The quarterback position at the University at Buffalo is the most stable its been since Jeff Quinn took over the program prior to the 2010 season. But if you believe Quinn, quarterback is also the most heated competition in spring practice.
Sophomore Joe Licata, who started the last four games in 2012, has the edge over senior Alex Zordich, sophomore Tony Daniel and redshirt freshman Collin Michael and is taking snaps with the first team. But all took equal reps on Wednesday during the second day of spring practice at UB Stadium.
“It’s competitive evaluation that I want our players to understand,” Quinn said. “They know that every single day the guy who comes out here in the most prepared mindset and focus, gets out there and makes plays and keeps our offense moving will be our guy.”
Quinn was pleased that all four made progress during winter conditioning and have a better understanding of the spread offense. In practice on Wednesday, all four ran checks and shifted into better packages.
“They made the right choices and right decisions that they were able to execute,” Quinn said. “They’re great players and I’m excited for them.”
The Bulls finished 3-1 in the last four games in part because of the play of Licata, the Williamsville South product who went 65 of 117 for 806 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions during the stretch.
“When we took the first snap, Joe took the first snap and deservingly so,” Quinn said. “He was the guy who really stepped up and did a nice job for us.”
The 6-foot-2, 217-pound Licata made strides in his physical development, Quinn said. He’s increased his vertical leap, his 10-yard and 40-yard dash times and his change of direction.
“He’s become a little bit quicker, which will allow him to be more elusive in the pocket and be able to escape the rush and make some plays on the move,” Quinn said.
The 6-3, 222-pound Zordich has a no-fear mentality when running the offense and was third on the team in rushing with 501 yards and one touchdown but is not an efficient passer. He was 106 for 208 for 1,254 yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. Quinn said the senior from Youngstown, Ohio improved his footwork and accuracy.
“He’s a tremendous leader and competitor and he cares deeply about this football team,” Quinn said. “He’s the kind of guy you look to for that leadership, not just as a quarterback but as a team.”
Daniel, a 6-5, 203-pound sophomore, was recruited in part because he had the height to scan the field and was compared to Tony Pike, who Quinn coached at Cincinnati when he was the offensive coordinator. He’s grown in terms of his grasp of the offense.
“Tony continues to run our run game package along with being able to be a guy with who we can move around a little bit, work our play action stuff with,” Quinn said. “We continue to see his growth and development in terms of his understanding all the different things we ask that position to execute. He’s becoming more comfortable, you can see that. When the plays are coming in you can see he’s processing and he’s able to get lined up and see where everyone is located.”
Of all the quarterbacks, the 6-5, 224-pound Michael has the most impressive prep credentials. Scout.com listed Michael as the 41st-best prospect in the nation in 2011 after the Lexington, Ohio native threw for 3,230 yards and 42 touchdowns. Noted for his strong arm, he ran the scout team last season and showed promise.
“He was very accurate, but he was demonstrating that he could run all the opposing team’s offenses and that takes away a bit of the understanding of what we want to do,” Quinn said. “But I really like where he’s at. He’s a big strapping kid.”