NCF Nation: Adonis Thomas

ESPN 300: Five who could flip 

October, 22, 2014
10/22/14
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The Class of 2015 has seen more than 35 prospects in the ESPN 300 flip or decommit during the cycle. As many as 30 more prospects in the ESPN 300 could flip between now and national signing day. With that possibility in mind, here are five to keep tabs on less than four months away from national signing day.

A lot of talent has already come off the board, but there’s still quality at the top of the ESPN 300 that could give at least 10 teams a shot at the second-best class. Plus, Penn State's James Franklin continues to be the most talked about coach in the Washington D.C. metro area.

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Early Offer: Tough times ahead for UF? 

September, 21, 2014
9/21/14
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Recruiting in the SEC is already difficult, but the difficulty in Gainesville is about to be ratcheted up even more as rival recruiters are already pressuring Florida recruits to reconsider. Plus, it was clear Saturday night that Oregon needs help on the offensive line, but the good news is that help is on the way.

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Military Bowl: Toledo 42, Air Force 41

December, 28, 2011
12/28/11
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You know that old axiom that defenses usually have the advantage in bowl games because they have more time to prepare? Yeah, about that... Toledo and Air Force made that widely-held belief look silly with an 83-point shootout in Washington in the Military Bowl - presented by Northrop Grumman. Toledo won 42-41. Here's how it all went down at RFK:

How the game was won: It depends which quarter you were watching. After both teams came firing out of the gates on offense, only one offensive touchdown was scored in the third quarter. Both defenses stiffened in the second half. Toledo got touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams. But ultimately, it came down to a coaching decision in the final minute. Read on.

Turning point: Air Force scored with 52 seconds left in the game, cutting its deficit to 42-41. The Falcons came out in kicking formation, presumably to attempt the tying PAT and look to force overtime. But Air Force coach Troy Calhoun opted to fake the PAT. Holder David Baska took the snap, but was hit by Jayrone Elliott and fumbled out of bounds. The onside kick attempt came up short.

Second guessing: None here. Loved Calhoun's call.

Player of the game: Toledo sophomore wide receiver Bernard Reedy had a monster game -- just four catches, but 125 yards, three touchdowns and an average of 31.3 yards per catch. He had just six touchdowns on the season heading into the game.

Unsung hero(s): Toledo's Eric Page had 13 catches for just 59 yards. But his 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was a huge momentum swing. Adonis Thomas had more than 100 yards rushing for the fifth straight game with a 127-yard performance.

Stat of the game: 56. That was the point total at the half. It was the highest scoring first 30 minutes of any bowl game since 2004.

Stat of the game, take 2: 5-of-6. That was Air Force's fourth-down efficiency. Remarkably, they also had three touchdowns come on fourth down.
Two prolific rushing offenses take center stage Wednesday at Washington's RFK Stadium for the Military Bowl - Presented by Northrop Grumman. Air Force enters the contest with the nation's No. 2 rushing attack, averaging 320 yards per game. Toledo isn't far behind, ranking 14th nationally with 221 yards per game. Both teams have high-scoring offenses and opportunistic defenses -- Toledo in particular, which ranks third in the country in turnover margin.

Who to watch: Air Force senior quarterback Tim Jefferson is a veteran starter who knows how to operate the Falcons' triple-option attack. His experience and knowledge of the system allows him to make smart reads -- be it on the end or the mid-line -- and with 12 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns, he can't be overlooked in either aspect of the game. He's completed almost 61 percent of his throws -- not great -- but good enough that if the Toledo defense doesn't respect him, he could beat the Rockets over the top.

What to watch: Toledo has used a two-quarterback system of Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens to keep teams off balance with its no-huddle offense. The veteran offensive line does a good job in protection and the multiple wide receiver formations will stretch out the Falcons' secondary. That allows the Rockets to open up their rushing attack, headlined by Adonis Thomas (963 yards, 11 touchdowns, 6.5 yards per carry). Toledo plays a pick-your-poison style of offense that can gobble up yards.

