University at Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata has thrown 53 touchdown passes over the last two seasons while playing on a less-than-perfect right hip.
Licata is loath to make excuses, and he has nothing to apologize for as UB’s career leader in touchdown passes. But he’s looking forward to playing his senior season in the fall without thinking about his hip at all.
“I’m excited to see what I can do in this offense being healthy, and I’ll leave it at that,” Licata said Wednesday as UB began spring practice at the ADPRO Sports Training Center in Orchard Park. “I’m very excited to be healthy again.”
Licata is not practicing with the Bulls because he’s recovering from hip surgery for a second straight offseason.
He originally injured the hip in training camp before the 2013 campaign. He played through it all season, throwing 24 TD passes and eight interceptions while helping UB to an 8-5 record. He had surgery in January 2014 to repair a torn labrum and a bone impingement in the hip.
The Williamsville South product was ready for the start of summer camp. He did not miss any practice time or games last year and finished with 29 TDs and 11 INTs. UB set a school record with 32.3 points per game.
But he said he re-aggravated the hip early on.
“I think it was kind of a progressive thing where it just kept bugging me from the beginning,” he said.
Licata had surgery on the same hip on Jan. 6, performed by Dr. Brian E. McGrath of UB Orthopaedics. The labrum was repaired again and there were some microfractures in the hip. The recovery time is the same as in 2014 – four to six months.
“They shaved down the bone again but it wasn’t as much as the last time,” Licata said. “I’ll be back by the summer full go.”
How much does he have to worry about a second surgery in two years?
“That was the first question I asked, is it going to hurt me going forward, because my dream is to play at the next level,” Licata said. “Is it going to affect that? The answer I got was no. They said everything went well with the surgery.
“Throwing the football puts a lot of stress on that hip,” Licata said. “But I have a lot of confidence in Dr. McGrath’s work and what he’s done. And our training staff here, they do a great job.”
Licata and the rest of the UB players are busy learning a new offense. New coach Lance Leipold and offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki are installing the scheme that won them Division III national titles at Wisconsin-Whitewater.
It’s not a dramatic change from the way UB’s offense ran last season, although the terminology is all new. There’s a lot of shotgun passing from a spread formation with one back in the backfield. Leipold uses an H-back a lot more than a fullback, which UB used a lot last season.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Licata said. “It’s all about putting the defense in compromising situations and making them make a decision. Coach Leipold and Coach Kotelnicki have done a great job studying defenses and knowing everything about how to break them down. We have an answer to everything. … I’m very excited to get on the field. I’m not going to guarantee anything but we’re going to move the ball.
“They like to incorporate a little bit more of that Philadelphia Eagles run-pass game stuff, a lot of that quick-game stuff and extended run-game stuff,” Licata said. “You have to get your playmakers the ball in space.”
UB will practice at the Buffalo Bills’ indoor facility again Friday, then move outdoors to UB Stadium Saturday. Spring practices are closed to the public. UB’s spring game on April 18 at UB Stadium is open to the public.