Senior security for UB Bulls quarterbacks
Seniors Joe Licata and Tony Daniel provide stability at quarterback position
With all the changes to the football team this offseason, the one position the Bulls seem the most set on is one of the most important positions on the field – the quarterback.
The Bulls' two senior quarterbacks, Joe Licata and Tony Daniel, will assume their roles of starting and backup quarterbacks, respectively. With two seniors, head coach Lance Leipold said he believes the team is in “good position” at quarterback.
“With a handful of changes we have, having two guys who have familiarity with this stadium and game reps, it’s a good start,” Leipold said. “More importantly, both have been good leaders during practice, which we can always use more of.”
After practice on a cold and windy afternoon Monday, quarterback coach Andy Kotelnicki compared the quarterbacks to “a large chunk of granite, hoping to become a big, beautiful sculpture.” The arrival of Leipold also welcomes a multiple pro-style offense.
In a small preview of the multiple pro-style offense, the Bulls looked to combine their fast-paced philosophy with different personnel on the outside. On Monday, the team spread out its receivers and the quarterbacks threw short, quick throws as part of the new offense. Kotelnicki said the team is struggling to learn the new terminology, but the personnel is getting used to the new regime’s fast-paced style.
In the early struggles to learn the terminology, Kotelnicki said, “it’s like learning a new language” and the transition from last year’s calls have the quarterbacks “trying to find the connection between the new calls and the old calls.”
“There was a struggle on the first day, but we’re getting it,” Kotelnicki said. “In learning a new offense, sometimes we have rough spots. Practice has been much better. A huge step forward for where we want to be on offense.”
Last season, the Bulls were effective on offense due Licata's performance under center and finished third in the Mid-American Conference in points per game with 32.3. Licata and Daniel produced 35 of the team’s 49 touchdowns last season.
Licata led the MAC with 29 touchdown passes and finished second with a 64.9 completion percentage. He also set the program record for career touchdown passes, as he surpassed Drew Willy for the most all-time by a Bulls quarterback. Entering his senior season, Licata is expected to be the starting quarterback.
As a backup, Daniel played few snaps, yet produced as a passer and runner. Daniel attempted just 15 passes in the season, completing two for touchdown passes. He also ran for the team’s only touchdown from a quarterback.
Licata is currently recovering from offseason hip surgery. He injured his hip late last season. The surgery prevents him from practicing in spring practice for the second consecutive year and he will miss the upcoming Blue-White game on April 18.
Despite not being able to practice, Licata said he’s been able to see the offense from another perspective.
“I’ve been able to see the game as a coach and it’s helping me,” Licata said. “I can see some of the things they see and what they want on certain plays. Knowing when someone is supposed to break out of a route or if the running back is open out of the backfield is important.”
While Daniel has been “coming along well” in learning the offense, Leipold said he still wants to see Licata’s progression and how he “comes together” in the fall.
“Having both [Daniel and Licata] is great, though,” Leipold said. “Joe has a ton of game experience and snaps and we plan to utilize that.”
Kotelnicki said Licata’s injury shouldn’t hurt him in learning the offense, but he still needs to see him practice with the team before the season begins.
“You can’t get better as a player without practice,” Kotelnicki said. “He needs to get the reps, just to get acclimated to the offense and the looks. I’m confident once he gets back to 100 percent, he should adjust and learn the offense before the season starts.”
The team continues training on Friday and will practice about nine more times until the team plays its annual Blue-White game on Saturday, April 18.
Quentin Haynes is a sports editor and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org