Why to watch: It's going to be a lot of fun to watch two contrasting styles of offense. All roads lead to the end zone -- Toledo just wants to get there quicker. The Falcons are happy to grind out long, methodical drives, but aren't afraid to take shots once the defense looks sufficiently lulled. True to its mascot, Toledo will be much more bang-bang with its attack -- but the Rockets also rank in the top 15 in time of possession so they know how to play the ball-control game, too. Don't expect either team's quarterback to spend much time on the ground behind the line of scrimmage -- both squads are tied for sixth nationally in sacks allowed.

Prediction: Toledo 42, Air Force 28. As someone who used to cover the Mountain West, it pains me to pick against Air Force. But Toledo has been so impressive over its past five games, averaging 52.8 points and 285.8 yards on the ground during that stretch. Conversely, Air Force gives up too many yards on the ground (227.8) and that could be a recipe for disaster against the Rockets.
Toledo Rockets (8-4) vs. Air Force Falcons (7-5)

Dec. 28, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Toledo take from Nation blogger Andrea Adelson: Toledo overcame a 1-3 start to the season that featured two heartbreaking losses to Ohio State and Syracuse to run through MAC play 7-1 for the second straight season.

What cost them a spot in the MAC title game? A wild 63-60 loss to Northern Illinois that featured four lead changes in the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter. The Huskies scored a 4-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left to cap the game, giving them the head-to-head advantage in the West Division and a spot in the MAC championship game. The 123 points scored was the third most in a game since 2004.

Still, Toledo is happy to go bowling for the second straight season, the first time the Rockets have back-to-back bowl campaigns since 2004-05. Third-year coach Tim Beckman made a two-quarterback system work with Terrance Owens and Austin Dantin -- though Dantin missed the final two games of the regular-season with concussion symptoms. All-purpose player Eric Page was as good as advertised as a returner and receiver -- he set the school record for receptions in a season with 112, and won first-team All-MAC honors as a receiver, punt and kickoff returner. Adonis Thomas played well at running back, winning second-team honors after rushing for 963 yards and 11 touchdowns. He ended the season with four straight 100-yard rushing games, and Toledo ended the season scoring 40 or more points in five straight games, a school record.


Air Force take from college football blogger Kevin Gemmell: A rare three-game losing streak put Air Force's bowl future in question midway through the year -- dropping games to Notre Dame, San Diego State and Boise State in succession. But the Falcons rallied to win four of their final five to become bowl eligible for the fifth straight season. With two FBS teams on the schedule, Air Force needed to reach seven wins.

Quarterback Tim Jefferson has 28 career wins -- a school record -- and commands the nation's No. 2 rushing attack at 320.3 yards per game. The 28 victories is the third best in conference history, putting him in some elite company with TCU's Andy Dalton (42 wins) and BYU's Max Hall (32).

Thousand-yard rusher Asher Clark (six touchdowns) headlines the triple-option scheme, averaging 91.3 yards per game. Mike DeWitt (10 touchdowns) goes for 45.2 a game and Jefferson check in at 41 yards per game.

But the Falcons aren't just the traditional triple-option team. Jefferson has an arm, and used it to throw 12 touchdowns this season.

Linebacker Brady Amack ranks among the top tacklers nationally -- but despite a slew of injuries on defense, the Falcons retained the Commander in Chief Trophy for the second straight year, notching wins over Army and Navy.

