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UB Bulls hold annual Blue-White Spring Game

Receivers shine in annual spring scrimmage

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Much of the hype surrounding the annual Blue and White scrimmage was to find out how Joe Licata’s successor will play in a live action scenario.

The Bulls have three quarterbacks vying to be the successor for former UB quarterback Licata and start in the team’s 2016-17 season opener against Albany. The quarterback battle is still up in the air following three impressive performances from freshman Tyree Jackson, senior transfer Grant Rohach and dark horse candidate sophomore Chris Merchant.

But the Bulls may have secured their next wide receiver core.

On Saturday, the Bulls competed in their annual Blue-White Spring game at UB Stadium even though the game ran more like a scrimmage open to the public. The Bulls didn’t keep track of the score, there were no quarters during the game and offensive drives started at either the 23-yard line of the Blue team – the defense - or the 3-yard line of the White team – the offense.

With leading seniors wide receiver Ron Willoughby and tight end Matt Weiser graduating, the Bulls continue to look for players who can assume their roles as the number one receiver and tight end on the roster. Junior wide receiver Malcolm Robinson believes he could be one of the players who can step into that receiver role.

Robinson, who’s playing in his last spring game, wanted to make an impact heading into fall camp and didn’t disappoint. Robinson finished with three catches for 97 yards and two touchdown catches, including a 38-yard touchdown catch. The junior wasn’t too impressed with his performance, but believed it was a good start leading up to fall camp and heading into the season.

“The goal is to continue to work hard,” Robinson said. “Just keep making plays heading into the fall. It was just a fun time to be out here in front of family and friends. I’m just trying to make plays, we’re trying to make plays and show that our receiving core is straight heading into fall ball.”

Robinson played well, but the performance of two freshmen gave Buffalo fans a glimpse into the future. Freshmen wide receiver K.J Osborn and tight end Tyler Mabry finished with a combined five touchdown catches. Osborn finished with seven catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns while Mabry finished with four catches for 54 yards and three touchdowns of his own.

Jackson was happy to see Mabry getting into the action, calling him a “hard worker and good teammate.”

After the game, head coach Lance Leipold said he was impressed with how the offense was moving up and down the field, especially in the red zone. He also commented on the quarterback race, saying “each quarterback played well,” only continuing the three-man race at the position.

“I was very pleased,” Leipold said when asked about the quarterback play. “I think Chris Merchant got a lot of long drives. Grant Rohach, you can continue to see that he played at this FBS level, the way he carries himself, the way he controls the huddle and those things, and the athleticism and raw ability of Tyree Jackson continues to show. I think we have three good quarterbacks and the competition will play out through fall camp.”

Though the race for the starting quarterback position is a three-man race, the Bulls used four quarterbacks during Saturday’s game with freshman quarterback Tyree Jackson getting the first set of snaps. Jackson finished 6-of-9 passing for 53 yards and a touchdown pass and showed his ability to make plays out of the pocket. After the game, Leipold responded with a simple “no” when asked if on the field first means that Jackson has a leg up on the starting job. Leipold said it also didn’t matter that Rohach got the most snaps out of all the quarterback competitors.

The other two contenders for the starting job, Merchant and Rohach, showed off the poise and skillset that makes this a three-man race. Rohach finished 13-of-17 passing for 118 yards and four touchdowns while showing off his ability to affect the game in the air and on the ground. Merchant finished with 7-of-10 passing, 132 yards and a touchdown and showing off great touch in pocket, while leading the Bulls to two long scoring drives.

Rohach said all of the quarterbacks played well and while he’s battling for the starting quarterback position, it’s ultimately out of his hands.

“The competition is always on your mind, I’m not going to lie, but that stuff is out of our hands - you just have to go in there and play your game,” Rohach said. “I think there were small operational stuff we can fix, just a few calls, some pre-snap stuff. Those things will haunt you if you don’t adjust.”

With the Spring Game completed, the Bulls will head into fall practices, where Leipold believes the coaches will continue to see players separate themselves, including at the quarterback position.

“From the day we arrived at Buffalo, we talked about competing,” Leipold said. “When you can have it at that position, as well as any other position, they’re going to know that they have to compete each and every day. We can’t get into musical chairs with the quarterback position, but through this and through fall camp, having this type of competition is healthy for us and our team.”

The Bulls will play their first game of the 2016-17 regular season in home, where they’ll host FCS Albany on Sept. 2. The Bulls defeated the Great Danes 51-14 to open the 2015-16 season. Kickoff is yet to be announced.

Quentin Haynes is the senior sports editor and can be emailed at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on twitter at @HaynesTheWriter


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