As University at Buffalo Head Coach Lance Leipold prepares for his second season with the Bulls, 7 Eyewitness Sports Reporter Nick Filipowski sat down with the coach to discuss the passing of Solomon Jackson, how the team will continue to honor his legacy throughout the year and what the expectations are for the team following a 5-7 campaign a season ago.
“I think about Solomon every day,” Leipold said. “I had a chance to continue to stay in contact with his father and family as much as we can and it’s a situation I never with a coach in the country or any football team to ever have to go through.”
Jackson passed away due to a medical emergency during spring drills in February.
The defensive end had his best season with the Bulls in 2015, seeing action in all 12 games.
“As we approach the start of the season and as we approach every day, I hope we get to look at the things we get to do verse things we have to do. It’s an opportunity and it’s a chance to have a little bit of Solomon Jackson and the great things he brought our program on and off the field that we want all our players to carry on.”
In the spring the Bulls wore “All41” on their helmets to honor Jackson, who wore number 41.
“This group is very resilient. I think they want to represent Solomon’s memory by playing the game the way he did, unselfishly, for the team but giving his all, all the time.”
On the field, the Bulls are looking to reach the six win plateau and return to a bowl for the first time since 2013.
But, they’ll look for someone other than Joe Licata to provide stability and leadership on offense.
Licata, who was the unquestioned starter the past three seasons, took his final snap at UB in November and is currently in training camp with the Bengals.
Redshirt freshman Tyree Jackson and Iowa State transfer Grant Rohach are battling for the starting job.
Leipold says there is no front runner as fall camp opens on Sunday.
“We're looking forward to an exciting battle in camp,” he said. “Both those young men bring a lot to the table. That's what makes it exciting. There's not a timeline in camp of when we're going to name a starter, we're just going to see how it plays out."
In total the Bulls return 14 starters from last year’s team, with six on offense and eight on defense. But the biggest aspect that will help UB turn the page and get past to the postseason is finding consistency week in and week out.
“We play the bowl teams like Nevada, Bowling Green, even the Penn State we were in the games late, in games in the fourth quarter, but we have to find a way to get that over the hump and get a win and build off that,” he said.
“The other one, that goes with it also, is that we started games slowly. We have to come out of the gate and not play catchup. If we can do those things I think we’ll get over that six win threshold soon.”
The Bulls kick the season off September 2 against Albany. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at UB Stadium.
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