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UB Bulls open for business with first practice

Tyree Jackson inched forward on Day One of University at Buffalo training camp Sunday.

No, the prized red-shirt freshman didn’t do anything to separate himself from senior Grant Rohach in UB’s two-way starting quarterback battle. UB held a routine workout in jerseys and shorts, no pads.

But Jackson did grow yet another inch since spring practice. Jackson now stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 245 pounds.

Jackson was 6-5 and 210 when he came out of high school in Michigan. He said during practice in the spring he was up to 6-6.

But after Sunday’s workout, Jackson said he actually was pushing 6-6¾ in April. Then he and the rest of UB’s players were measured again in advance of camp.

“That was the last measurement, just touching 6-7,” Jackson said, adding that he thinks his growth spurt is over. “I think I’m done now. I’m good.”

“It’s amazing,” said UB coach Lance Leipold. “He’s still 18 and he continues to grow. That’s a big man, and I keep saying he has a bright future.”

Talk about standing tall in the pocket. Jackson is an eye-popping physical specimen behind center for the Bulls. Whether he has a good enough command of the offense to open the season as the starter will be determined over the next four weeks.

UB must replace career passing leader Joe Licata, who started 40 games over the past four years. Rohach is a 6-2, 217-pound California native who transferred to UB in January from Iowa State.

Rohach has the experience, Jackson has the potential. UB opens its season Sept. 2 at home against Albany.

Leipold acknowledges it’s not a question of “if” Jackson will start but “when.”

“We’re going to keep that thing even” in terms of practice snaps, Leipold said. “I’m very confident that whoever that starter is that we’re going to be in good hands.”

“The first day I was happy with those guys,” said UB offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki. “They knew what they were doing and really didn’t have any brain cramps. They were able to execute what we asked them to do.”

Despite his height, Jackson moves well. The athletic Rohach is probably even a bit more nimble-footed than Jackson. While neither is going to be reading defenses with the acumen of Licata, UB is going to try to take advantage of their threat to scramble and ability to throw on the move.

“You can see right away their athleticism is going to be a new dynamic for us,” Kotelnicki said.

Jackson has a cannon arm. He threw a pretty 50-yard ball for a TD to Jacob Martinez in one-on-one pass drills Sunday.

He says he’s much more confident in his second year in Kotelnicki’s offense and after spending a year watching Licata.

“The first day of camp last year, I remember wondering where everyone was going,” Jackson said. “Now after fall and spring I feel more confident. The thing with Joe is he prepared like a pro. He taught that to me ... that mindset of being a pro, and I still keep in touch with him every day.”

What does Jackson want to see from himself this month?

“Just that I made all the right checks and reads and read the coverages right. Just the mental part of the game, because then the physical part will come.”

Rohach graduated from Iowa State with a history degree and is working toward a master’s in education studies at UB. He started four games for the Cyclones in 2013 but was third string last season. He’s familiar with QB competitions.

“It’s one of those things where you just have to focus on you,” he said. “I know a lot as a younger quarterback competing, I’d compare other guys’ throws and things like that. But doing this awhile, it doesn’t matter about the other guy. You can only control yourself. That’s the mindset I’m going to keep.”

UB knows Rohach is going to be assignment-sound. He is trying to help all the new Bulls get on the same page.

“I had this discussion with my dad,” Rohach said. “Being the older guy, it’s my responsibility to know before the young guys know. It’s my responsibility to be sure I’m 100 percent on what I have to do so they can be 100 percent on what they have to do. Being a graduate transfer, I take that on my shoulders, but I think any senior on the team holds that same responsibility.”


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