A Fleet of MAC Trucks
The Bulls' offensive line continues to build on chemistry
When football teams generate a winning culture, key figures often go unnoticed. Position players secure the headlines but 1567 pounds of force on the line secure victories.
The Buffalo Bulls (3-2, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) offense has been superb as of late and much of the credit goes to the offensive line. The difference between this year and last year’s o-line is continuity. Last year’s squad used three different starting combinations over the course of the season. They lacked the chemistry to be an effective force in the trenches for Buffalo.
This season the same five guys have started for the Bulls each week.
“Playing next to guys that you’re comfortable with makes playing easy when you’ve been in battle with them for a while,” said junior center James O’Hagan. “At the end of the day, experience is big...but I’ve played a lot of football in my life.”
O’Hagan and senior left guard, Brandon Manosalvas, entered the season with the most experience, they were the only two starters from this season to have started all 12 games a year ago. Sophomore right guard Tomas Jack-Kurdyla started all eight MAC contests last season for the Bulls.
Having three core interior lineman allowed the Bulls to start developing a rhythm in the final games of last season.
“We have experienced guys like James O’Hagan, an absolute monster and then Tomas at right guard who has really come forward for us this year,” Manosalvas said. “Having guys step up at the tackle position and getting the job done has helped us come together well… we are proud of how we're playing so far.”
The two newest additions to the line are junior right tackle Jacquis Webb and sophomore left tackle Evin Ksiezarczyk.
Webb had to sit out last season because of NCAA transfer rules, after transferring from Rutgers. He came touted from a power-five school with the expectation that he would be a starter as soon as he was eligible.
Ksiezarczyk, a local product from West Seneca East High School, was on the field last season, but had a limited role on special teams.
“Evin [Ksiezarczyk] is very steady, he’s not overly flashy like some offensive linemen and he’s battled very hard,” said head coach Lance Leipold. “And Jacquis keeps getting better, even when we’ve had to ask him to move around positions. He’s a big body with great footwork.”
Both of them earned starting reps with the o-line during the offseason, giving them an opportunity to settle in with the first team. O’Hagan and Manosalvas have helped speed along the process of developing the line.
“The spring was big for us,” Webb said. “New tackles practicing with the guards and the guards practicing with tackles created a lot of chemistry for us heading into the season. Jimmy O’Hagan and [Manosalvas] are our leaders so it was good to develop alongside them.”
It is the core five up front that have provided enough time and space for the play calls to develop. The Bulls have devised a blend of rushing and passing attack that has gotten the Bulls 1,895 yards of total offense and 118 points this season.
The rushing attack has been even more lethal averaging 4.5 yards per carry, with the line creating creases for running backs like redshirt sophomore Emmanuel Reed to exploit.
“Our guys know that their job, first and foremost is to protect their quarterback and create holes for the run game.” said offensive line Coach Daryl Agpalsa. “Whether it be Tyree [Jackson] or Drew [Anderson], they know how to prepare for each game and they’ve done a tremendous job.”
The Bulls will try to improve their winning streak to four games, this Saturday against the Western Michigan Broncos, something the program hasn’t done since 2013.
Christopher Smith is a sports staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org