Western Michigan, one of the University at Buffalo’s three Mid-American Conference crossover opponents, will play the season without wideout Jaime Wilson, last year’s MAC Freshman of the Year. Wilson suffered a leg fracture during training camp, leaving the Broncos and new coach P.J. Fleck hustling to fill a big vacancy in the passing and punt return games.
“Obviously that hurts our football team in terms of playmaking ability,” Fleck said on Monday’s MAC coaches teleconference. “But a year ago no one knew who Jaime Wilson was. I think people forget that. We’ve got a young man by the name of Corey Davis, he’s a true freshman … who came in here and absolutely dominated our training camp.”
Wilson had 67 catches for 792 yards and six touchdowns last season. Davis is a physical presence at 6-foot-2, 205. UB plays at Western Michigan on Oct. 12.
“I think at the end of this year we’ll have a guy that emerges,” Fleck said. “Then all of a sudden you have Jaime Wilson for three more years after this year and not just two more years if that’s the direction we choose to go. Right now, wide receivers is one of our thinnest positions, but in 2014 it will be one of our deepest positions.”
Reducing load on Fluellen
Lockport graduate David Fluellen ran 259 times for Toledo last year — 158 more than any other Rocket. He was third on the team in receptions with 32. And because Fluellen also missed a game and was slowed in others because of injuries, head coach Matt Campbell is looking to spread the workload during Fluellen’s senior season.
“We got to try and create a little bit more balance just not having David be the full-time guy all the time and hopefully give him the ability to get through the season,” Campbell said. “David took such a bulk of the load last year, and I think one of the nice things for us is that’s one of the things that we have with our football team this year is we got some depth at running back, way more than what we had last year.”
Quinn vs. Meyer
UB’s opener at Ohio State Saturday will mark the second time Jeff Quinn and Urban Meyer have met as head coaches. Quinn was the interim head man at Cincinnati when the Bearcats played Meyer-coached Florida in the 2010 Sugar Bowl. The Gators, quarterbacked by Tim Tebow, bolted to a 23-0 lead midway through the second quarter and cruised, 51-24. Quinn took over the Bearcats after head coach Brian Kelly was tabbed at Notre Dame.
Quinn has coached with two Ohio State assistants, cornerbacks coach/special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs and tight ends/fullbacks coach Tim Hinton. All three were on Kelly’s staff at Cincinnati.
Is it possible for the Mid-American Conference to put forth a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate? It’s unlikely given all the media attention heaped upon the major conferences and the very real separation in strength of schedules.
But Northern Illinois is touting quarterback Jordan Lynch as worthy of serious consideration coming off a 2012 season that saw him break four NCAA records, two MAC records, 14 school records and finish seventh in the Heisman balloting. For first-year head coach Rod Carey, last year’s offensive coordinator, the challenge is in helping Lynch maintain an even keel given the increased demands on him this senior season.
“I think this is a challenge whether you’re Jordan Lynch or whether you’re a first-time freshman coming into our program, and it’s time management,” Carey said. “Now the time management’s different, Jordan has a lot more being asked of him, so we’re making sure his schedule is such that he can still be a student-athlete. That is the most important thing for him. He’s pretty much just a salt-of-the-earth guy and not much gets to him, so our job is pretty easy in helping him manage all that.”
Games of the week
• Toledo at Florida, 12:20 p.m. Saturday, ESPN3: The Rockets fell in OT at Arizona in last year’s opener. The Gators represent a step up in opponent, but big-play talents like Fluellen and wide receiver/returner Bernard Reedy could help Toledo keep this interesting. Gators had a tough time with Bowling Green last year (27-14) but Rockets can’t bring it on ‘D” like the Falcons could.
•Liberty at Kent State, 6 p.m. Thursday, ESPN3: This one intrigues with its local flavor. Former UB coach Turner Gill begins his second season at Liberty after guiding Flames to 6-5 overall record last year and share of Big South title at 5-1.
•Ohio U. at No. 9 Louisville, 3:30 p.m., ESPN: Injuries played a significant role last year as Bobcats went from being hailed as the next Boise State to losing their final three and four of the last five regular-season games. The nucleus of the offense returns, the defense is healthy again and remember the Bobcats knocked off Penn State in last year’s opener.
•Northern Illinois at Iowa, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Big Ten Network: Huskies let this matchup get away last year in Soldier Field, allowing nine fourth-quarter points in an 18-17 defeat. Then NIU didn’t lose again until the Orange Bowl. Hawkeyes did a good job containing Lynch on read-option last year. He had 119 yards, but 73 of those came on a third-quarter touchdown run.