BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The road to redemption for the UB Bulls began on Monday as the Bulls took the field for the first spring practice of the 2021 season.
“It feels good. This being my fourth spring ball, I just want to see what the young guys have to offer, and how can I help them as a leader to help them get better throughout the 15 practices we have,” UB linebacker James Patterson said. “I tried to tell a lot of guys that spring ball is very important like it’s fall camp, it really gets you time to show your coaches what you have to offer and it’s an evaluation every day.”
“Anytime you come to college to play football and you get to go 11 on 11, it’s a blessing. Getting back into the swing of things where you have practices and it’s all scheduled out, structured, it’s super nice,” UB quarterback Kyle Vantrease said. “Seeing the guys back in their element, smiling, running around, having a good time, it was awesome for me and for everyone else.”
Monday’s practice was one of the fifteen allotted for spring ball, and they’re really focusing on getting the new pieces of the team into place during these practices. With the Bulls losing the second all-time rushing leader in program history in running back Jaret Patterson to the NFL Draft, along with the 2019 and 2020 Bulls leading receiver Antonio Nunn and major players on both the offensive and defensive line, these 15 practices will be pivotal in beginning to figure out who will be filling those gaping holes in the fall.
“Jake Fusak is moving from right tackle to left tackle, so that’s a lot of processing for him and technique work, footwork things, Kevin Marks is taking the first reps at tailback,” UB Head Coach Lance Leipold said. “When you look at a guy like Antonio Nunn and his role at receiver, the nice thing has always been that we do like to go fast, we do like to have two huddles on the offensive side of things so that we can rapid fire with a lot of reps, so we’re getting guys opportunities to get on film to be evaluated. With that we’re hopefully building depth and finding guys spots to replace people.”
UB is coming off a shortened but successful season in which they won the MAC East and advanced to the MAC Championship game, but fell to Ball State in the title game. The Bulls went on to win their second straight bowl with a victory over Marshall in the Camellia Bowl on Christmas Day.
With everything they were able to accomplish in the 2020 season without a full spring (it was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and an accelerated fall camp, the sky is the limit for the Bulls this year, and they plan to take advantage of what’s in store with a full amount of preparation.
“Just to develop all the young guys that didn’t get a chance to play. For example, the offensive line. Some of those guys like Gabe Wallace, Michael Ford, to give them that chance in 15 practices to get live reps with somebody really going against them with speed, with power and get a feel for game type situations,” Patterson said. “Just to get guys out there to understand that when you mess up or make a big play, it has to be the next play as well. You have to get the highs and lows because it’s going to be bad parts and good parts.”