2021 Buffalo Football Preview: Schedule, 4 Things

Let’s start things off with a quick mental exercise: How much has your mind changed about this Buffalo football team over the last three months? From two Mid-American Conference championship appearances over the last three seasons to a sudden change at the throne. There’s no real expectation for what most of the 2-deeps will look like in 2021, and players will have to pick up schemes and playbooks in record time.

Excitement is nice, and there still might be enough talent on this roster right now to still compete for a MAC East title, but this team is starting at a logistically near-impossible place to start. We’ll just have to wait and see how this team looks in the early weeks to get an honest read on what to expect this year.

Schedule

2020 Buffalo football schedule, results, final scores (6-1, 5-0 MAC)

SP+ final rank: 48 (49 offense, 47 defense, 116 special teams)

  • W @ NIU, 49-30 — Buffalo’s defense scored three touchdowns in the second half to really distance itself from NIU on the scoreboard (while NIU outgained UB on offense); LB Tim Terry on a 46-yard fumble recovery, CB Isaiah King on a 42-yard fumble recovery, and LB Kadofi Wright on a 65-yard pick six.
  • W vs. Miami, 42-10 — QB Kyle Vantrease’s best game through the air: 17/27, 353 yards, 4 TD. A rare day for Miami to have its secondary beat like that.
  • W @ BGSU, 42-17 — Jaret Patterson had a school-record 301 rushing yards vs. Bowling Green, and also scored 4 rush TD. In 2019 vs. BG, Patterson’s 6 rush TD tied the school record for most in a single game.
  • W vs. Kent State, 70-41 — Patterson’s best game ever, and the absolute best performance by a UB RB: 409 rush TD and 8 TD, both records, on 36 carries. The only reason Patterson didn’t break the FBS single-game record for rushing yards is because head coach Lance Leipold wasn’t dialed into how close JP26 was from having the record.
  • no contest @ Ohio
  • W vs. Akron, 56-7 — Both JP26 (105) and Kevin Marks Jr. (182) had triple-digit rushing days against the Zips.
  • L vs. Ball State, 38-28 (MAC Championship in Detroit) — Cardinals slowed down Buffalo’s run game, and made plays in all three phases of the game (blocked FG, defensive TD).
  • W vs. Marshall, 17-10 (Camellia Bowl) — Slow-moving game, but Marks got the game-winning rush TD with 1:09 left in the game, finished with 138 total yards. Jaret Patterson and Malcolm Koonce opt out for NFL prep.

2021 Buffalo football schedule

SP+ preseason rank: 77 (80 offense, 79 defense)

  1. vs. Wagner (Th.)
  2. @ Nebraska
  3. vs. Coastal Carolina
  4. @ Old Dominion
  5. vs. WMU
  6. @ Kent State
  7. vs. Ohio
  8. W Akron
  9. vs. BGSU
  10. bye
  11. @ Miami (Tue)
  12. vs. NIU (Wed)
  13. @ Ball State (Tue)

It’s going to get really repetitive, but just know that it’s really hard to honestly project how good or bad a team can be with ALL of the unique moving parts at Buffalo, but I don’t think this team has too many bad athletes either. It still has Kevin Marks. It still has strong defensive players. It still has its starting QB. On talent and game experience alone, Buffalo’s not going to lose all of its battles — especially playing in that division.

4 Things

1. Leipold gone, late coaching change

Lance Leipold took the Kansas head coaching job in late April, which opened up after more details of the Les Miles situation (which in turn ended Kansas’ AD’s tenure there too) came to light. A mess in Lawrence, sure, but this is probably Leipold’s one shot at a coaching job in the P5 that’s a fit for him. In six season, Leipold had a 37-33 record at UB, but was 24-10 in the last three seasons — which also included two MAC championship berths.

