Despite the Mid-American Conference football season set to start in five days, UB has yet to announce who its starting quarterback will be.
Head coach Lance Leipold says the quarterback competition between Matt Meyers and Kyle Vantrease is a close one and the team will announce a starting quarterback “closer to game time.”
“Both guys have continued to play well,” Leipold said. “[We aren’t going to name a starter] until closer to game time. We’re devising a couple different game plans that highlight each guy’s abilities right now.”
Redshirt sophomore Matt Myers started the Bulls’ first five games last season before suffering a season-ending neck injury against Miami (OH). Myers threw for 602 yards and five touchdowns while being intercepted four times. He also ran for 94 yards and two touchdowns in his five games of action.
After replacing Myers, redshirt junior Kyle Vantrease threw for 1,193 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions in eight games. He led UB to a 6-2 record and helped the school win its first bowl game in program history, beating Charlotte 31-9 in the Bahamas Bowl.
While a starting quarterback decision is usually a stressful one for most coaches, Leipold isn’t concerned about the readiness of either quarterback. He says last year’s experience gives the Bulls two great options, with the staff and players equally confident in both Myers and Vantrease.
“We do a lot of two-huddling. Our reps between our one’s and two’s are evenly split. As we get into game week, it gets a little bit different, but the rep difference is very little,” Leipold said. “I think last year’s a great example. When Matt got hurt, Kyle had to be ready, so by doing it this way, and now you have two guys who have started, who can be confident. Our guys on the perimeter and our offensive line have confidence in both of these guys, that they can lead us to victory.”
Different quarterbacks bring their own style of play and signal calling to the field. Myers is viewed as the more mobile quarterback while Vantrease is more of a pocket-passer.
These changes can be crucial for an offensive line, but UB’s offensive line is confident in both quarterbacks’ style and moxie.
“Prepping with either one, it’s going to be the same type of mindset,” junior offensive tackle Kayode Awosika said. “We’re gonna go out there and do what we have to do as a line and whoever’s telling us, checking reads, checking protections, checking plays, we’re gonna adapt and take it on and be ready to go roll with whoever’s back there.”
Despite their contrasting play styles, Vantrease and Myers are more similar than most think. Both quarterback’s poise and presence in the huddle make it easy for the offensive unit to switch quarterbacks with relative ease.
“You see a lot [of similarities,] you see intensity, a calm, confidence with Kyle and Matt when they get into the huddle,” Awosika said. “Matt and Kyle both are very calm, they know what they’re doing. It’s just a good chemistry we got going on. When one person swaps out it’s the same type of huddle feeling it’s the same ready to go, beat the defense type of execution. We're very confident and very ready.”
With last year’s experience under their belt, UB is looking to replicate their success. Both quarterbacks have shown the coaching staff great leadership and play on the field, but the team will have to make a decision before the first game.
It’s unusual that a team who is projected to win their conference hasn’t picked its starting quarterback yet, but this doesn’t bother Leipold. Regardless of who starts, Leipold and the coaching staff have enjoyed watching the two battle and are confident that both quarterbacks can lead the team to a winning season.
“I don’t know if we would be this far down to keep doing it this way if both of them hadn’t started games already,” Leipold said. “I think last year is a different story, where Kyle had one career start [and] Matt didn’t have any. Now, we have guys that have multiple starts under their belt. That gives us the latitude to do this, but it also continues to create competition.”
UB starts the season Wednesday night when they hit the road to face Northern Illinois in Dekalb.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @DeCicco42.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found playing video games, watching ‘90s Knicks games and arguing with people on NBA Twitter at 3 a.m.