Minor injuries caused the University at Buffalo to move around offensive line pieces during the second half of training camp but missing key components in mid-August could prove beneficial as the season wears on.
The Bulls left spring ball knowing exactly where they stood on the offensive line. Trevor Sales returns at center, Jasen Carlson at left guard and Andre Davis at left tackle. They’re now joined by Dillon Guy at left guard and Jake Silas at left tackle – or will be when everyone returns to full health.
Depth on the line was a concern, but with Sales and Guy both nursing lower body injuries, youth has been served more quickly than would otherwise have been the case. Sophomores Todd Therrien and Bobby Blodgett and true freshman Brandon Manosalvas have seen time at the guard spots with Guy out and Carlson shifting to center while Sales mends. Guy and Sales both were on the sidelines Friday but their fluid movements suggest they’ll be ready in plenty of time for next Saturday’s opener at Ohio State.
“We had some key guys get banged up or bruised up, nothing that’s going to keep them out of the game on Saturday, but it definitely allowed some younger guys to get some opportunities, some great learning experiences for those guys to play against some really good competition in our defense,” said offensive line coach Adam Shorter.
“Our defense is unbelievable with those guys up front, Colby Way, Kristjan Sokoli, Khalil Mack coming off the edge. And you get some guys who are freshmen and redshirt freshmen and it really helped those guys. It’s going to help our depth going into this season.”
Developing depth might offer the Bulls some reassurance but a healthy starting five could be key to UB’s offensive production this season. Davis, a junior, has started 24 straight games. Carlson, a 6-2, 326-pound senior drawing NFL interest, has started the last 16. Sales, a junior, started all 12 games last year, his first season of eligibility after transferring to UB from Delaware State.
“They’ve been working in unison for such a long time,” Shorter said of Davis and Carlson. “They get out there and there’s a lot of O-line calls made on the offensive line, they don’t need to make those calls anymore. They can just look at each other and they just know.
“Working side by side, there’s a lot of combination blocks and they feel very comfortable with one another. They know how each other are going to react. And the same thing goes with Trevor Sales. With Carlson and Sales there’s a lot of comfort between those three guys and a lot of those non-verbal indicators, cues, and we’re expecting big things out of the left side protecting the blind side of Joe Licata.”
“I feel very confident when all our guys are at full strength and we’re as close to 100 percent as you can be,” Carlson said. “We have a lot of experience, and with Dillon coming in as well as Jake Silas, they’d played in some games and they’ve worked really hard in the offseason just to get the system down. They’ve worked hard in the weight room getting stronger and faster and everything so they’re going to fit in just as they should as by the time Ohio State rolls around everything’s going to fall into place.”
In past seasons the offensive line talked about specific goals, particularly when it came to workhorse running back Branden Oliver and the running game. Davis said this year’s concern is the number on the left side of the won-loss record.
“Bo’s only 600 yards away from breaking the all-time rushing record so that’s one of our goals, but our main goal this year is just to win games,” Davis said. “We just want to win.”