Maurice Linguist, former UB defensive assistant under Jeff Quinn, hired as new head coach a week later. He was most recently hired as Michigan’s co-defensive coordinator and spent the 2020 season coaching Dallas Cowboys safeties. This is his first head coaching job, and is known as one of the best recruiters around the country, and is a big reason why Texas A&M has one of the nation’s most talented defensive secondaries today. Linguist is a 38-year old Texan that has a lot of promise. I don’t doubt he’ll be able to lead the guys that want to play for him in 2021 and moving forward. However, given the circumstances of the timing of this hire, it’s hard to forecast many good fortunes for one of the most impressive programs in recent years in the immediate future. We’ll have to wait and see what Linguist & staff can do on the field, but it’s simply not going to be easy to get everybody on board and organized with the new playbooks.

2. Transfer portal losses (and non-losses)

Twenty (20) Bulls hit the transfer portal this offseason. A lot of these guys left after Leipold took the Kansas job, and six guys even followed him there. Additionally, starting LG Jacob Gall left for Baylor and starting S Tyrone Hill left for Washington State.

You can find my full list of transfer portal updates around the MAC by clicking here, but here’s where Buffalo stands as far as exits go:

Bulls going out

  • DE, Jordan Avissey (Bethune-Cookman, FCS)
  • CB, Roy Baker (Eastern Kentucky, FCS)
  • DL, Frendy Darelus
  • OL, Michael Ford (Kansas)
  • WR, Jelani Foster (Rhode Island, FCS)
  • DT DeShondrick Foxworth (Southern Illinois, FCS)
  • LG, Jacob Gall (Baylor)
  • S, Tyrone Hill (Washington State)
  • WR, Daniel Lee
  • TE, Zac Lefebvre (Western Kentucky)
  • OL, Anthony Laudicina
  • DT, Ronald McGee (Kansas)
  • LB, Rich Miller (Kansas)
  • LB, Justin Mulbah
  • C, Mike Novitsky (Kansas)
  • WR, LeMaro Smith
  • DT, Eddie Wilson (Kansas)
  • WR, Trevor Wilson (Kansas)
  • DT, Tyrece Woods

3. The O-line

Let’s preface this with a quick note. Matt Gildersleeve, strength coach, also followed Leipold to Kansas. This move affects the program a ton, since strength coaches deal with players’ developments in the months where coaches are more busy recruiting high schoolers at camps and 7-on-7’s. The offensive line at Buffalo destroyed defensive fronts in the MAC for weeks on end, and the physical play up front led to Buffalo’s success in the last three seasons.

Development is key at Buffalo, and finding projectable guys with a developmental work ethic (and sometimes a willingness to accept greyshirt offers) was essential for Leipold in his time at UB, and I think that should still be a priority for Linguist now that 2022 and 2023 recruiting is in full swing.

I don’t have any sort of expectation for this unit in 2021, especially in pass protection.

But they allowed only one sack all last year!

Buffalo hardly ever had to throw the ball, and ran the thing two-thirds of the time. More importantly, there are only two starters coming back this season.

  • LT, Kayode Awoskia — NFL undrafted free agent, signed with Philadelphia Eagles.
  • LG, Jacob Gall — Transferred to Baylor.
  • C, Mike Novitsky — Transferred to Kansas.
  • RG, Jack Klenk — Returns; of the starting five from last year, had unit’s lowest overall PFF blocking grade in 2020 (81.9).
  • RT, Jake Fuzak — Returns; had team’s best overall PFF blocking grade in 2020 (91.4). Allowed only one QB hurry all season.

Another couple of losses from this group: grad transfer guard Ray Thomas-Ishman graduated out, and backup Michael Ford transferred to, you guessed it, Kansas.

There are a lot of holes in this group to begin with, and I feel safe in assuming the starting five Buffalo runs out in Week 1 might see some changes as the season goes on. This group might end up playing just fine! But there’s no indication of me expecting that right away.

4. Taylor Riggins back

DE Taylor Riggins missed all of last year to injury. In 2019, Riggins was a First-Team All-MAC selection that led the league in sacks with 8.5. For the year, he recorded 50 tackles, 10.5 TFL, one fumble forced, three recovered. As a redshirt-freshman in 2018, Riggins was a full-year player with 6.5 TFL and 5 sacks recorded, and a pass defended to boot.

If Riggins could’ve been healthy enough to play last year, maybe we’re thinking about Riggins as a guy who left after his junior year to go to the NFL. The potential for him was certainly there, and might get there with an impressive enough 2021 campaign.

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