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According to the coaches, there will be a wide open competition at every position, including wide receiver. Mike Doherty led the wide receivers last season with 46 receptions for 659 yards and 4 touchdowns
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Brandon Hodgins played in just one game last season due to injury, but he appears to have recovered and is ready to help the Bengals contend for a Conference Championship
The Buffalo State football team successfully concluded spring practices this past Friday showing signs of improvement as the team prepares to split up for summer break.
“I’m pleased with what we saw during the course of our spring practices,” head coach Jerry Boyes said. “Is it a true judge? Not really because we don’t practice with helmets and shoulder pads. What I saw from the team which is crucial to success besides having talent was the working together aspect of the players. They’re building great trust and faith in each other with everybody living up to their responsibilities that they have. A lot of questions remain as we go into our fall preseason, but I think we accomplished the things we wanted to accomplish during our spring practices.”
From the looks of the practices so far, it appears that the returning starters from last year are the front runners for the starting job heading into training camp. As of right now, it appears that Casey Kacz will be the starting quarterback, along with Zachary Best at tight end, Kyle Shreve at center, Josh Jesonowski at left guard and Brendan Barthel at right tackle.
The running back competition currently looks to be a three-player competition between Rich Pete, Ismail Brooks and Brooks Estarfaa. Last year, Pete led the team with 753 rushing yards and nine touchdowns while the starter Brooks rushed for 478 yards and eight touchdowns. Estarfaa finished the season with 311 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
At the wide receiver position it looks like it’s going to be a battle between Mike Doherty, Caesarae Lewis, Justin Medley, David Jacobs, John Beers and Joe Ferraro. Doherty and Ferraro started the majority of the games last year, but the Bengals like to rotate their receivers around a lot and each player should receive a fair chance at significant playing time.
“I believe with the receiving corps we have, the catches will be spread out more,” Doherty said. “We have three receivers that will be getting the ball a lot, so it’ll be a lot different. The more receivers we have, the harder it’s going to be to cover all of us. I think it’s much better that way.”
Along the offensive line, the Bengals have two starting positions up for grabs in left tackle and right guard and the three leading candidates as of now appear to be Adam Hurd, John Knudsen and Mike Feirabend.
On the defensive side of the ball, every position will be a wide open competition according to defensive coordinator Terry Bitka.
“I would be hard pressed to name starters right now until the pads go on,” Bitka said. “My philosophy as far as defense goes is that we want runners and hitters out there and it starts up front. We’ve got to be able to stop the run better. We did a good job and improved in that area. Now we’ve got to be able to get after the quarterback and offset his timing.”
The linebacker competition should be interesting since Eddie Weiser has returned to Buffalo State after pursuing a MMA career. He’s a former NJAC rookie of the year that will challenge Jordan Boser and Pasquale Vacchio, the Bengals leading tackler last season.
At the Tiger and Bengal positions which equate to a hybrid safety/linebacker role, the early favorites to start appear to be Matt Wosolowski and Brandon Hodgins, who played in just one game last year before an injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.
The defensive line will have only one returning starter in Jahi Owens and since coach Bitka likes to rotate his defensive linemen around, it’s safe to say that every player will be given a fair chance to win a starting spot.
“Over the past few years, I’ve received a decent amount of playing time, not as much as I would’ve liked, but I’ve received a fair chance,” junior defensive lineman Gorden Schubert said. “Everybody’s been given a fair chance to get a starting spot. We are all athletic in the way we play on the d-line and anybody can take anybody’s position on any given day.
In the secondary, Josh Mims has moved from cornerback to safety, leaving Buffalo State with two cornerback spots to fill. Jeff Moore, Sean Mapp and Cortland-transfer Joe Montesanti look to be the leading candidates to fill them.
The Bengals will head home following exams for summer break before returning to Buffalo State for training camp sometime in August.
“I can’t wait until August,” said Bitka. “I’m excited about the direction we’re going in. I expect us to be working toward becoming a dominant defense. We put a lot of pride into what we do on our side of the ball and we want to be able to play with high effort and intense attitudes. I want to become a defense that people will respect and fear.”