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

November, 14, 2011
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Let's take a look back at the non-AQs in Week 11:

[+] EnlargeCasey Pachall
Otto Kitsinger III/Getty ImagesQB Casey Pachall and TCU stopped Boise State's 65-game regular-season home win streak en route to a third straight Mountain West title.
Boise goes down. In all the debates about Boise State last week, the questions always surrounded what had to happen for the Broncos to get into the national championship game. But one thing was taken for granted: Boise had to win out. That was a given, right? Not in the world of college football, where excruciating heartbreak has replaced unbending optimism for the second straight season in Boise. The Broncos are not only beatable, they are beatable at home. TCU proved that Saturday in a 36-35 win on the blue turf, handing Boise State its first conference loss at home since 1998. TCU and Boise State always play tight games, and this was no exception. It was first-year TCU starting quarterback Casey Pachall who made the big plays for his team, throwing for 473 yards, five touchdowns and the game-winning 2-point conversion on a defense that was without its top three cornerbacks. Boise State had its chances to win, but missed them just like last season. In a loss to Nevada, Boise State blew a 24-7 halftime lead. In the loss to TCU, Boise State had a 35-28 lead in the fourth quarter and could not hold on. Championship teams find ways to win. For two years in a row now, Boise State failed. For all the problems TCU had early in the season, the Horned Frogs are now in control of the Mountain West in their final season in the league. TCU is now 4-1 in its last five games against top-5 opponents.

If you like offense ... Houston is averaging a whopping 54.7 points a game and has scored more than 70 twice in the past three games. Is it an understatement to say the offense is really clicking with Case Keenum in charge? The thing is, the Cougars can actually run the ball, too. They showed that in a 73-17 win over Tulane, in which Charles Sims had 207 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, Toledo has been involved in back-to-back shootouts in games against Northern Illinois and Western Michigan. The Rockets have both scored and given up 60-plus points. Toledo went 1-1 in those games, which featured 252 points and 2,560 yards of total offense.

Game of the week. Southern Miss 30, UCF 29. The Golden Eagles played a wild fourth quarter against defending league champion UCF. After taking a 19-9 lead early in the fourth, Southern Miss watched as UCF backup quarterback Blake Bortles led an improbable rally. Bortles threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Ronnie Weaver to put the Knights up 23-22. Southern Miss answered when Austin Davis threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Chris Briggs to go up 30-23 with 5:52 remaining. But Bortles was not done, throwing a 25-yard touchdown pass to J.J. Worton with no time left. Coach George O'Leary made the same decision as Gary Patterson -- he elected to go for two. But Southern Miss safety Jacorious Cotton got a hand on the pass attempt and the Golden Eagles escaped with the win.

Conference race update. Here is where things stand for the five non-AQ conferences.

Conference USA: Southern Miss (9-1, 5-1) is in control of the East. One more win clinches the division for the Golden Eagles. Houston (10-0, 6-0) and Tulsa (7-3, 6-0) are tied atop the West, setting up a huge showdown in Tulsa in the regular-season finale. If both win this weekend (Houston vs. SMU, Tulsa at UTEP), the team that comes out on top next week goes to the C-USA title game.

MAC: If Ohio (7-3, 4-2) wins out, the Bobcats go to the MAC title game. They have games remaining at Bowling Green and Miami (Ohio). If Northern Illinois (7-3, 5-1) wins out, the Huskies go back to the title game. They have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Toledo (6-4, 5-1).

Mountain West: TCU (8-2, 5-0) wins out against Colorado State and UNLV and wins the conference.

Sun Belt: Arkansas State (8-2, 6-0) came from behind to beat ULL 30-21 to take control of the conference race. Win out, the Red Wolves are the league champions.

WAC: Nevada (6-3, 4-0) and Louisiana Tech (6-4, 4-1) play in Reno on Saturday with the conference championship on the line. The Wolf Pack win out and win their second straight WAC title, in their final year in the league.

Helmet stickers

Casey Pachall, QB, TCU. Pachall completed 24 of 37 passes for a career-high 473 yards and five touchdowns in a 36-35 win over Boise State, snapping the Broncos' 35-game home winning streak. It was the second-highest single-game passing total in school history.

Brandon Joiner, DL, Arkansas State. Joiner tied an Arkansas State and Sun Belt Conference record with four sacks, and he also tied his personal career high with a team-best eight tackles in a 30-21 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.

Charles Sims, RB, Houston. Sims had 10 carries for 207 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Tulane.

Adonis Thomas, RB, Toledo. Thomas had 30 carries for 216 yards and two touchdowns in a 66-63 win over Western Michigan.

