The UB Bulls football offensive line to replace three seniors next season with unproven players
Rebuilding the blindside
In 2014, the football team’s offensive line was regarded as one of the best units in the Mid-American Conference.
The team returned all five starters and guided junior running back Anthone Taylor to a breakout season as he ran for more than 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns. For the upcoming season, three of those starters have graduated, which leaves the entire left side of the line up for grabs.
“This game is cyclical,” said offensive line coach Daryl Agpalsa. “It happens every year. People leave and people are forced to grow up quickly and step up for our program …What’s been really refreshing is that we have four seniors that have stepped up and taken a leadership role on the offensive line group. What’s even better is we have a lot of younger guys that have a lot of ability that are growing up very quickly.”
The Bulls will lose three graduating senior offensive linemen. Andre Davis, Jake Silas and Trevor Sales made up the left side of the offensive line in 2014. The team plans to fill that void with a combination of experienced seniors and underclassmen that are “hungry” for the position, according to Agpalsa.
One of those players is senior Dillon Guy. Guy – who will be a fifth-year senior next season – played a consistent role on the team the last four seasons, playing in most games and starting in a little fewer than half. For the 2015 season, Guy is expected to assume a larger role than prior seasons.
Guy assumed a leadership role during spring practices thus far and has lauded the “beautiful competition” of younger players that are working toward playing time. Although Guy said he likes the incoming class, he is concerned with the experience going into the season.
“I’m not really optimistic at all,” Guy said. “It’s hard to say during spring. We’ll have to see when camp goes on. Losing those three is very tough. It’s always tough when you lose a whole side. Trevor did a phenomenal job for us. He was a mainstay for us. Same with [Davis]. Obviously, that’s something that we have to adapt to, but that’s the beauty of O-line. If one goes out, we have more coming.”
Guy is expected to be one of the three news starters, but it is still in question which other players are in line for a promotion.
“We have a lot of youth on the offensive line, which is really good,” Agpalsa said. “We can continue to develop kids and get them ready to play. In terms of positioning, we take it one day at a time.”
Guy said incoming freshman Matt Murphy, a 6-foot-7 lineman who exceeds 300 pounds, stands out to him. Murphy – an Irish-born player – established himself as a hard-hitting athlete while playing rugby growing up in London, England.
Murphy left the United Kingdom in his junior year of high school to play football at the prestigious private sports school IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. He graduated from the academy in December, making him eligible for spring practices.
Head coach Lance Leipold added he would not make a decision of the remaining offensive linemen until he can “see them in live action.”
Leipold said he plans to work incoming freshman James O’Hagan at center. O’Hagan was the No. 1 heavyweight wrestler in New York State this past year, while making the All-State team as an offensive linemen.
Agpalsa is in his first season with the Bulls and came with Leipold after two seasons at Wisconsin-Whitewater. Agpalsa said the players remind him of his Division-III championship unit.
“There’s a great nucleus that has been built here by the former coaching staff,” Agpalsa said. “We have a lot of depth at the offensive line position. In terms of just the kids, character and doing things the right way… It reminds me of what I just left.”
Leipold has changed the practice dynamic compared to previous seasons by making it more fast-paced from the first day. The first-year Buffalo head coach said he has seen the unit grow since the first day and credits them for being “coachable.”
“I think they’re embracing it,” Leipold said. “I know it’s a lot to them and that’s the tough thing right now. It’s new to everybody that we’re pushing them to work fast and think.”
Leipold also said the players are working hard to adapt to the system’s new terminology and are still “putting the pieces together” to figure out the terms.
The team continues training on Friday and practices about 10 more times until the team plays its annual Blue-White game on Saturday, April 18.