Summer has been no vacation for University at Buffalo football players as they strive to distance themselves from last season.
While training camp officially began Monday, more than 90 players united on campus over the summer to engage in workouts overseen by Zach Duval, the team's strength and conditioning coach, and drills among themselves to develop a keener understanding of technique and play assignments.
"The offseason lifting and practice and conditioning we all bonded together, we all played great together," said senior defensive lineman Richie Smith. "Everyone was here. We were in the weight room busting weights and just working hard all summer long. So I feel like we have a little bit more of a mesh."
"The good thing about mistakes is you learn from them," senior wideout Terrell Jackson said of last year's 2-10 campaign. "There's no way we can look at last year and feel confident about it. There's no way we can look and say, that was great. We have a lot of things to correct and that's an ego check. Anytime a guy's head gets too big we can pop in film from last year and it gets quiet in the room."
Smith said players brought a sharper sense of purpose into their precamp preparation. Last year their introduction to new coach Jeff Quinn came in spring workouts. Now the returnees, having been through a full season, knew what needed to be done and where they needed to improve.
"It's better," Smith said. "You know what to expect from him and you know what type of defense they want you to run. And you know all the little things that they like and all the little things you need to do to be a good defense."
Quinn noticed the difference on the first day of camp.
"There was a huge advantage by allowing our kids to be here all 10 weeks this summer," Quinn said. "You could see that out here today. Guys knew where they were supposed to go. They understood the calls and a lot of the things we've been working on all summer. But that's been over 21 weeks in terms of winter conditioning, spring ball, summer conditioning. So I think you see a little bit of that out here today. We weren't going at it for just the first time."
Jackson said the battle for the starting quarterback job has little bearing on receiver prep during the early days of camp.
"Right now we're working on alignment, assignment, technique and finishing," he said. "No matter who the pass is coming from we have a particular distance and timing we have to be in our spot. So we expect whatever quarterback it is to put it there. We're not looking at the quarterback and who it is as we're running the route. That's something that's going to take care of itself. But, yeah, eventually we'll get into the timing with someone specific."
The Bulls worked out in helmets and shorts Monday. They will don shoulder pads beginning Wednesday and get into the full swing Friday, with the first two-a-day scheduled for Saturday.
Senior center Josh Violanti won't take part in full practice for probably two weeks after undergoing offseason surgery.
"He's coming along," Quinn said. "We won't see him in live action just yet. Hopefully we can get him in here within the next couple weeks where he's able to go. But right now it's a day to day thing."