Taveon Rogers, WR, New Mexico State. Rogers had 10 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown in a 48-45 win over Fresno State as the Aggies beat the Bulldogs for the first time in 18 games.

2010 non-AQ All-Bowl team

January, 14, 2011
1/14/11
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Our final look at the 2010-11 bowl season leaves us with the non-AQ all bowl team:

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeCorey Robinson
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyTroy quarterback Corey Robinson threw four touchdown passes in the New Orleans Bowl.
QB Corey Robinson, Troy: There were plenty of candidates to choose from, but Robinson gets the nod. He went 32-of-42 for 387 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in a dominating 48-21 win against Ohio in the R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

RB Adonis Thomas, Toledo: His team might have lost, but it wasn’t really Thomas’ fault. He did all he could to help the Rockets, rushing for 193 yards and 2 touchdowns (averaging 8 yards a carry) in a 34-32 loss to FIU in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

RB Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State: Hillman ran for a Poinsettia Bowl-record 228 yards in a 35-14 win against Navy. He also scored three rushing touchdowns and caught the first touchdown pass of his career, and set the school record for rushing yards by a freshman.

OL Matt Reynolds, BYU: Helped the Cougars run for 219 yards on the ground in a 52-24 win against UTEP. The Cougars also did not give up a sack in the game.

OL Nate Potter, Boise State: Helped the Broncos rush for 202 yards in a 26-3 win against Utah in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.

OL Logan Pegram, Northern Illinois: He was part of a terrific effort from a Huskies' offensive line that totally dominated the Humanitarian Bowl. The Huskies shut down the Fresno State passing attack, holding the best sack duo in the country in Chris Carter and Logan Harrell without a sack.

OL Joe Pawlak, Northern Illinois: Also part of the Huskies' offensive line that opened holes for Chad Spann and Chandler Harnish, and allowed the Huskies to run for 203 yards.

C Trask Iosefa, San Diego State: Helped the Aztecs pile up 279 yards on the ground in a win against Navy, and held the Midshipmen without a sack.

WR Greg Salas, Hawaii: The Warriors looked terrible on offense, and Salas was the only player who seemed to show up. You have to give a nod to a guy who led all receivers during bowl season with 214 yards on 13 catches. He added two scores in a 62-35 loss to Tulsa in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

WR Cody Hoffman, BYU: Had eight catches for 137 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-24 win against UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl for the first 100-yard game of his career.

TE Virgil Green, Nevada: Had 62 yards on four catches in a 20-13 win against Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. He helped open up the offense early in the game.

DEFENSE

DE Jake Coffman, Northern Illinois: Set a Humanitarian Bowl record with three sacks, added another 1.5 tackles for a loss and forced a fumble en route to a 40-17 win against Fresno State.

DE Jonathan Massaquoi, Troy: Had eight tackles, including three for a loss, and a New Orleans Bowl record 2.5 sacks in a 48-21 win against Ohio in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

DL Bruce Miller, UCF: Led the best defensive effort of the season, helping hold Georgia to 82 yards rushing, while notching eight tackles and 1.5 sacks in a 10-6 win against the Bulldogs in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

DL Shea McClellin, Boise State: The Broncos had a dominating performance against Utah, holding the Utes to 200 total yards. McClellin had one of the team’s four sacks.

LB Tank Carder, TCU: He only had the biggest play of the game, swatting down a 2-point conversion with two minutes left to save a 21-19 win against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl presented by Vizio.

LB Curnelius Arnick, Tulsa: He had two interceptions, including one that was returned 54 yards for a touchdown in a 62-35 win against Hawaii in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

LB Stephen Anderson, Army: Had 10 tackles, one interception and half a sack in Army’s 16-14 win against SMU in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. The defensive effort was its best of the season and allowed the Black Knights to finish 2010 with a winning record for the first time since 1996.

S Colin Jones, TCU: He had a career-high 10 tackles and also added two pass break-ups in the 21-19 win against Wisconsin.

