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Local Notes: Wide Receivers now a strengh for the Bulls

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Posted: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 9:27 am

BUFFALO — Terrell Jackson looks back on his junior season and knows he could have done more to help his team win.

The University at Buffalo wideout, who possesses NFL size in his 6-1, 200-pound frame, had a productive season as the Bulls’ No. 2 option, catching 43 passes for 397 yards and three touchdowns.

But it was Jackson and his fellow receivers’ lapses in concentration — the dropped passes and sloppy routes — and not just the unsettled quarterback play that led to the Bulls’ subpar passing offense in 2010.

Buffalo finished 89th of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in passing offense with 184 yards per game. They finished tied for 72nd in touchdown receptions (17) and tied for 94th in completions (185).

Despite decent individual numbers from the receiving corps, it was an inconsistent aerial attack that contributed to the Bulls’ 2-10 finish last year.

“If we don’t perform, we won’t have results,” Jackson said. “Like last year, we could have done more things better looking back on that. But you move on, you realize what you did and you learn from it.”

Added second-year coach Jeff Quinn: “Last year, it was just too inconsistent. I didn’t like the way it was coached. I didn’t like the way it was played for us.”

This year, there will be no excuses when it comes to the Bulls’ passing offense.

UB has a new offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach in Alex Wood, who spent last season as the receiving coach at Miami (Ohio). Miami’s passing offense finished third in the MAC in 2010.

Additionally, the quarterback situation should improve with Cincinnati transfer Chazz Anderson leading a group that includes last year’s starters Jerry Davis and Alex Zordich, who have both gotten more comfortable with Quinn’s spread offense.

Then there are the receivers themselves. Buffalo returns its top five pass catchers from a year ago, including Jackson, No. 1 target Marcus Rivers (50 receptions, 690 yards, five touchdowns) and No. 3 man Alex Neutz (26 receptions, 414 yards, four TDs).

And what was at times a weak spot for the Bulls last year could be its least-concerning position, if not the team’s strength, in 2011.

“We’ve addressed it,” said Quinn of the situation at wideout. “We feel a lot better now that we have a coach and a group of young men that understand what that position is and how they need to go out there and play everyday.”

Said Jackson: “I think the receivers are the forefront of our offense. No guy is more important than the other. With our experience and the type of offense that we run, I think our wide receivers have to step up and be great.”

With a running game that finished 101st among FBS teams last season — Branden Oliver was the team’s leading rusher at 298 yards — Buffalo will need its stable of wideouts to perform if it is going to make any noise within the MAC this season.

And Quinn’s guys are excited about the challenge.

“As a group, we want to be able to carry the team,” said Ed Young, who had 20 grabs and five touchdowns in 2010. “We want the team to be able to depend on us when our defense gets (the opponent) off the field.”

Added Jackson, who made all-MAC first team as a punt/kick returner last year: “We have to let everybody know — Tennessee, Pittsburgh, all those guys — you’re going to have to guard us and stop us if you’re going to beat this University at Buffalo football team. We’re coming with full speed and coming with lots of talent.”

The talent was there — Rivers stands 6-5, 220 and looks the part of a go-to guy, Young is 6-1, 202 and seems like a solid complimentary piece — it’s just the results were not. The group was new to the spread system and confused with how it operated.

But as the first week of practice drew to a close, a newfound confidence seemed to emerge.

“We’ve very excited,” Young said. “We have so many packages and things that we can do out of this offense. Coach Wood has done a great job of utilizing all the talent, and it’s such a big competition at these positions, and he’s doing good. We’re utilizing our talent to the best of our abilities.”

Said Jackson: “I think we can play with anybody in the country this year as far as our wide receiver corps. We’re on the same page, we help each other out. I think we’ll do big things this year.”

(J.P. Butler, a Times Herald sports writer, can be reached at sports@oleantimesherald.com)

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