As the 2009 College Football season fast approaches us, the Buffalo Bulls are looking at some major obstacles. The Bulls will need to fill two tremendous holes in their offense. With the season ending shoulder injury to Buffalo's all time leading rusher in James Starks and the graduation of four year starting quarterback Drew Willy, the Bulls will need to find suitable replacements and in a hurry.
At the quarterback position, Coach Turner Gill has decided to hand the reins over to sophomore Zach Maynard. Maynard is a very athletic and physical lefty who could add a new wrinkle to the offense that Willy never could. Maynard is a career 1-3 passing but showed us a glimpse at what he could do with his 41 yard scamper against Miami on national TV.
In the backfield the Bulls will have to rely on junior Brandon Thermilus and senior Mario Henry. The two could be a Lendale White/Chris Johnson tandem with Thermilus' size and Henry's agility. However, we should expect to see Thermilus take a majority of the carries unlike in the Titans offense.
At wide receiver, the Bulls have arguably the best unknown college athlete in senior Naaman Roosevelt. Roosevelt was named to the preseason Biletnikoff watch list and is coming off a record year with 104 receptions for 1,402 yards and 13 TDs. Roosevelt is also a prolific kick returner and a solid year should put him on the map for Draft Day 2010. Senior Brett Hamlin is the second choice for Maynard. Hamlin is a good third down target who scored five times last season on 38 grabs.
At tight end, the Bulls return senior Jesse Rack who is a good blocker but has excellent hands. Rack is expected to be one of the better tight ends in the MAC. The Bulls also have junior Kyle Brey, the son of Notre Dame Men's Basketball coach Mike Brey. Brey is a physically daunting blocker who played some fullback in his time with the Bulls.
The offensive line is another glaring need for the Bulls. They return senior tackle Andrew West and junior guard Peter Bittner both of whom will be keys to keeping Maynard clean. The Bulls also get redshirt junior Jordan Jerrold back from injury who could contend for a starting position.
Defensivly, the Bulls seem to be set with nine returning starters including an entire linebacking corps and secondary. The Bulls one concern should be on the line where only senior Dane Robinson returns. The Bulls will hope that juniors Bruno Lapointe and Anel Montanez will step up and plug up the opposing running game and put pressure on the opposing quarterback.
At linebacker, the Bulls should be set with sophomore Scott Pettigrew and juniors Raphael Akobundu and Justin Winters. The trio will be much more effective this year considering last year's breakthrough statistics.
In the secondary, the return of safties Davonte Shannon (junior) and Mike Newton (senior) are crucial to this hard hiting secondary. The pair are the heart and soul of the defense and are the game changers on that side of the ball. Joining them will be senior Kendrick Hawkins and juniors Josh Thomas and Dominic Cook all of whom should see extensive time in the secondary.
Now, taking a look at the Bulls 2009 schedule.
@ UTEP 9/5 W
Pittsburgh 9/12 L
@ UCF 9/19 W
@ Temple 9/26 W
Central Michigan 10/3 L
Gardner Webb 10/10 W
Akron 10/17 W
@Western Michigan 10/24 L
Bowling Green 11/3 W
Ohio 11/10 W
@ Miami 11/18 W
@ Kent State 11/27 W
That makes my prediction 9-3 (6-2 MAC). Central Michigan and Pitt just seem to be too good even though the games are at home. Western Michigan barely edged out a victory last year on the road, so at home I expect the Broncos to be even better.