UB FOOTBALL PREVIEW: RECEIVERS
(This is the sixth of eight position previews that will run this week. The full Buffalo News college football preview runs in Sunday's paper.)
Overview: Historically, UB has not had enough big-play wide receivers in its program. That has been one of the differences between the Bulls and MAC teams that go to bowl games. Leipold has to turn that around, and he has recruited some promising freshman. But he had to dip into the junior college pool this offseason to supplement the talent level. There’s potential all over the place. But in terms of proven commodities, UB stands 10th out of 12 in the MAC at receiver.
Projected starters: WR Marcus McGill, WR Malcolm Robinson, WR Kamathi Holsey, TE Mason Schreck.
Key backups: WR K.J. Osborn, WR Jamarl Eiland, WR Anthony Johnson, TE Tyler Mabry, TE Kevin Rogers, WR Jerin Scroggins.
Strengths: McGill is a sturdy, run-after-the-catch threat. The senior from Rochester is the No. 1 weapon, although he’s probably most valuable out of the slot. He had 50 catches for 581 yards last year. UB is counting on Robinson, a senior from Canton, Ohio, to assert his speed on the outside and stretch the field. In the three-receiver set, Holsey, Osborn and Eiland are in a bunch at the moment to be the third guy. The starting tight end is Schreck, who caught 22 passes last year, is a big target. He just needs to be a little more consistent catching the ball.
Questions: Holsey and Johnson are exciting junior college transfers. UB really needs one or both to make an impact. The 6-4 Holsey brings size. Johnson is a burner and a high-end MAC talent. How fast can they catch on? Look for him to see more time in the coming weeks. Can Robinson finally stay healthy? Can Eiland, a junior with quick-separation ability, start making plays? Mabry, another red-shirt freshman, has come on fast and looks like he will nab the No. 2 TE job. Junior Jacob Martinez was supposed to be the No. 1 slotman but he hurt his shoulder the first day of camp and is out indefinitely.
2015 Stats: The top two targets graduated. TE Matt Weiser caught 63 passes and WR Ron Willoughby caught 61.
Analytics: UB used three-wides 60 percent and two-TEs 27 percent last year. The two-TE set will be used less. However, Mabry may force his way onto the field if his camp showing continues. . . . UB ranked 10th in the MAC in pass plays of 20-plus yards. . . . Joe Licata didn’t look to McGill much on third downs (only eight catches). That number needs to go up. . . . Both Schreck and Mabry have the mobility to be assets from the slot. Eleven of Schreck’s catches last year came when he was split off the line.
Quotable: “I’ve been through a lot with injuries since I’ve been here,” said Robinson. “But going into spring ball I’ve told myself this is the year. I’m going to bust my tail and do everything I have to do to improve myself, stay healthy and finish this year strong.”
Did you know? Anthony Johnson has three cousins in the NFL – Jadeveon Clowney (Texans), Johnathan Joseph (Texans) and Jonathan Meeks (Bills).
Looking ahead: Freshman Zac Lefebfre, 6-6 and 245, is one of the most impressive looking freshmen on the team. His body is as big as Weiser’s already. The freshman receiver recruits are crucial to Leipold’s building plan. They are Tito Overton of Ohio and Antonio Nunn of Florida.
Next: Offensive line.