From Bo and Starks to Patterson and Marks

Freshmen running backs tear up the turf in recent win

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Branden “Bo” Oliver and James Starks are the top two running backs to come out of UB. 

Seven games into the season, freshmen running backs Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks are already being compared to two of UB’s greats.

Patterson and Marks have combined for 920 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Bulls this season. They each average over 5 yards per carry and have taken over the position from Doak Walker Award candidate junior Emmanuel Reed. In Buffalo’s win against the Central Michigan Chippewas the two were the first freshman duo to each have over 100-yards rushing in the same game for UB since 2002.

“We're playing for something,” Patterson said. “We're playing for the Buffalo name on the jersey, that means something. Relentless every play. We're playing for the fans, the community. We want the whole community to be right behind us and carry them and make Buffalo known in this nation.” 

When Patterson and Marks first arrived on campus they saw the rushing records plaque inside of the Murchie Family Football Center and took a picture with it. Marks told Patterson “we’re trying to break records.” 

The two have received support from Starks and Oliver. Oliver is active on Twitter and Instagram calling the duo his “little bros” and telling them to keep working. Oliver’s only offer out of high school was to Buffalo and he ended up breaking Starks’ rushing record.

Oliver was a redshirt his freshman season, giving him an extra season to develop before reaching the field.

Marks was redshirted last season and Patterson was a grayshirt enrolling in the spring. Both gained a season of spring football to train before starting their eligibility. 

“Any year in a young man's life to have another year to develop physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and both have benefitted from that for sure,” said offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki. “For them to be able to come in and get a spring before their first year of eligibility is huge.”

Patterson is compared to Oliver, while Marks is compared to Starks, due to their stature. Patterson and Oliver are both under six feet and rely more on agility and a low center of gravity to keep going. Marks uses his speed and strength to hit the holes the offensive line opens up for him.

Like Starks, both want to play for their hometown. Patterson and his brother James both play for the Bulls, with James as a linebacker. At their high school, Saint Vincent Pallotti in Maryland. Jaret Patterson said the brothers turned the football program around. Patterson said the same thing is happening at UB with the current freshman class about to “blow up.”

Marks wants to represent Norfolk, Virginia and former coach Dealton Cotton.

“[I’m] just wanting to have my name put out there in the city and the city behind me too,” Marks said. “People look up to you so you want to do the right things. You want to be on the right path to show them the route.”

Starting running back positions quickly changed during the spring, with multiple players showing promise. Head coach Lance Leipold and his coaching staff saw the potential in the two freshmen and they have yet to disappoint. 

Marks rushed for 138 yards in his second game against Temple and 167 yards against Central Michigan. Patterson went for 104 yards against Rutgers and 121 at Central Michigan.

Against Akron’s top Mid-American Conference run defense, the two combined for 155 yards. The Zips give up an average of 145 rushing yards per game. 

“I think great backs have the characteristics and ability to break tackles, you see them show great balance, finish runs, gain yards after contact and those guys are doing that,” Kotelnicki said.

Marks and Patterson have bright futures for the Bulls if they run the same way for the whole season. Both are heavily supported by their communities and strive for the same record-breaking goals. The records and attention are nice, according to Marks, but he just want to focus on winning each game.

“We're just playing the game of football,” Patterson said. 

Nathaniel Mendelson is the sports editor and can be reached at nathaniel.mendelson@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @NateMendelson