Watch out for the tight ends in the University at Buffalo offense this season.
UB fans have been waiting for big things from the tight end position for years, but this season looks like the year.
UB’s two tight ends – Matt Weiser and Mason Schreck – both are mobile targets with ideal size, and they both are off to a good start.
“A quarterback’s best friend is a good tight end, and we’ve got two of them, so I’m pretty lucky,” says UB quarterback Joe Licata.
Weiser and Schreck have combined for 12 catches in two games. Last year, they combined for 25 catches all season. UB has not had a tight end catch a mere 20 passes since Jesse Rack caught 30 in 2009.
Tight ends are a significant factor in the new UB offense run by coordinator Andy Kotelnicki. UB has used two-TE formations on 32 percent of its plays so far (41 plays), according to News statistics. Last season UB used two-TE sets just 15.5 percent of the plays.
“It’s good because they’re two of our better offensive players,” said UB coach Lance Leipold. “There’s so many things with those big bodies that we can try.”
“You can play a typical formation with two tight ends on the line. You can play one as a fullback. You can play one as an H-back, and they’re both comfortable splitting out wide. It really makes it tough on defensive coordinators when you have that type of versatility. And it’s not just one of them that’s versatile. We can split them both out and be effective.”
Weiser is a 6-foot-5, 255-pound senior from Reading, Pa., in his third season as a starter. He had 15 catches last year and 13 in 2013. Schreck is a 6-4, 250-pounder from Medina, Ohio, who had 10 catches last year and 17 in 2013. They’re both sure-handed, but their roles have leaned heavily toward run blocking in the past.
Their value as a two-headed blocking-and-receiving threat was seen in the opening win over Albany. UB can play them in a tight formation, power up, and run the ball. Then UB can go into hurry-up mode, split them out wide and spread the field in a passing formation, while forcing the defense to keep the same personnel on the field.
The Bulls have used Weiser and or Schreck in a “flexed” position as a receiver in the slot, or as a wideout, on 28 percent of the plays so far. Last year that happened on 1 percent of the plays (fewer than 10 all season).
“I think it adds another dimension to our offense,” Weiser said. “Mason and I both have worked on our receiving skills, working out with the wide receivers. I think we add another element to be able to go out against a corner and create a mismatch with our size.”
Or they can create a mismatch for the wideouts. On a handful of plays so far, UB has sent three receivers to the left and put one tight end alone to the far right. A starting outside cornerback is forced to cover the tight end on one side of the field. That means two of the three receivers on the other side of the field are going up against backup corners or safeties.
“That’s Coach K’s offense,” Weiser said. “He looks to create mismatches. If they put one of their best cover guys on one of us, then Joe’s got a plethora of options on the other side.”
The duo also has played with Licata long enough to make high-level adjustments. Against Albany, Schreck improvised to beat a blitz on a 14-yard, fourth-down catch up the right seam.
“He made a great play because he was just running a flat route originally,” Weiser said of Schreck. “The defender was right behind him. He and Joe were on the same page, saw the defender, and Joe floated it up for him. Mason made a heckuva catch.”
Weiser was a particularly good recruit for former coach Jeff Quinn. He was second-team all-state and had scholarship offers from Toledo and Connecticut. Schreck was a high school quarterback and had a scholarship offer to play QB from Toledo. UB targeted him as a tight end from the start.
Both have added about 10 pounds from last season, which they think will aid in run-blocking.
“As a tight end sometimes we’ve got to do the dirty work with the O-line,” Weiser said. “But it’s fun to be able to go out and catch passes.”
This year, it seems very likely the tight ends will join in the fun