Running back Branden Oliver produced the lone touchdown of UB’s scrimmage Saturday evening. Wideout Alex Neutz again came up with the catch of the day. The two seniors remain the main staples of the Bulls’ offense but no longer does the unit depend too heavily upon their talents.
What’s been clear through the first week of training camp is that the Bulls have weapons, and they’ll be employing a variety of formations and personnel groupings to leverage that strength. Running back Devin Campbell, Oliver’s primary backup last season, looks like he’ll be utilized more as a receiver, either coming out of the backfield or lining up in the slot. No surprise there. Campbell showed his pass-catching ability last year.
New to the mix is an ability to stretch the field out of the tight end spot. Perhaps the offense’s biggest eye-opener of camp has been the play of redshirt freshman Mason Schreck. A converted quarterback, Schreck could do for the UB offense what Tyler Eifert did for Notre Dame’s before Cincinnati selected him 21st overall in the NFL draft.
“He’s a big 6-5 body kid and he’s a monster athletically,” said quarterback Joe Licata. “He runs a great 40 time, runs the shuttle really well, jumps out of the roof. He’s just one of those kids that’s a freak athletically. He’s got great hands, great hand-eye coordination, so you’ve seen a lot of things already in camp.”
Schreck had few reservations when the Bulls recruited him out of Medina, Ohio, with an eye on converting to tight end.
“Once a quarterback always a quarterback, even if it’s at heart or what-not,” Schreck said. “I just wanted to help this team out wherever it is and I love where I’m at right now.”
The transition required a major makeover, particularly a change in body type. Even before arriving as a true freshman, Schreck set out to add muscle in preparation for the switch. He’s up to 230 pounds.
“Coming in my goal in mind was I wanted to work as hard as I could and I definitely did that with my trainer back home,” Schreck said. “I busted my butt day in and day out just to transition from quarterback to tight end because it’s such a different position. Got here and the first couple weeks were a struggle just because I had never played the position.”
As a quarterback, Schreck understood where his tight ends were headed on a given play. The other aspects of the position understandably escaped him.
“In high school, I knew what routes the tight ends were running,” he said, “I really wasn’t familiar with all the little steps and all those little finesse things that they do. So the first couple weeks were a struggle but just kept at it and had great help from the upperclassmen, even the lowerclassmen, and it’s been a fun transition so far. I’m excited for the future and this year.”
Bulls head coach Jeff Quinn turned vague when asked if Schreck and incumbent tight end starter Jimmy Gordon could be considered Nos. 1 and 1-A on the depth chart, with each filling a situational role. The coach reiterated his familiar refrain that when you have good players you find ways to get them on the field. But it’s apparent simply from the reps Schreck has received in camp and the catches he had on Saturday that he’ll be an integral part of the attack.
“He’s gotten a lot stronger, he has a better grasp of the offense and he’s a big target,” Quinn said. “It’s nice to see that big guy in the middle of the field, and he’s got great awareness of where defenders are. You can see he slightly moves to the inside of the hash, the outside of the hash, and he came up big again today.”
Near the end of the scrimmage Licata found himself in a sideline conversation with linebacker Jake Stockman. Stockman told Licata he has it made – he either hands off to a great back in Oliver or fires away to a great receiver in Neutz.
What’s different for the UB offense is where it all starts isn’t also where it ends.
“When you have great offensive players around you it really makes your job a lot easier,” Licata said. “All the playmakers that we have on this offense, it’s going to be pretty exciting.”