Head coach Jeff Quinn came to the UB Stadium sidelines after practice Monday saying he doesn’t want affability among his players. He quizzed one reporter on the term’s definition. In case you’re wondering, here are some synonyms: gracious, pleasant, polite.
Affability seems to be an endearing quality, but Quinn wants malice on the field. He often says he wants to play “consistent, violent and aggressive” football.
“I want some mean, tough people,” he said, peering through a pair of black Oakleys.
It’s no secret that one of those mean, tough people is Khalil Mack, UB’s all-everything linebacker viewed highly in NFL circles. Scouts have been hanging out frequently at training camp this year, and the Eagles, Redskins and Rams had representatives taking in Monday’s action.
Speaking of NFL circles, former UB defensive end Steven Means (Grover Cleveland) played his first preseason game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Thursday. They lost, 44-16, to Baltimore. Means, who was also a track and field and basketball star at Grover Cleveland, got some time with the Bucs’ first-team ‘D’ and recorded one solo tackle.
“Just to get out there, get a feel for it, was amazing,” Means told reporters in Tampa Bay. “I felt right at home. You know, I’m looking forward to playing a lot more games.”
Means made an impressive leaping interception in practice Saturday, which should come as no surprise to Western New Yorkers who have seen his immense athletic ability.
If you hear people talking about Schreck at UB camp, they aren’t referencing the beloved ogre.
No, they’re talking about redshirt freshman tight end Mason Schreck, who made several impressive catches in traffic Monday. The book on Schreck’s career is thus far short: the 6-foot-5, 229-pounder was a high school quarterback and starting center on the basketball team, but he hasn’t seen any college action yet.
“He’s working extremely hard,” Quinn said. “Mason came out of high school as a quarterback, so he understands offensive football. Now he’s growing into that tight end position and he’s got great ball skills. He judges the ball very well in the air.”
Schreck is still fourth on the depth chart behind first-stringer Jimmy Gordon, Alex Dennison and Matt Weiser, but he’s a formidable fourth option who has shown loads of potential. Quinn predicts his team could go to Schreck at times in the red zone this year to take advantage of his size and leaping ability.
“He’s still young, it’s still early, but I think he’s proven to all his teammates and coaches that he’s somebody who’s really put himself in position to get a chance to get on that field,” Quinn said. “Schreck gives us an added feature. Most people don’t have that ability to have four tight ends. That’s a pretty good group of kids.”
Quinn has a promising problem: He might have too many good players at his skill positions.
It seems exaggerating to say that of a UB football team, but his roster might have too much talent – barring injury, some players who would have started in recent years might not even play.
So he’s looking at different ways to get some talented, inexperienced players involved. For Jordan Johnson (Sweet Home) and Marcus McGill (Rochester), that means getting accustomed to some different positions.
Johnson was a star quarterback for the Panthers in 2011 but switched to running back and redshirted last season. He has packed on the weight – the 6-footer has gained 20 pounds in the past year to reach 233 pounds – to play a unique position this year.
“Jordan’s been running with the second team of running backs,” Quinn said. “He’s in the big skill position, which is an H-back, fullback, running back. He’s not right now playing tailback, but he’s a guy that we’re slipping out, blocking with.”
McGill, a sophomore, was the starting long-snapper last year, but this year the Bulls brought in freshman Corbin Grassman (the younger cousin of starting punter sophomore Tyler Grassman) to handle those duties so McGill can focus on developing as a wide receiver.
“We like his physical presence,” Quinn said of the 6-foot-1, 227-pound McGill. “He’s working on being an every-snap player.”
Quinn also has youngsters involved in the punt-return game, where true freshmen Jamarl Eiland and Boise Ross have as good a shot as anyone to be the starting return man. They were on the field Monday shagging punts along with standout senior wide receiver Alex Neutz (Grand Island). But it’s doubtful they’ll put Neutz as a returner because of his value as a receiver.