by Paul Peck, Buffalo Sports Page
Tyree Jackson was going to make one of three decisions: stay at UB, transfer to another college football team, or declare for the NFL Draft.
Sunday, morning the answer came from one of the greatest players to wear the Blue & White.
Jackson will be the first Bulls player to leave school early and head to the NFL.
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UB fans were ready for a decision, knowing two of the three options would create a major hole on the 2019 offense. Most fans likely feel better that Tyree’s next step is the NFL, instead of a Power 5 program that was willing to bring him in for one year.
Bulls Head Coach Lance Leipold praised Jackson shortly after the announcement.
“Tyree and I have communicated throughout the process. As I previously stated, we support Tyree and always want what is best for him. Though we are disappointed he will not return for his fifth season in our program, we are proud of Tyree for earning his degree and happy and excited for him and his family as he enters this next chapter! He will always be a Bull.”
Jackson will become the third Bulls player who will likely be drafted this year, joining graduating seniors Anthony Johnson and linebacker Khalil Hodge.
So what does this decision mean for Jackson’s NFL hopes, and how does the Bulls program replace it’s record-setting QB? I’ve talked to some NFL people, and used to my knowledge of the Bulls program to break down the decision and what it means for 2019.
It’s a classic case of how a smaller, Group of Five program like UB has to recruit. Identify an under-recruited, under-sized and off the radar prospect with physical skills and develop him. Former coach Jeff Quinn’s staff first recruited Jackson out of Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, MI. A smaller school without a winning history, Jackson elevated the Mona Shores program to a Michigan state title game his senior year. At the time, he was a six-foot-two, raw athletically kid who had started as a high school freshman.
When he arrived in Buffalo, Jackson had shot up to six-foot-five and raised eyebrows the minute he arrived. After redshirting his first year, the now six-foot-seven Jackson narrowly lost the starting QB job his redshirt year in 2016. But he played in that season’s opener, and took over the starting spot. As expected, Jackson struggled on a rebuilding team. But the signs were there of greatness from this QB who looked like no one other than Cam Newton.
Tyree’s development took a big step in 2017. He showed off his big arm and legs before missing four games with a knee injury. When he returned for the final four games, Tyree threw nine touchdown passes and averaged 341 yards passing, leading the Bulls to three wins.
NFL scouts were watching in 2018, when Jackson started all 14 games and threw for 3,131 yards and 28 touchdowns. More importantly, he led the Bulls to their first ever 10 win season, second MAC East title and third bowl game.
He exits Amherst as the program’s 4th leading passer in yards, 4th in completions, 3rd in touchdowns and just the second to throw for 3000 yards in a season. All in just three seasons and 31 career starts.
Tyree’s NFL Future
His size and athletic ability had Jackson on the NFL’s radar long before this season. Every NFL scout that came in to watch Anthony Johnson, Khalil Hodge & James O’Hagan this year was taking notice and notes on Jackson.
Most scouts felt he was raw, but incredibly athletic and talented. That same scouting report will determine where he’ll be drafted. They were impressed with his big arm, his mobility and his ability to throw an accurate deep ball. They were also concerned with his habit of always trying to make the big play, when the safe and short throw might have been a better option.
But remember, players get drafted on physical skills and upside. Tyree has plenty of both. He’s a unique athlete, the largest starting QB in the NCAA. But he can run, and move in the pocket. That’s so much more of today’s NFL than ever before. When he needed to be a pocket passer at the end of 2017, he showed he can do that.
Tyree’s workouts for NFL scouts and a likely invite to the Scouting Combine will go a long way towards determining how high he’ll be drafted. My sense, just on talent and potential alone, is the top three rounds. But it only takes one team to fall in love with him and use a high pick to get him. That happens with quarterbacks. This appears to be a good, but not great group of draftable QB’s. So that bodes well for Jackson to emerge from the crowd.
His 56.1% career completion percentage will get a lot of examination. Yes, he needs to be more accurate on short and medium throws.
Tyree Jackson will finish the 2018 season with the most yards on deep passes across the FBS pic.twitter.com/fOi0aRWnM2
— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 2, 2019
But when you throw deep as much, and as well, as Jackson did in 2018 your completion percentage will not be as high. UB’s offense (and Tyree’s skills) was a deep-throwing attack.
To me, Jackson compares favorably to Josh Allen, the 7th overall pick of the Buffalo Bills. Both are gifted athletically with strong arms, both played at a lower level of competition, and both have some holes in their games. But you can’t teach raw talent, and none of those faults stopped Allen from being a top ten pick. So why can’t Jackson go high?
The Bulls program has the chance to have three players (Jackson, Johnson, Hodge) go in the top four rounds. O’Hagan and DE Chuck Harris could be later picks. It’s an indication of the growth of the program and the higher level of player coming to Buffalo.
That bodes well for finding Tyree’s replacment…
UB’s New QB For 2019
It’s a huge hole to fill. Let’s not kid ourselves. The Bulls would have had to replace Jackson next year had he stayed, so it’s just a year early. Preparations have been underway for the next starter at the critical position. That’s what recruiting and coaching are for.
The first player to get a chance at the job is sophomore Kyle Vantrease. He was Jackson’s backup this year, but only played in three games. He did play three games and start one in 2017 when Jackson was hurt. He’s a big-armed pocket passer who has shown flashes of ability. To me, he looks like he’s got the potential to be a very good MAC quarterback.
Local product Matt Meyers redshirted this year, but did play briefly in one game. The 2017 New York State player of the year led West Seneca West to a state title. He’s just the third player in WNY history to throw for 2000 yards and run for 1000 in a season. Meyers is more of a dual threat, runner and passer, that have become so much more prominent in college football. If the Bulls want to go in that direction with the offense, he’ll get a chance to win the job.
Dominic Johnson was the #3 QB this past season, while also playing for the basketball team. He’s a tall, athletic QB with a big arm. But he’s raw. Much like Tyree, he’ll get a chance to refine those raw talents and compete for the job.
Incoming recruit Trevor Bycznski is highly touted, the Ohio Divsion I Player of the Year. While unlikely that a freshman will win the job, Bycznski could be in the mix.
Also, the Bulls could look for a junior college or graduate transfer to come in and complete or man the position for one year.
Whoever wins the job will have a veteran offensive line that returns four starters, and three experienced running backs. There will be holes to fill at receiver, with starters Johnson and George Rushing gone to graduation. It also looks like K.J. Osborn may transfer. So a young receiver corp will likely get some new names to join returners Antonio Nunn and Charlie Jones.
I have faith in Leipold and his coaching staff that they have recruited and identified the next era of Bulls to keep the winning ways alive. Losing players is part of college football. It’s how you replace them that determines consistency. This staff has showed that they can do that, even if it means replacing one of the alltime greats.