6-7, 295-pound Murphy hails from London, England. Both players enrolled in January.  … The Bulls are off tomorrow but will resume practice on Friday at UB Stadium.

Licata will be limited in spring drills

By Rodney McKissic

UB junior quarterback Joe Licata will be limited during spring practice as he recovers from offseason hip surgery, coach Jeff Quinn said today. Spring practice begins Wednesday.

Licata, who started all 13 games last season, had hip surgery in January and was expected to be out until June. It is unclear whether Licata will play in the annual Blue/White game April 19.

Licata, who starred at Williamsville South, threw for 2,824 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing 58 percent of his passes as a sophomore.

“He’s not going to be out there full bore,” Quinn said. “He’s fine, it’s just a matter of time but he’s done very well.”

Junior Tony Daniel will take the majority of the snaps in spring drills and will be backed up by sophomore Collin Michael and redshirt freshman Craig Slowik.

The only other player who will be limited in the spring will be senior fullback Boomer Brock (knee). Also, Quinn confirmed tailback James Potts is no longer enrolled in school and will not return to the team. Quinn wouldn’t go in specifics, but a source told The News Potts was academically ineligible.

While the Bulls have good depth at tailback, they have suffered numerous injures over the years at the position and Potts provided insurance. He appeared in nine games as a backup to Bo Oliver and Anthone Taylor last season and rushed for 222 yards on 58 carries.

Football with Doug Marrone laced Greg Paulus' coaching career

By Tim Graham

Mike Krzyzewski was an obvious influence on Greg Paulus' basketball coaching career.

Thad Matta, too, of course.

So has Jim Boeheim.

But don't forget Doug Marrone.

That's right. Paulus credits the Buffalo Bills coach for making a difference.

Paulus essentially was immersed in Boeheim's program while growing up in Syracuse. Paulus played point guard for Krzyzewski at Duke.

Now Paulus is an assistant to Matta at Ohio State.

But in between Duke and Ohio State, the two-sport Christian Brothers Academy star decided to give football another whirl. He enrolled at Syracuse in 2009 as a graduate student and won the starting quarterback job in Marrone's first season as head coach.

"I learned a lot about myself, a lot about changing the culture of a program," Paulus said today at the First Niagara Center, where Ohio State will play Dayton on Thursday in the NCAA basketball tournament.

"We've seen where Syracuse was before Coach Marrone and where it is now. It's come a long way, and I'm proud to have had that opportunity.

"Moving forward, I lean on those experiences even though they're different sports. I know what I got out of that, a great deal."

Paulus turned down scholarships to play football at Notre Dame and Miami (Fla.), choosing instead to concentrate solely on basketball. At Duke, he became only the fourth freshman to lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in assists.

He graduated from Duke in four years, leaving him one year of athletic eligibility if he wanted it. With no guarantees, he reported to his hometown program, which had been in shambles and had just hired a first-time head coach.

"It happened very quickly," Paulus said. "I ended up graduating from Duke in May, and the football season starts in August.

"I'm not someone who pays attention to the odds. All I wanted was an opportunity. I knew it was for one year, so all I wanted was a chance to compete for a starting position.

"I made the transition to try to learn the playbook, meet the guys on the team and try to help out the Syracuse program in whatever way possible. It was a quick turnaround to learn everything, but I had a lot of fun with it."

Paulus beat out incumbent Cameron Dantley and redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib for the job. Marrone wanted to establish a new culture, and a winner from a program such as Duke basketball was a gift. Paulus was named a captain.

Paulus' football stat line was mediocre. He completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 2,024 yards and 13 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. The New Orleans Saints invited Paulus to minicamp in 2010 before he focused on basketball coaching full-time.

"I would do it again in a heartbeat," Paulus said. "The opportunity to play football for a year, get my masters from the Newhouse School of Public Communications and have a chance to play for Doug Marrone is something that I'll never forget."

And when the Bills went into opening day with a total of one NFL start among their three quarterbacks, including Duke pal Thad Lewis, did Paulus have any fanciful thoughts?

"No desire," Paulus said with a laugh. "Just to see Coach Marrone do it at the highest level, I was real proud to have played for him."

If the higher seeds win Thursday, then Paulus will face Syracuse for the second time in his coaching career. Ohio State defeated Syracuse to reach the 2012 Final Four.

