Spring Football Position by Position:
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 19:11
Over the coming issues, The Spectrum will be doing a position by position breakdown of the players on the football roster during the team’s spring practices. Each issue will spotlight players to watch for this coming season.
Spring football is a time for coaches to evaluate their players and try to determine the depth chart for the upcoming season. When it comes to running back, head coach Jeff Quinn doesn’t have to worry about that – he has junior Branden “Bo” Oliver on his roster.
“[He expects every play] to be a score,” Quinn said. “His heart, passion and determination is what separates him from everyone.”
Since Oliver was named the team’s most valuable player this past season, the task at hand for Quinn and the rest of the coaching staff will be to find a suitable backup for Oliver. That’s where junior Brandon Murie and sophomore Anthone Taylor come in.
Overall with the three returning players at running back, the position appears to be one of the more sturdy spots on the roster.
Yards per carry: 4.6
Avg. per game: 116.2
Sophomore Branden Oliver exploded for 1,760 total yards last season and had over 70 percent of the carries for the Bulls. He finished the season with back-to-back 200-total yard games, including 235 on the ground against Akron on Nov. 19.
The coaching staff is looking for Oliver to take over the leadership position while the team searches for its starting quarterback.
“The coaches keep telling me to lead,” Oliver said. “I’m the type of guy that doesn’t talk a lot. I like to lead by example.”
His vigorous offseason workout program is what Oliver believes separates him from other backs in the conference. His famous weighted vest is now at 20 pounds and he is looking forward to start running the steep hill at Kunz Field as he does every summer in Buffalo.
Oliver will see his fair share of carries this season but is complimented by Murie, who Oliver expects will step-up into a consistent number two back. Oliver also said the team is looking for the fullbacks to run more and block less this season. The offense has been running single back plays with them to adjust to the change.
Oliver plans to add his eight 100-yard rushing games from last season. But, hopes to do only one thing, win a Mid-American Conference Championship.
Yards per carry: 8.2
Kick Returns: 7
KR Yards: 199
While Murie did not see much action as a running back in 2011, this speed demon has the ability to make a huge play every time he touches the ball. He did see time on the field as a returner last season, and returns like his scintillating 93-yard kick return against Akron prove his worth on the special teams unit. He looks to be the go-to guy as a kick and punt returner – two crucial needs for the team.
With his small frame, he is easily able to make defenders miss with his shifty moves, potentially being a great complement to the power of Oliver.
“I bring speed,” Murie said “I’m one of the fastest guys on the team, last year I ran the fastest 40 when I ran a 4.29. I bring quickness. I’m a change of pace back; Bo is big and fast, and I’m all speed.”
Murie hopes to be used by the coach in ways that will help exploit opposing defenses.
“I can stretch the field vertically and horizontally,” Murie said. “I can outrun people, so when it comes to stuff like the screen game, putting me out as a wideout, I think I really can help out the team.”
During the offseason, Murie looks to work on being a more well rounded back.
“I’ve always been a smaller back so it’s been all about gaining weight, and getting thicker in the legs by squatting,” Murie said. “Bo is as strong as an ox so I’m just trying to get like him. I’m also working on my lateral quickness, moving side to side and evading defenders.”
Yards per Carry: 5.0
Anthone Taylor is another guy looking to compliment Oliver in 2012. He has a good blend of power and speed, and the young back looks to push Murie and Oliver.
“We have great expectations and high hopes for [Taylor],” Quinn said. “We’re very happy right now with where we’re at with Bo, but we can’t put all our eggs in one basket.”
Taylor looks to be the guy competing for touches with Murie behind Oliver. At the moment, Murie is the one getting the looks with the second team, but Taylor is certainly looking to throw his name in the mix.
The running back is as stable of a position as there is for the Bulls in 2012. Brandon Oliver will be the workhorse with some quality backups behind him in Murie and Taylor. The Bulls will also have some new players to test out come summer as a pair of new recruits, Jordan Jefferson of Sweet Home high school, and Devin Campbell from Youngstown, Ohio will also be added to the more than competent Buffalo backfield.