S Kreg Brown, FIU: Brown had the first two interceptions of his career, but they were mighty big ones in a 34-32 win against Toledo in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. His second interception in the fourth quarter set up a touchdown that gave FIU a 28-24 lead.

CB Dayonne Nunley, Miami (Ohio): His 52-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the third quarter gave Miami its first lead of the game en route to a 35-21 win against Middle Tennessee in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. He also had a fumble recovery.

CB Josh Robinson, UCF: Not only did he have an interception, he helped keep A.J. Green in check, allowing him just 77 yards in receptions – and a long of only 18 yards in a win against Georgia.

SPECIAL TEAMS

P Brian Stahovich, San Diego State: He might have only punted three times in a win against Navy, but all three of his punts landed inside the 20, and he averaged 40.3 yards a kick. Navy didn’t return a punt.

PK Jack Griffin, FIU: Nailed a 34-yard field goal with no time left to give FIU the win against Toledo in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. He made his other field-goal attempt in the game, a 31-yarder, and all his extra-point attempts.

PR Rishard Matthews, Nevada: His 72-yard punt return for a touchdown ended up making a huge difference in a 20-13 win against Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. It was Nevada’s first punt return for a touchdown since 2001.

KR T.Y. Hilton, FIU: His 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter helped spark the Panthers’ rally in the win against Toledo in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Hilton finished with 174 yards on five kickoff returns.

*AP Damarius Johnson, Tulsa: Had to add in the all-purpose category to give a nod to Johnson, who had 329 all-purpose yards and set the NCAA career record in that category in the win against Hawaii.

Instant Analysis: FIU 34, Toledo 32

December, 27, 2010
12/27/10
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FIU beat Toledo 34-32 in a heart-stopping finish to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Here is a quick instant analysis:

How the game was won: A wild fourth quarter ended with FIU winning the game on the leg of kicker Jack Griffin, who nailed a 34-yarder down the middle with no time left to give the Panthers their first bowl win in their first bowl appearance. Toledo blew a 24-7 lead and trailed 31-24 with 3:18 remaining. Quarterback Terrance Owens had thrown three interceptions to let the Panthers into the game, and now the game was on his shoulders. He drove Toledo down the field and scored a 14-yard touchdown on a zone read. Coach Tim Beckman did not hesitate to go for the two-point conversion. Owens threw to Eric Page to put Toledo up 32-31 with 1:14 to go and the Rockets appeared to be in control. But they left too much time on the clock. The Panthers converted a fourth-and-17 on a hook-and-ladder play to T.Y. Hilton during their final drive of the game. Another big pass play to Greg Ellingson put FIU into field goal range.

Toledo had run right over FIU in the first half to the tune of 205 yards rushing and a 21-7 lead. But the running lanes were not there in the second half, as the Panthers' defense tightened up, forcing Owens to throw the ball. FIU scored 14 points off Owens' interceptions -- Kreg Brown had two, including one in the fourth quarter that led to a 10-yard touchdown catch by Hilton. The score put the Panthers up 28-24 and it also gave them their first lead of the game. Hilton had a quiet first half, but his superb second half allowed the Panthers to come back.

Turning point: After Toledo went up 24-7 with 9:44 to go in the third quarter, Hilton returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. Owens threw his first interception to Brown, and FIU turned it into a touchdown when Darriet Perry took the direct snap and scored on a 7-yard run. The Panthers had cut a 17-point deficit down to four points in three minutes. FIU ended up scoring 24 straight points.

Player of the game: Griffin gets the nod for his dramatic kick to end the game. Special nod to Toledo running back Adonis Thomas, who had 194 yards rushing and two touchdowns, running for 145 first-half yards that gave the Rockets the early momentum.

Unsung hero of the game: Brown's interceptions helped FIU with its defensive turnaround. They were his first two picks of the season.

