When he watches game films and reflects on last year’s versions of himself, Boise Ross sees a very different player.
As a true freshman out of Bethlehem, Pa., Ross was a blur, adept at stretching the field. Although speedy, Ross had a general concept of the pass routes in the University at Buffalo’s offense but lacked the discipline to correctly run them or react to specific coverages.
Now entering his sophomore season, Ross says he’s learning to become a more complete receiver. Meanwhile, his comprehension of what’s expected is increasing. He remains far from a finished product – what second-year player is? – but his inclusion as the No. 1 receiver is evidence that he’s made strides.
“I’m working hard and I’m pretty sure all the wide receivers are working hard because they’re pushing me, too,” Ross said. “Whenever I’m slacking, it’s never a real big drop-off. I never get in the tank because I know the guys right behind me are focused and want the spot just as much as I do.”
Ross is intent on becoming a more disciplined route runner. He spent most mornings during the offseason alone at UB Stadium getting the timing down on his routes from each receiver position.
“I worked on my yardage and depth because that’s what Coach really harps on,” Ross said. “Stemming up routes and doing all the right things. It shouldn’t have to be a thinking matter, it should be right off the bat. When I get on the field, it should be second nature. It should be easy for me, and all I should do is focus on the catch.”
When Ross returned home, his brothers Myron Cummings and Langston Ross, a former wideout at Temple, pushed him as well.
“They were willing to help me and that’s who I leaned on the most,” Ross said.
Ross was challenged by wide receivers coach Marty Spieler to prove that he could lock in on every single play. Ross’ initial struggles last season stemmed from his transition from being a receiver in an option scheme in high school to a four-wide passing system in college with a wide range of routes.
It started to come together for Ross at Kent State, beginning on special teams with a 38-yard kickoff return. A few weeks later at Miami (Ohio), Ross finished with three receptions for 52 yards and ended the season with 13 catches for 156 yards.
Spieler has noticed the work on Ross’ route running is paying off. The timing is precise, and Ross often self-corrects his mistakes. “He’s the most reliable, consistent player that we’ve had,” Spieler said.
“You’ll never question his effort, you’ll never question how dedicated he is to the team, and he really works hard and puts a lot on himself to make sure he gets things right,” Spieler said. “He’s an explosive player, and we want to get the ball in his hands, and we’ll do everything we can to get the ball in his hands and Devon Hughes’ hands. They can flat out run.”
Ross and the rest of the receiving corps have huge shoes to fill. Grand Island product Alex Neutz left as one of the finest wide receivers to play at UB, along with Drew Haddad and Naaman Roosevelt.
“We’re trying to improve production,” Spieler said. “We’re not going to find a guy immediately who’s going to replace Alex Neutz’s production. But the guys we’re going to put out there are good.”
That includes Ross, Hughes, junior Marcus McGill and senior John Dunmore, whom Spieler called the most productive receiver this spring.
“Those four will fight and scratch and make sure we improve on the production that Neutz and Free Lee had,” Spieler said. “John Dunmore is going to step right in for Fred Lee. He’s a feisty, physical player.”