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Questions remain at QB for UB

Jim Hofher never thought this would be simple. But, suffice it to say, a couple of months ago he didn't think he would be contemplating playing a true freshman at quarterback by the third game.

The head coach also didn't figure that the University at Buffalo would again rank near the bottom of the country in total offense and passing. Or that UB would be the only team in the country that hasn't scored a point.

It's not just that the Bulls are 0-2, not far off many preseason predictions. It's that they also weren't very competitive in either game. It's not a good position for a coach with a new athletics director and a year left on his contract.

The lack of efficiency from starting quarterback Stewart Sampsel leaves UB with more questions about the position.

Hofher hasn't named the starter for the Bulls' home opener against Rutgers (1-1) on Saturday at UB Stadium.

"You come to work everyday and try to absorb that which is the same as always or that which might be new and we see how quickly guys can adapt and learn," Hofher said.

Hofher now has video on three quarterbacks -- Sampsel, true freshman Drew Willy and junior college transfer Tony Paoli. Here's what we know so far: Buffalo ranks 116th in the country in total offense and 115th in passing with 133 yards. Only Rice, which runs the option, has fewer passing yards (63).

"We haven't punched enough holes, we haven't been accurate enough with our passes, we haven't been tough enough with our pass protection," Hofher said. "We have faced two very solid defensive teams, but there are no excuses."

While the offensive futility can't be totally blamed on Sampsel -- the running game, for example, is averaging just 2.3 yards per carry -- the spotlight always hovers around the quarterback. In two games, Sampsel, a junior, is 10 of 35 for 70 yards and two interceptions for a 33.9 quarterback efficiency rating. Paoli appeared late in the 38-0 loss at Connecticut and completed all four of his passes for 9 yards. Paoli has a live arm but still isn't totally comfortable with the system. Willy played in his first game last Saturday in UB's 31-0 loss at Syracuse and was 5 of 9 for 54 yards.

Willy -- a 6-foot-3, 204-pounder who was recruited by Syracuse, Illinois and Pittsburgh -- played well enough to deserve a longer look, but Hofher is quick to point out that it was in mop-up time of a blowout.

"I think he saw things reasonably well at that point of the game," Hofher said. "But you have to start somewhere. He saw things and he responded to them so that's a good start."

Good enough to start against Rutgers?

"Who knows what we need to do or should do at this point," Hofher said.

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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