Schedule Out: UB-Baylor on ESPN

By Bob DiCesare

Five appearances on ESPN channels including a Friday night home game against Baylor on “the big screen” highlight the 2014 UB football schedule released today.

The Bulls will be looking for a more competitive result when they entertain Baylor on Sept. 12 at UB Stadium in a game set for broadcast on ESPN. The Bears walloped UB, 70-13, in Waco, Texas, last season en route to the Big 12 championship and the distinction of being the nation’s highest-scoring offense. A number of key players on that team are NFL-bound however quarterback and NFL prospect Bryce Petty returns.

UB also landed a trio of weekday Mid-American Conference East Division games on either ESPN2 or ESPNU. It will visit Ohio on Wed. Nov. 5 then return home to face Akron on Tues. Nov. 11 and Kent State on Wed. Nov. 19. The season concludes with the traditional Black Friday finish, this time at UMass. That will be aired on either ESPNU or ESPN 3.

The TV appearances are indicative of program perceived as on the rise. UB went 8-5 last season and played in the second bowl game in school history, a 49-24 loss to San Diego State in the Great Idaho Potato Bowl. However, there are major holes to fill with the graduation of five first-team all-MAC performers -- linebacker and MAC Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, running back Branden Oliver, wideout Alex Neutz, guard Jasen Carlson and defensive back Najja Johnson.

 The schedule contains a couple of oddities. As earlier reported, the Bulls will play seven home games, two of them against FCS teams, and only one of those can count toward the six-win mandate for bowl eligibility. UB opens against Duquesne on Aug. 30 and welcomes Norfolk State to UB Stadium on Sept. 20. Also, because of the season’s late start and early finish UB will experience two bye weekends within a three-week span. The Bulls are off the weekend of Oct. 18, play Central Michigan at home on Oct. 25 and then are off again the weekend of Nov. 1.

The schedule:

 Sat. Aug. 30   vs. Duquesne

Sat. Sept. 6    at Army

Fri. Sept. 12    vs Baylor

Sat Sept. 20 vs. Norfolk State

Sat Sept. 27  vs Miami

Sat. Oct. 4    at Bowling Green

Sat. Oct. 11  at Eastern Michigan

Sat. Oct. 25  vs. Central Michigan

Wed. Nov. 5  at Ohio, 8 p.m.

Tues. Nov. 11  vs. Akron, 8 p.m.

Wed. Nov. 19   vs Kent State, 8 p.m.

Fri. Nov. 28     at UMass

All other start times are to be determined.

Morris Returns to UB

By Bob DiCesare

Buddy Morris once told an ESPN writer he didn't care for the title of strength and conditioning coach. He'd prefer to be known as someone who oversees physical preparation.

"What we do emcompasses more than conditioning and strength," he said.

No matter what his title, Morris is eager to get back on the football field and work with young athletes. After three years away from the sport, Morris has been hired to oversee "physical preparation" for University at Buffalo football. He replaces Zach Duval, who left to take a similar job at Wyoming.

The job offer came out of nowhere. Morris was working out at the family's New York Sports Center when he was contacted by UB coach Jeff Quinn. The two met on Blizzard Tuesday and Morris, who worked at UB under Turner Gill in 2006, was sold. 

"I did not even apply for it," Morris said Sunday night. "Coach Quinn asked me if I'd be interested. I told him yes because I admire the work that he has done over there the past couple years.  I think they really have a sense of urgency.

"Coach Quinn and Danny White have that place headed in the right direction. There's a sense of urgency that I didn't feel was there before. Now don't get me wrong. I love Warde Manual and his regime and what he was trying to do. But I think coach Quinn and Danny White, there's just a renewed sense of urgency and a different attitude over there now."

Morris, 56, has an extensive football background. He began at Pitt, his alma mater, under coach Jackie Sherrill from 1980-90, then left to enter private practice. He returned to Pitt from '97 to 2001, then worked for Butch Davis with the Cleveland Browns. Soured on the NFL, Morris joined Gill at UB in 2006 but left six months later for another tour at Pitt under Dave Wannstedt. That ended when Wannstedt and his staff were dismissed after the 2010 season. Morris has been aching for football ever since.

