The learning process will be going both ways when new coach Lance Leipold leads his University at Buffalo football team onto the field for the start of spring practice.
“The biggest thing we’re going to look for is getting acclimated to our players and what their skill set is, and what are the best ways we can put them in positions to win,” Leipold said.
The UB players and coaches get the first look at each other on turf Wednesday afternoon at the ADPRO Sports Training Center in Orchard Park.
UB’s first two practices, Wednesday and Friday, are at the Buffalo Bills’ facility. The other 12 sessions over the next three weeks will be held in UB Stadium, culminating with the UB Spring Game on April 18. Only the spring game is open to the public.
Leipold compiled a 109-6 record at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater. He is installing new systems on both sides of the ball under the direction of new coordinators Andy Kotelnicki (offense) and Brian Borland (defense). The biggest change is on defense, where UB is switching from a 3-3-5 scheme to a more conventional 4-3 front.
“Listening to the players talking, especially on the offensive side, there’s a similar scheme but it may just be called a different word and a different number,” Leipold said. “These players have been outstanding in their willingness to accept change.”
“Defensively there’s going to be changing the front and probably a little more change there,” Leipold said. “Some guys are going to line up a little differently than they have, so that will take a little longer.”
Leipold said he expects a lot of his system to be installed by the spring game.
“I think we’re going to get a fair amount of things in, I’d say the vast majority in, and that’ll be a good base for them as they start their summer workouts,” he said.
UB returns seven full-time starters on offense but only four on defense from last year’s 5-6 team. UB starting quarterback Joe Licata will be sitting out spring practice because he’s rehabilitating from offseason hip surgery.
Leipold said he will evaluate the depth chart as he learns his players better on the field. He said he likes to play a lot of players.
“Everyone will get a chance to prove themselves and other guys will have to re-establish themselves, but you’ve got to have a starting point,” Leipold said. “At some positions it may be based on playing time from the year before. Sometimes if it’s an open position, it may be based on seniority, years in the program, to start. … Guys are going to get more than enough opportunities to prove themselves on film and find a way to get on the field. I think it’s important for a lot of things we do if we can play a lot of guys. Building depth helps a lot of things, helps your morale, helps your confidence and helps you get through a long season.”