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UB may be on way to becoming the MAC’s ‘Tight End U’

Tight ends Weiser, Schreck prove to be important parts of Buffalo passing and running game

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The Buffalo football team may be well on its way to becoming the Mid-American Conference’s Tight End University.

It may not be on the same scale as prolific Power 5 schools such as Notre Dame and Miami, both of whom are nationally praised for the star power from that position. But on the Mid-Major level, the Bulls have two weapons that have been making a difference as blockers for the past three years.

And on Saturday, everyone learned they could be dangerous receiving weapons as well.

Amidst the 51-14 blowout of Albany (0-1) on Saturday, the Bulls’ tight ends reeled in nine catches for 83 yards out of the team’s total 255 passing yards on 22 completions. Junior tight end Mason Schreck, who totaled 106 yards all of last season, was Buffalo’s leading receiver with five catches for 62 yards. Senior tight end Matt Weiser wasn’t too far off either, as he caught four passes for 21 yards.

Fans know the talent level of wide receivers Ron Willoughby – who went for 60 yards on three catches – and touted newcomer Collin Lisa, who brought in three catches of his own for 56 yards. But the tight ends, which were used mostly as blockers under former head coach Jeff Quinn, were the stars Saturday.

And according to current head coach Lance Leipold, that won’t change for a while.

“To me, it’s an offensive coordinator’s dream,” Leipold said. “You can use them in many different ways and we’re going to continue to use them.”

It’s always a luxury to have a good tight end. Senior quarterback Joe Licata calls a tight end a “quarterback’s best friend.” And for good reason. The tight end is the only position on the field that can be used to block on the offensive line and become a receiver as well. A tight end is typically strong in stature with soft hands and a knack for the game. Schreck is 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds while Weiser is 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds.

It’s Licata’s dream scenario.

“Those are big body guys,” Licata said. “They can block, run and catch. They showed great hands, great route running ability. And they’re both very smart football players. It’s a great luxury for me.”

Licata saw potential for the tight ends in Leipold’s new offense. He said during the summer he wanted to incorporate them more in the passing game rather than use them solely for pass blocking.

Schreck proved that tight ends could be valuable assets to a passing attack. In the second quarter of Saturday’s game, Buffalo decided to go for it on fourth-and-two when on the Albany 16-yard line.

Schreck was expecting a flat route, but coverage wouldn’t allow the play go into fruition. Licata still had faith in his big-body tight end and floated the ball up to Schreck, who came down with it on the Albany 2-yard line to set up a first-and-goal. Weiser called it a “heck of a catch.”

Junior running back Jordan Johnson would pound it in two plays later for Buffalo’s third touchdown before the half.

“As a tight end, you gotta love when the tight ends get the ball,” Weiser said. “That’s a testament to Mason [Schreck] and our hard work, the younger guys, the older guys who were here before that pushed us. It’s an offense that looks to get everyone involved.”

Weiser said he’s excited that he and Schreck will be incorporated into the passing game, but he also understands that his position still entails blocking for the quarterback.

And even with that, they both succeeded.

Weiser and Schreck were integral parts of a transitioning offensive line that did not allow a sack all game. The o-line lost three starters from last season and started a freshman at center Saturday.

“Sometimes, we have to do the dirty work with the O-Line,” Weiser said. “But it’s fun when you go out and catch the passes at the same time. This offense is exciting and it gives us a chance to be able to make some plays.”

And Leipold doesn’t plan on settling with Saturday’s performance. He sees them as important parts of the team for the foreseeable future.

“Those are two excellent football players,” Leipold said. “We’re going to continue to work ways to use both of them, have them both on the field sometimes.”

The conference’s potential “Tight End U” will have its next shot against “Linebacker U” of the Big 10 next week when Buffalo travels to State College, Pennsylvania to take on Penn State (0-1). Kickoff is at noon.

Jordan Grossman is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at jordan.grossman@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jordanmgrossman


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