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Mighty Quinn takes charge
QB Davis is leading candidate to start

It's time to wipe the slate clean so in essence, there aren't any returning starters.

In theory, that's what happened Tuesday when the University at Buffalo football team assembled at UB Stadium for its first spring practice under first-year coach Jeff Quinn.

"You always want to make every spot competitive and the best ones should emerge," Quinn said. "I'm excited about our system, I'm excited about our offense, our special teams and the coaches coaching and think our kids are eager to get to that point too."

Sensibly, however, even with a new coach, there is carryover from last season.

After playing second string last season, Jerry Davis begins the spring as the leading candidate to be the starting quarterback, just as safety Davonte Shannon will be the leader of the defense.

When it comes to a distinctiveness, those two players have already done a pretty good job creating theirs, even if Quinn, the former University of Cincinnati offensive coordinator, had seen them only on video tape until Tuesday.

With a new coaching staff, spring practice becomes even more vital as players try to learn a new system and new terminology.

In this case, Quinn will utilize a spread offense similar to the one he used while game planning as offensive coordinator under Brian Kelly at Cincinnati. UB will likely shift to a no-huddle attack.

The spread was part of former coach Turner Gill's multiple offensive package the last four seasons, which should help some with the transition.

"It's more about spreading the field out so we can get more one-on-one matches and using our athleticism," Davis said. "It's about having fun, playing football and executing. That's the key."

Quinn could, however, elect to run more than pass-happy Cincinnati did last season because of the Bulls' depth at tailback. Quinn's motto of "Next Bull In" could be "which Bull in" in terms of his tailbacks. Senior Brandon Thermilus, who battled an ankle injury for most of last season, ran with the first team at tailback on Tuesday but the Bulls also return senior Ike Nduka and sophomore Jeffvon Gill. All averaged better than 4.5 yards a carry.

"With the backs we have and the offensive line we have, of course we're going to run the ball," Davis said. "We still have to be as balanced as we can and use every area that we have with athleticism. We don't want to be a one dimensional team."

At wide receiver, UB loses Naaman Roosevelt and Brett Hamlin so Terrell Jackson and Marcus Rivers must step up. In addition, redshirt freshman Fred Lee is available.

The primary issue on defense is adjusting to a multiple front with a 3-4 base.

"There are going to be a number of things offenses have to be ready for," Quinn said. "It's going to be exciting how they line up and how they defend a fast-paced no-huddle offense."

In the past, under defensive coordinators Jimmy Williams and Fred Reed, the Bulls played a prevent defense. That won't be the case under defensive coordinator William Inge.

"One thing coach has emphasized this year is playing fast, aggressive, consistent and violent," Shannon said. "Those are big keys for us."

Quinn will be able to evaluate how quickly the transition is going after the Spring Game on April 24.

"It's a process and it takes time," Quinn said. "It's not an overnight thing. That's why it's important that we go through these 15 practices and get our kids locked in and have a good feeling."

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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