Bulls relying on unproven receivers to replace departed Neutz, Lee

By TOM DINKI
On April 8, 2014

  • Senior wide receiver Devon Hughes is the most experienced wide out on UB’s roster. Chad Cooper, The Spectrum

Last season, Buffalo wide receivers combined for 147 catches, 2,090 yards and 19 touchdowns. One hundred nineteen catches, 1,716 yards and 17 touchdowns of that production came from departed wide receivers Alex Neutz and Fred Lee.

"They'll be missed," said junior wide receiver Devon Hughes. "But we're gonna step it up and hopefully put more productionthis year than we did with those guys last year."

With Neutz and Lee's graduation, the Bulls will have to rely on an unproven group of receivers to help sophomore quarterback Joe Licata in the passing game this season. Licata has been unable to build a rapport on the field with the new group, however, as he is sitting out spring practices while he recovers from hip surgery.

Despite the turnover at wide receiver, Buffalo returns their top two tight ends from last season.

"I think this offense is sort of an uncovered rock," said freshman tight end Mason Schreck. "There is a lot under the rock that hasn't been discovered yet."

Hughes has most the game experience of any of the current wide receivers on the roster. He has career numbers of 48 catches, 442 yards and four touchdowns, though he caught just seven passes last season. But as the most experienced wide receiver on the team, Hughes feels he is ready to step into the role of the Bulls' top target.

"I just want to have a great season," Hughes said. "Of course I have big goals: All- [Mid-American Conference], first team All-MAC ... but first and foremost, it's to get a bowl game and win the bowl game ... I do want to have a big season. I do want to step up and be that No. 1 guy."

Neutz and Lee caught 61 and 58 passes, respectively, last season. The next closet wide receiver caught just 13 passes - freshman wide receiver Boise Ross.

"We all just value effort," Ross said. "No matter if you've got the ball or it's a blocking assignment, it's all about going 110 percent."

Buffalo has several other receivers who saw minimal playing time last year but are looking to have an impact this season.

At 6-foot-4, sophomore wide receiver Ron Willoughby is the tallest wide receiver on the roster. Willoughby caught only three passes last season, but he averaged 27.7 yards per catch. The Bulls also have juniors John Dunmore and Cordero Dixon returning from last season.

Buffalo tight ends caught 44 passes for 449 yards and five touchdowns last season. With the turnover at the wide receiver position, the Bulls may rely on their tight ends more in the passing game this season.

The Bulls have two large, 6-foot-5 targets returning at the tight end position in Schreck and sophomore Matt Weiser.

Schreck led all Buffalo tight ends in catches (17) as a freshman last season. He has confidence the tight ends can help make up the loss of production from Neutz and Lee, and believes the tight ends will be "very hard personnel to match up with."

"It's really a weapon in a way," Schreck said about the tight end position. "You look at guys like Vernon Davis in the NFL and Rob Gronkowski, those guys are just weapons and that's what we would like to use in our offense."

The tight end's duty goes beyond just receiving, but also protecting the quarterback in the passing game and opening up holes in the running game.

"To be effective, you have to be well rounded," Weiser said. "You have to be able to run your routes, get off defenders ... be big enough to block a defensive end."

Replacing Neutz and Lee will be no small task. Neutz is the program's all-time leader in receiving touchdowns (31). The departed wide receivers made a lasting impact on the current receiving corps.

"[Neutz and Lee] were great leaders," Hughes said. "Each and every day they worked their butt off in practice, so I think the biggest thing is to just treat every practice like it's a game."

The Bulls will play their annual Blue-White Game at UB Stadium April 19. The game will start at 2 p.m.

 

email: sports@ubspectrum.com


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