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Receivers key to a turnaround

Regardless of which quarterback ends up being the University at Buffalo's starter throughout next season, change is brewing.

"Whether we have to hit a running back on a first down, it doesn't matter what happens, we want to be more efficient," said senior receiver Terrell Jackson. "You don't necessarily have to take the big throw or the 30-yard bomb down the field, we just want to be efficient."

While quarterbacks Jerry Davis and Alex Zordich struggled in the passing game last season, neither received many favors from a receiving corp that suffered through lapses of concentration and dropped passes.

UB ranked No. 111th nationally and 11th in the Mid-American Conference in total offense with 297.7 yards a game in 2010. The Bulls finished 89th in the nation out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in passing offense with 184.3 yards a game. Five MAC schools had fewer than UB's 17 touchdown passes and 185 completions.

Davis' passing efficiency rating of 104.0 did not make the list of 100 quarterbacks in the NCAA statistics or in the top 10 in the MAC.

"We had an offense where we had a lot of key weapons but we didn't utilize everyone," said senior receiver Marcus Rivers, who starred at Lackawanna. "We were young in the system and sometimes we went into the game confused so we had to learn on the go."

Enter new offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Alex Wood, who spent the past season as wide receivers coach at Miami (Ohio), whose passing offense finished third in the MAC. Aside from minor tweaks, Jeff Quinn's spread offense remains.

"We're just trying to get fundamentally better, with catching, throwing and those kinds of things," Wood said. "That's really what our focus is this spring, not trying to change anything. We're trying to improve our skill level and become more consistent in executing the fundamentals of the game."

Through a week of spring practice, UB's receivers have noticed a renewed vigor.

"It's going to stay the same but we have a new coach who demands perfection," Rivers said. "He treats us like robots, so we have to keep going so our wind and our conditions and route running is going to be a lot better. The key is going to be catching the ball. Catch, tug, take that step and go."

Jackson said both Davis and Zordich, the projected starter, have looked better simply because they are more comfortable with the spread.

"That's a big, big thing," Jackson said. "Zordich is coming in more confident now, and I think both he and Jerry Davis have learned from their mistakes. They came back a lot better and more polished."

Based on experience alone, the receivers should be improved.

The Bulls return their top five receivers in Rivers, Jackson, sophomore Alex Neutz (Grand Island), senior Ed Young and sophomore Fred Lee.

Jackson and Rivers, who ran good times in UB's recent Pro Day, seek breakout seasons.

"We play this game to get as good as we can and this is our last shot if we want to play at this next level," Jackson said. "In a sense, it's now or never. We're competing against our teammates but at the same time we're competing against everybody in the nation to try to get our shot at the next level. You can't do that without winning."

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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