Second guessing: Hilton is one of the best kickoff returners in the game, and the reigning Sun Belt Most Valuable Player. So why did Toledo kick to him all night? He made the Rockets pay with his second kickoff return for a touchdown of the season and changed the momentum of the game. You have to wonder how Toledo lost track of Hilton and allowed him to convert the fourth-and-17 on the gimmick play. After a review of the spot, the ruling on the field stood and FIU was on the way to its win.

What it means: FIU had its first winning season but more could be on the horizon. The Panthers have 15 starters returning, including quarterback Wesley Carroll, Hilton and a running back trio of Perry, Darrian Mallary and Jeremiah Harden. What an incredible breakthrough season for Mario Cristobal, the Sun Belt Coach of the Year. As for Toledo, the Rockets were making their first bowl appearance since 2005, but should also be in good shape with coach Tim Beckman. This also was a breakthrough season for the Rockets. They return Austin Dantin, Page, Thomas and Dan Molls.

What to watch in the MAC this spring

February, 16, 2010
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Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each team in the MAC heading into the spring:

Akron Zips

Spring practice starts: March 24

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" New head coach Rob Ianello takes over an Akron squad that hasn’t had a winning season since 2005. The Zips struggled last year averaging 19.25 points per game on offense and gave up 28.75 points per game on defense. This spring's goal will be to find playmakers to bring both sides of the ball on par with the rest of the league.

" The Zips had a running back by committee system last year, but none of their backs had more than 250 yards. Two of the team’s top three rushers are gone and the rest are freshmen and sophomores. Ianello signed five tailbacks in his first class.

" The defense struggled to put pressure on the quarterback as the Zips finished with 11 sacks. Opponents scored touchdowns on 66 percent of opportunities inside the red zone. Shoring up the defensive line and the linebackers will be an emphasis this spring.

Ball State Cardinals

Spring practice starts: March 24

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" Sophomore quarterback Kelly Page tries to regain the starting role after missing the second half of the season with thumb surgery. The Cardinals were winless with him in the lineup, but he improved as the season progressed. Redshirt freshman Aaron Mershman will vie for the role in the spring before highly-touted recruit Keith Wenning joins the competition in the fall.

" Running back MiQuale Lewis and tight end Madaris Grant are both awaiting word from the NCAA about a possible sixth season. Both are team leaders and are the top players at their respective positions.

" Losing defensive coordinator Doug Graber is a blow to the Cardinals. Although he was only with the team for a season, the defense was one of the team's bright spots and got better as the season progressed. The Cardinals have yet to name a replacement.

Bowling Green Falcons

Spring practice starts: March 19

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:

" Replacing quarterback Tyler Sheehan will be one of the biggest chores since he took 95 percent of the snaps for the past three seasons. Aaron Pankratz was the backup last year and the leader heading into spring. But redshirt Matt Schiltz, walk-on Kellen Pagel and December enrollee Caleb Watkins will all be in the mix.

" Freddie Barnes was the Falcons best offensive weapon and it will be hard to find a replacement. Overall, the Falcons lose three of their top five receivers, and one of those returning is running back Wille Geter.

" Rebuilding the defense will be a priority after losing seven players, including the entire line backers corps and three-fourths of the secondary. There is a lot of young talent waiting, it is just a matter of gelling during spring ball.

Buffalo Bulls

Spring practice starts: March 20

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

" Losing quarterback Zach Maynard, who decided to transfer last month, hurt their offense. He would have been the starter heading into the season, but now sophomore Jerry Davis and redshirt freshman Alex Dennison will duke it out this spring before two freshmen arrive in August.

" The Bulls have to replace top receivers Naaman Roosevelt and Brett Hamlin and have several candidates to do so. Juniors Terrell Jackson, Marcus Rivers and Ed Young, and redshirt freshmen Fred Lee and Alex Neutz will compete for playing time.

" New head coach Jeff Quinn is going to install a more wide-open offensive system at Buffalo, however finding the right guys to play it will be a challenge. There are athletes remaining at Buffalo, but the loss of players such as Maynard and Roosevelt will make the transition slower.

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