New UB boss Jeff Quinn is not one of the many. In fact, it’s easy to forget this is his first go-round as D-I head coach after 25-plus season as an assistant to Brian Kelly at Cincinnati, Central Michigan and Grand Valley State.
I spoke to Quinn not once, not twice, but three times during the program’s big Media Day at UB Stadium. The first time was a formal press conference and the second a one-on-one regarding his quarterbacks, but the third was the most remarkable.
That was when Quinn approached myself and two other reporters and just started talking football, x’s and o’s, recruiting and life. The guy just wanted to talk shop, and we were around.
A lot of it was off the record, and dealt with recruiting, winning ball games and things he’s noticed around Buffalo. Then came a discussion about what makes programs great, and how single games can ruin a season. I brought up Appalachian State’s infamous upset of Michigan at the Big House.
That’s when Quinn went into an explanation of how that’s all about coaching before looking each of us directly in the eye and saying, “If we overlook Rhode Island, I will deserve to get my ass ripped and quote me on that.”
No, this isn’t a Turner Gill clone. In fact, if Gill had a Saturday morning cartoon show, Jeff Quinn would be what happens on Opposite Day.
In fact, this team will be much, much different from any of the Gill-era squads to play ball in Amherst. For one thing, the strength for Buffalo will be a defense that features five seniors in the secondary.
And while Quinn, like Gill, loves to spread the ball around, the Bulls will run the ball an awful lot in 2010. Buffalo will feature four very talented backs including redshirt freshman Branden Oliver. The cousin of Roscoe Parrish, Oliver is a shifty and smart runner who will be complemented by veterans Brandon Thermilus and Ike Nduka as well as senior Ike Nduka.
Of course, quarterback is the big deal. Redshirt sophomore Jerry Davis and redshirt freshman Alex Dennison are low on experience, and Quinn made a point of expressing that whether the battle is won this week or next, it’ll be the player who is able to cut down on mental mistakes. This wasn’t said, but I’d infer that if there’s a freshman to dent the depth chart this year, it’ll be Alex Zordich, the 6’3″ quarterback out of Youngstown, a player Quinn and Brian Kelly recruited while at Cincinnati.
The two signal callers are very different in personality, but are considered leaders by their teammates. On the heels of being piloted by a very loose player in Zack Maynard, who has since transferred to Cal, the players I spoke to praised the examples set by Dennison and Davis.
Senior corner and captain Dominic Cook (St. Joe’s) said the two quarterbacks behave more like Drew Willy, the program’s celebrated quarterback, than the player who lined up under center last season. Vet lineman Peter Bittner told me Davis is far more intellectual than he is vocal, and that almost every time he walks by his quarterback’s dorm he finds Davis nose-deep in his playbook, absorbing Quinn’s system.
Junior wide-out Terrell Jackson praised Davis’ deep ball, but noted that Dennison has shown great poise while firing off difficult-to-finish throws. Jackson himself will carry the weight of the receivership with the departures of Naaman Roosevelt and Brett Hamlin.
Hamlin found himself in Falcons camp for a brief time while Roosevelt is still trying to make the Bills. Jackson said Roosevelt showed him a move or two learned at One Bills Drive and wants to incorporate it in his attempt to break Roosevelt’s single-season UB records.
Whoever wins the job, he’ll have a complicated system to undertake, one that helped mold Dan LeFevour (two seasons, one as a redshirt, at Central Michigan) and Tony Pike (four years, Cincinnati) into NFL roster quarterbacks.
As for the rest of the players, you can be sure that they’ll be abiding by Quinn’s credo of “Next Bull In,” because as fiery a coach he is, you get the sense there isn’t much Bull coming out.