"You know what, I've been miserable for three years," he said. "Not coaching, my wife has tolerated me. My kids, my step kids, my two daughters, have tolerated my mood swings. Come August I get a little loony because I'm not in camp and I'm not on the sideline. This is what I do. This is what I've done my whole life. This is my passion and at my age I haven't lost that."

Morris said he was at UB's training facility (the Morris Sports Performance Center) Sunday pondering what to add and subtract. He's scheduled to meet the team Jan. 26 and begin workouts the following day. As far as he's concerned, everyone starts with a clean slate.

"I don't look at what they did in the past," he said. "I look at what they did today. I don't worry about the past I only worry about the future and what happens from January 26 on. I've been doing this long enough. This is my 34th year. It's not my first rodeo. I don't know what I have until I get in there and start working. Then I'll assess. I'll assess people on an individual basis. I'll assess people by position.

"I truly, truly understand that training is a long-term process. I have no quick fixes. We're going to take our time. I'm a fanatic on technique. I'm a fanatic on the little things. The game's still a game of discipline and it starts in the weight room."

Morris, a bodybuilding champion, maintains a rigorous workout schedule himself.

"I'm still a spring chicken," he said. "I still train four days a week religiously. I have to because you have to see how beautiful my wife is."

 

Quinn to ND Intriguing but . . .

By Bob DiCesare

UB coach Jeff Quinn is working awfully hard on retooling his coaching staff for someone rumored as a candidate to reunite with Brian Kelly at Notre Dame.

The Bulls have hired esteemed strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris to replace Zach Duval, who left for the same job at Wyoming. Morris, UB's S&C coach in 2006 before leaving for Pitt, starts on Jan. 27. He worked for the Panthers through 2010, returned to Buffalo, and told me tonight he has been aching to get back in football ever since.

Sources say two other departures from Quinn's staff likely will be absorbed from within. Notably, the intent is to have offensive coordinator/receivers coach Alex Wood drops receivers for quarterbacks after Don Patterson departed to become associate head coach/QB coach at UConn. Most recently, defensive line coach Jappy Oliver departed, reportedly for Virginia.

Would Quinn be actively reorganizing and hiring if he was looking to reunite with Kelly and become offensive coordinator at Notre Dame? Perhaps. Nothing's outside the realm of possibility in college coaching, and neither Quinn nor AD Danny White responded to messages left concerning the Notre Dame talk. A source close to Notre Dame football said it's not happening.

But there is an intriguing angle to the Notre Dame thing in that Quinn's at a crossroads as a head coach. To maintain a glow he has to sustain success comparable the eight-win season of 2013, and he has to do it with heavy graduation losses that include five first-team All-MAC players. Were the program to backtrack over the next couple of years his star dulls. J.D. Brookhart won the East and the MAC at Akron in 2005 and was fired after the 2009 season for failing to sustain. Coaching' can be a cruel world.

Now let's say Quinn became OC at Notre Dame -- he had the job for a week before being hired by UB -- and produced. His body of work at UB showing continual improvement would make him an OC with a successful head coaching stint, giving him a leg up on much of the competition if he pursued another head coaching vacancy at a higher level.

Just something to consider even though the winds appear to be blowing in the other direction.

Meanwhile, I'll be filing another blog on Morris's return to the Bulls in a short while.

 

What Next for UB?

By Bob DiCesare

BOISE, Idaho -- Well, now, that was disturbing. Not because UB lost a bowl game by a lopsided margin. But because there's been a lopsidedness to every game the Bulls have played this year against an opponent with teeth.

Yeah, they almost made a game of it at Ohio State but they didn't. They were embarrassed at Baylor. They took a seven-game winning streak against dregs to Toledo and trailed 31-0 at the half. They held a 7-3 halftime lead over Bowling Green in the MAC championship game and lost the second half, 21-0. And then came the debacle that was the 49-24 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl loss to San Diego State on Saturday night. Down 35-10 minutes into the third. Good night.

Doubtless the athletic administration will console itself with "Aw, shucks. At least we made it to a bowl game. We're on our way?!!"

Is that so? Exactly where do you think this is headed?"

Jeff Quinn has been here four years. He's won two games against FBS teams with winning records and both were against Ohio. Now if they were over Ohio State and he was coaching Michigan by all means give the guy a lifetime contract. But we're talking Ohio. Just plain Ohio.

