Grant Rohach gambled on himself after last football season when he left Iowa State for a chance to win playing time at the University at Buffalo.
The gamble paid off Monday when the senior graduate student was named the starting quarterback for UB’s season opener Friday against Albany.
UB coach Lance Leipold said Rohach will open the game but that redshirt freshman Tyree Jackson also will see significant action.
“Both quarterbacks will be playing meaningful snaps and have an opportunity to show themselves,” Leipold said. “We have great confidence in both of those guys.”
Leipold wasn’t making any predictions about who will start subsequent games. UB has a week off after the Albany game, then plays at Nevada on Sept. 17.
“I’m happy I’ve been given the opportunity,” Rohach said, “but at the end of the day it’s an opportunity, and I have to be able to lead the offense and execute a successful game.”
Rohach, a 6-foot-2, 218-pounder, played in seven games and started four for Iowa State in 2013. He engineered the biggest comeback in Iowa State history in the West Virginia game, bringing the Cyclones back from a 24-point deficit to win in triple overtime, 52-44. But Rohach lost the competition for the starting job entering the next season, and he did not attempt a pass in 2015.
Because he graduated, Rohach did not have to sit out a year after transferring.
The decision to start Rohach was not a surprise. Both quarterbacks have been splitting time evenly throughout UB’s training camp, and both have looked reasonably efficient in running the offense. Rohach has good running ability and has shown accuracy. Leipold said he and offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki made the call.
“They both had excellent camps,” Leipold said. “We’re very pleased with them, and that’s why they’re both going to play. As we continued the evaluation I talked with Andy and we felt Grant had earned that opportunity. Tyree is going to play and he’s going to play in a meaningful time in the game.”
Jackson, 6-7 and 245 pounds, was the prized recruit out of Michigan for UB a year ago. He has a big arm and moves reasonably well. The expectation remains he is going to wind up seeing a lot of action this season.
The opener – at 7 p.m. Friday at UB Stadium – is against a lower-division, Football Championship Subdivision school. UB beat Albany, 51-14, in last year’s opener.
“I think like we said before, we want competition at every position,” Leipold said. “We want that to be known. At the same time, nobody wants to go into a quarterback situation where the quarterback feels one play or one thing will cause them to be yanked out. With an open week in Week Two, much like every position, we’ll continue to evaluate that competition as we move forward, and each guy is going to have the opportunity to show themselves.”
Punter from Falls: Meanwhile, junior Kyle DeWeen, a Niagara Falls High product who transferred to UB from Erie Community College, has won the battle to be the starting punter to open the season. Taylor Sheets, a freshman from Georgia, opens the season as the No. 2 punter but will handle kickoff duties.
Marine veteran elevated: Leipold said guard Jacob Byron, who had served as a walk-on member of the Bulls team the last two seasons, has been put on scholarship.
Byron, 6-3 and 285, is a Marine Corps veteran who did a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He’s from Marion, just east of Rochester. He played one year at Buffalo State before transferring to UB. He has seen action with the second and third units in training camp.
“He’s a young man who’s a military veteran,” Leipold said. “Before we got here he was playing defensive end. We got here and he played tight end. After the spring, we asked him to gain weight and play the line. We’ve asked him to do so many different things, and he’s one of our unsung leaders of this football team. He’s given up a lot for the opportunity. We’re very glad we were able to do that.”