If you believe in assumptions, then Alex Neutz’s University at Buffalo career is no surprise.
He was, after all, a two-time first team All-Western New York selection and the Lofton Award winner as a senior at Grand Island. Neutz’s 1,182 yards his senior year is a Western New York record for receiving yards in a season.
But to say his collegiate excellence was anticipated purely based on his high school credentials would be ill-advised. Even Neutz thought it would be challenging, especially following Naaman Roosevelt, who left his footprints throughout the UB record books.
But on his next touchdown reception, Neutz will have a record of his own. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior has at least three regular season games to eclipse Roosevelt’s record of 28 touchdown receptions.
“Growing up here, I came to watch in 2008 and saw what Naaman Roosevelt did and Drew Willy, all those guys and James Starks obviously,” UB sophomore quarterback Joe Licata said. “To see a guy who’s tied with Naaman for the all-time touchdown record, it’s unbelievable. He’s a great player, a great person and one of my best friends. It couldn’t happen to a better guy.”
Neutz tied the mark on Tuesday in the Bulls’ 30-3 victory over Ohio University and his next chance comes Tuesday when UB (7-2, 5-0 Mid-American Conference) travels to Toledo (6-3, 4-1) for an ESPNU matchup.
“I couldn’t have dreamed of this,” Neutz said. “I was scared. I was like, ‘High school football is easy and I don’t know about this.’ ’’
Neutz, who scored two touchdowns against Ohio, has nine TD receptions this season. He is just the third player in school history with at least nine touchdowns in two different seasons, joining Roosevelt – the St. Joe’s product and former Buffalo Bills wideout, and Jamie Fasparre (1996-97).
“I’m very proud of Alex,” UB coach Jeff Quinn said. “He trains hard, he works hard and he and Joe have a great sense for each other. … He’s setting that bar pretty high which is exciting knowing he’s got more games to go for himself.”
In hindsight, Neutz had nothing to be afraid of. He redshirted his first season at UB in 2009 where he watched and learned from Roosevelt, who converted from quarterback to wideout after he enrolled at UB.
“Naaman Roosevelt was a great player, started all four years here and was just exceptional,” Neutz said.
“Even as a junior and senior in high school I would watch him at UB a little bit and my freshman year I kind of got to be mentored by him. He’s a great kid, great player and a great person all around. I wish him the best of luck in his future success and finds his way back to the NFL. It’s an honor to be tied with him atop the touchdown leaderboard.”
Neutz obviously learned his lessons well and was named the team’s offensive MVP by averaging 15.9 yards a catch. His 26 receptions for 414 yards was the best for a first-year receiver since Roosevelt in 2006. For the season, Neutz has 43 catches for 707 yards and ranks sixth in the MAC in receiving yards per game at 78.6.
“I think he’s a complete receiver,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “He’s got good speed, he’s got excellent quickness, good height, excellent hands and comes out of his breaks really well. He’s been doing it now for several years in the MAC. He’s an excellent player.”
UB senior linebacker Khalil Mack has been invited to play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 25 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.
Mack leads UB with 59 tackles – including 34 solo – with 11.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and three interceptions. He leads the MAC in tackles for loss and sacks. He currently ranks third in NCAA history with 67.5 career tackles for loss and his 13 career forced fumbles is one shy of the NCAA record.
The Senior Bowl features the country’s best seniors and top NFL Draft prospects on teams representing the North and South that are coached by the entire coaching staffs of two NFL teams.
UB should get kick returner Devin Campbell back for Toledo, but linebacker Adam Redden remains sidelined with a knee injury. Campbell missed the Ohio game with a back injury, but Quinn was optimistic on his return while Redden will be evaluated further next week.