And then no one else.

UB won seven games this year against pushovers. Even UConn was in the midst of impending upheaval. Which begs the question: If this is the best Quinn could do with Khalil Mack and Branden Oliver and Alex Neutz, if this is the best he could do with five first-team all-MAC players (four post Jasen Carlson injury), then what rationale leads one to believe that it gets better from here?

This season looks pretty with spin. Eight wins. First bowl since the 2008 season. Ain't it great the AD locked up the coach with a contract extension last season?

But it's all spin. It took Quinn two years to win as many games as Turner Gill won his last season here. That's a digression. UB's eight-win season of 2013 matches its eight-win season of 2008 -- minus the MAC championship. The teams UB beat this year combined to win 23 games total, and that's with giving them the five victories of FCS Stony Brook. The '08 club beat teams with 42 wins, not an FCS among them, and knocked off No. 12 in the country in the MAC title game.

And this is supposed to somehow compare?

Danny White has fired six coaches since becoming athletic director. He let go a basketball coach who scored some pretty impression victories over the years because he couldn't get over the hump ad make it to the NCAAs. That and because, the coach being local and all, he wasn't sexy enough to market.

Don't construe this as criticism of Bobby Hurley. It's not. It is a criticism of the decision to release Reggie Witherspoon in the first place, especially given the talent he had in the fold.

If Witherspoon was shown the door with talent set to return how do the scales tip for Quinn with the bulk of his (heavily Gill-recruited) talent walking out the door? Is eight wins cause for celebration given the resumes of the victims?

Every time the Bulls played a worthy opponent they faltered. Badly. Got their horns blown off.

Maybe the AD should take stock of the whole situation instead perceiving success after a football season that, when you get right down to it, wasn't all that darn successful.

Because UB's claim to fame right now is that it's not as bad as it used to be. Whatever that's worth.

Potato Skins

By Bob DiCesare

BOISE, Idaho -- Sophomore quarterback Joe Licata joined head coach Jeff Quinn and senior cornerback Najja Johnson for Friday's pre-game press conference and fired off a few quality lines.

Licata when asked why he chose football over basketball despite making more than 300 threes in high school: "I could shoot it, couldn't play much defense though. So I stuck with quarterback because I didn't have to play defense."

Licata on Khalil Mack: "He's pretty special. If you watched any of our games this year yu see the terror in the quarterback's eyes. I have to line up against him every day in practice and I don't like doing that. Luckily I don't have to play against him on Saturday when I don't have my red jersey on."

X X X

Johnson was asked about defending SDSU's balanced receiving corps. Wideouts Colin Lockett and Ezell Ruffin have combined for 112 catches, more than 1,700 yards and eight TDs.

"They do have talented receivers who are fast and physical but we feel like we're faster and even more physical than them," Johnson said. "We look forward to letting those matchups play out tomorrow."

X X X

San Diego State left tackle Bryce Quigley, a 6-5, 300-pound senior, on going up against Mack:

"He's a great player. I've watched him on film. He's athletic, fast, strong. He switches sides and I'll see him probably about half the time I would say."

X X X

UB won't come close to sell off its 2,000-ticket allotment for the game but athletic director Danny White isn't fretting it. He noted that during its final two hours the Potato Bowl will be the only televised football game in America, providing UB with a opportunity for widespread exposure.

X X X

Bronco Stadium and its ancillary facilities are the envy of the Mountain West Conference. Count San Diego State coach Rocky Long among the admirers.

"I see a program that started way back when as a junior college and -- I've done some research -- made calculated steps, step after step, moving up from junior college to NAIA to eventually I-AA and to Division I," Long said. "And they had built all the necessary resources to be successful at Division I as they went. And obviously they built on that. And going to those kind of BCS bowls allows you the financial resources to do some special things.

"If you look at all the facilities and those sort of things within our league . . . there's no comparison to this place and the other teams in our league. Absolutely no comparison. So the resources that they have give them huge advantages."

X X X

Quinn on UB's win over UConn earlier this year:

"That was a program-building win for us. We'd been at them for a number of years and that was a great win for us, a significant win. We certainly have established ourself in this particular season with this group of kids."

