Coming off the Bulls best season to date, Coach Turner Gill and company hope to prove that it was no fluke in the 2009 season. The Bulls more than exceeded expectations last season, when they beat Ball State to win the MAC championship and earned a trip to the International Bowl. Although they lost to UConn, it was a very successful season for a team that should enter the 2009 campaign with loads of confidence.
Buffalo finished third in the MAC in scoring offense, putting up 32 points per game. They will hope to put up similar numbers this season with new starting quarterback, Zach Maynard. Maynard not only can get it done through the air, but also is very dangerous on the ground. This added dimension of mobility will be a great compliment to James Starks and the running game.
Starks was second on the team last year in receptions and ran for 1,333 yards and 16 touchdowns. He is the most dangerous offensive weapon who can run, catch and score. Naam Roosevelt returns at wide out and will be Maynard’s go to guy this season in the passing game.
Roosevelt averaged over 100 yards receiving last year with 61 receptions. Brett Hamlin will also be returning at receiver, which will be key for this offense. Having the talent at running back and receiver will relieve some of the pressure off of Maynard.
The downside of the offense could be the loss of three starters on the line. Peter Bittner and Andrew West will have to step up, but their jobs will be a little easier with the addition of Maynard’s mobility.
It all starts up front for the defense. Last year, the D-line was the Achilles heel giving up almost 160 yards on the ground per game. With the lack of pressure up front, the Bulls also gave up 245 yards per game through the air. Buffalo did lead the MAC in turnover margin with +10 and they hope to continue that trend in 2009.
The rest of the defense is solid and should be more productive with another year of experience. Justin Winters, Scott Pettigrew and Raphael Akobundu will return at linebacker. Winters compiled 82 total
tackles last season with one sack.
With the lack of productivity up front, the secondary saw a lot of action last season not only in the air, but also on the ground. Safeties Davont Shannon and Domonic Cook combined for 98 total tackles.
For the Bulls to have a shot of repeating as a conference champ, they will need to continue to create turnovers on defense along with putting pressure on the quarterback. It will also be important to keep Maynard healthy and feel comfortable as a starter.