AMHERST — The dog days of August means it's grind time for the upcoming football season. After two weeks of training camp, the University at Buffalo football team went through some situational drills in an intrasquad scrimmage Friday morning.
From traditional live play-calling periods to an extended red zone session, the Bulls were able to get a lot of work in during their second "Blue-White" scrimmage of fall camp. Head coach Lance Leipold was able to get a look at some of his younger guys who will fill out the roster for depth purposes.
Leipold discussed several points post practice, including how he views the intrasquad scrimmages as quasi-preseason games. With some of the team's top receivers battling injuries, he was delighted to see youngsters like freshmen wideouts Trevor Wilson, Javien Cuff and Marlyn Johnson and freshman tight end Tyler Stephens — who has bulked up nearly 30 pounds this offseason — step up and make plays throughout the day. Leipold credited the receiver group as a whole and he also gave high praises to the play of the offensive line too.
Speaking of the o-line, Leipold wanted to make sure he gave a big shoutout to new offensive line coach Scott Fuchs, who had been with the University of Wyoming for the last five seasons. He and Leipold go way back, having served on the same coaching staff at Nebraska-Omaha from 2004-06. Leipold feels that the o-line is showing that it will have depth, too, being able to move a few players around in multiple spots if needed.
Leipold liked what he saw defensively as well, encouraged by the type of cohesion the unit has put together. They were able to play extremely tough in the run game and slowed down several offensive drives once the 'O' reached the red zone. Through two weeks of camp, Leipold "believes we're on pace with where we need to be" and knows the team still has "a long way to go" before the Aug. 29 season opener against Robert Morris at UB Stadium.
He also mentioned he likes the team's attitude right now, its work habits and how the defensive veterans have been able to retain information while bringing along the younger players to add depth to the unit. When asked about specific points of emphasis for the back half of the training camp schedule, Leipold said he wants to see the defense unit grow with their packages and to continue working on situational football.
"I think we've done a fairly good job of trying to hit the different situation things in football," Leipold said. "... It's not a hidden fact, the last two seasons, we were I think 11th and 12th in red zone offense in the league and we've gotta be better. So you see us, each and every scrimmage, working on that. We've gotta be more productive in the red zone."
Leipold also showered high praise on freshman running back Ron Cook Jr. The Maryland native was the superstar of the day, standing out among all other performers for UB with some tough runs and several gash plays. I was able to catch up with the DMV product and asked him what he looks to bring to the backfield as the third back in a potential three-headed monster with Jarret Patterson and Kevin "Smoke" Marks.
"I'm looking to bring hard work and determination," Cook Jr. said. "Just adding good effort to the whole team and just trying to help out. (I'll) do whatever I can to help the team win."
Whether that's as a tailback on offense or as a return man in special teams, Cook Jr. should be another x-factor for the Bulls' in 2019.
As for the quarterback battle, it's still a heated competition between Matt Myers, Kyle Vantrease, Dominic Johnson and Trevor Bycznski. It wasn't that one stood out over another, but all four flashed in different situational drills.
Myers, the West Seneca West alum, threw a beautiful deep ball to Marlyn Johnson backed up near his own end zone. He would have had a clear touchdown throw too, had Sweet Home alum Dylan McDuffie not dropped a wide open wheel route.
Vantrease and Johnson both were able to drive the offense downfield with consistency, with the latter getting out of the shadow of his end zone with touch on a nice deep out route to Cuff. Bycznski looked sharp as well, connecting with Levi Shetler on a fade ball in the team's red zone period.
They say if you've got more than one quarterback, then you've got none. That's not the case here on the North campus — the Bulls should feel confident that whoever does come out on top in the race will be worthy of trying to fill the shoes that Buffalo Bills' backup QB Tyree Jackson left behind last fall.
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