##

Potato Bowl -- Inside the Aztecs

Stefanie Loh covers San Diego State football for U-T San Diego. She agreed to field five questions concerning the Aztecs leading into Saturday's game against UB in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Here are her responses. You can get the story from the other side of the field this week by following Stefanie on Twitter @StefanieLoh.

1. The Aztecs rank last nationally in red zone defense and among the bottom 10 in turnover ratio. That hardly seems like a recipe for success. Yet they're 7-5 and have won seven of their last nine. How have they managed it?

SL: With late-game miracles. Somehow, this defense always seems to come up with the big plays when they need them most. It's logic-defying. Also, while they haven't stopped many teams IN the red zone, what they have managed to do in is force three-and-outs in critical situations, before the opponent can get to the red zone. The turnovers have hurt them this year, but the Aztecs have definitely shown that they can be tough to beat late in a close game.
 
2. The Famous Iaho Potato Bowl can't throw anything at Buffalo weather-wise that the Bulls haven't seen before. I'm guessing the same can't be said for SDSU. Do you envision the weather being a factor here?
 
SL: I think it's hard to say because the Aztecs haven't played in the cold very much this year. They did, however, prevail in the Air Force game, when it was about 50 degrees at kickoff, but dipped at least 10 degrees throughout the course of the game. Extreme cold might be rough though, especially if there's snow. The Aztecs haven't played in snow this season, so that might pose problems, especially on offense.
 
3. Running back Adam Muema's the primary back but freshman RB Donnel Pumphrey intrigues with his numbers -- a 6.1 average, 8 TDs. Has he been a surprise this year or did they come into the season expecting he could play a fairly significant role?
 
SL: Pumphrey has definitely been a surprise. They saw flashes of his ability in camp, but held back on naming a true No. 2 back until about three games into the season. However, with Adam Muema struggling with an ankle injury through the first quarter of the year, Pumphrey really came up big for the Aztecs when they needed him. Without him, they might have lost against New Mexico State and Air Force. 
 
4. The Aztecs go 6-2 in conference yet just one player ended up first-team all-MW. Is it a matter of the sum being greater than the parts? And what's the lowdown on safety Nat Berhe, their first-team selection?
 
SL: Absolutely. I think the best thing about this team this year has been the fact that they work very well as a unit. On offense, Kaehler has proved very efficient at distributing the ball among a number of different receivers. On defense, the linebacking corps as a whole has been solid, especially when you consider that their star middle linebacker, Jake Fely, suffered a season-ending injury against New Mexico State. Then, about three quarters of the way in, SDSU lost nose tackle Sam Meredith to a torn labrum. The loss of two of their three defensive starters up the middle made Aztec safety Nat Berhe even more important. Berhe is a versatile, athletic defender who plays the hybrid linebacker/safety position that's unique to Rocky Long's defense. He can help in run support, blitz, or drop back to cover receivers, and he's had to really hold his own and help direct the defense this year. 
 
5. Quarterback Quinn Kaehler has had his two roughest days of the season percentage-wise over the last three games. Is there anything to account for this slide? And is this basically a move-the-chains approach to the passing game?''
 
SL: The offensive line hasn't played very well in the last three games, and this has really hurt the Aztecs' rushing offense. They run a balanced offense but really rely on the run to open up the play action pass. That has limited Kaehler's effectiveness in the pass game. To answer the second question, yes, this is indeed a move-the-chains sort of pass game. The Aztecs use a lot of short and intermediate passes, and generally don't go for too many long bombs because Kaehler isn't the most strong-armed quarterback you'll ever meet.
 
-- Bob DiCesare

Bowl MAC-inations

By Bob DiCesare

Good morning class. Today we'll run through a simple exercise to determine which of two teams in a certain conference is more deserving of a bowl bid. I will put forth the facts and you will make your decision based on the information provided. Don't fret it. This isn't all that hard.

                                                                 Team A                 Team B

Overall Record                                               7-5                        7-5

Conference Record                                         5-3                        4-4

Combined Records of Non-Common Foes            56-30                     33-52

Record of Divisional Crossover Opponents          23-14                      8-16

Record Last 4 Games                                       2-2                        1-3

Points For/Against Last 4                                152/123                  67/146

Continue reading "Bowl MAC-inations" »

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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 | bdicesare@buffnews.com


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 | amoritz@buffnews.com

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