When UB football fans scan the roster, most of their questions will be about the right side of the offensive line.
With Gokhan Ozkan and Graham Whinery having graduated, will replacements Dillon Guy and Jake Silas be able to duplicate the performance that helped the Bulls finish No. 47 in the nation with 176.6 rushing yards per game? Will they be able to give their young quarterback some time in the pocket?
For those fans, there was a scary sight at UB’s practice Thursday: Guy was on crutches on the sidelines. Head coach Jeff Quinn said Guy rolled his ankle in the team’s morning session but the injury is not too serious.
“Dillon’s a tough kid, and we’re expecting he’ll be out for a few days and we’ll see what happens,” Quinn said.
Guy, the right guard, is a junior who started six games as a true freshman. The Ontario native was a reserve last year and appeared in 10 games. He was not made available for comment after practice.
The Bulls allowed 2.33 sacks per game last year, tied for 83rd in Division I. The defense averaged 2.83 per game, tied for 15th. That disparity – .5 sacks per game – is impressive, and it’s one Silas and Guy hope to maintain if not improve.
Silas, the right tackle, played in five games last season but does not have much experience outside of that. He said playing behind experienced, savvy veterans Ozkan and Whinery sped up his growth.
“They were really great with trying to teach the younger guys how to play,” Silas said.
He also said it helps having experience and leadership next to him on the offensive line. In addition to Guy, Silas has junior Andre Davis (Maryvale), who has started the first 24 games of his collegiate career, and senior Jasen Carlson and junior Trevor Sales, who both started all 12 games last season.
“It’s just great having that kind of leadership,” said Silas, who sports a bushy, red beard and a blue bandana. “If I ever have questions, bouncing things off them.”
Silas, a basketball and football player in high school, arrived at UB weighing around 240 pounds. He said he is over 300 now.
Quinn said he has seen big improvements in Silas’ game this summer as he has gained even more size and adapted to a starting role.
“Much more aware of his assignments, his responsibilities,” Quinn said. “His technique has improved, his fundamentals. He’s really gained a tremendous amount of confidence in his pass sets – his ability to block guys like Khalil Mack, which is daggone near impossible sometimes. But he matches up against him an awful lot, so he’s gaining a lot more confidence in his ability.”
Quinn said Guy and Silas have room to grow in understanding how to handle specific moments in the game, whether it’s in a down-and-distance situation or understanding field position.
Quinn was an offensive line coach for 31 years before he arrived at UB. He is never hesitant to discuss the athletes he refers to as the “big fellas” up front.
“All the best offensive lines I’ve ever coached in my entire career have always been the closest groups of guys, and this is a very close-knit group,” Quinn said.
Silas said the offensive line spends a lot of time hanging out together.
“Just real chill, real friendly,” he said. “When we got on the field, we come to work.”
Guy and Silas will be responsible for protecting redshirt sophomore quarterback Joe Licata against Ohio State in the season opener. Silas said Licata has done a good job of stepping up as a leader on the offense.