Posted: Thursday April 20, 2006 12:37PM; Updated: Thursday April 20, 2006 2:05PM
Turner Gill intently watches his players during Buffalo's spring practice.
Last July the university hired as its new athletic director Warde Manuel,who in 14 years as an associate AD at Michigan gained a reputation as a fund-raiser. In combination with drumming up more support for Buffalo athletics, he has targeted the school's inadequate facilities. The weight room was so small only half the football team could squeeze in at a time, but a booster-backed $500,000 annex is scheduled to go up this summer. Next for Manuel and Gill is raising money for an indoor practice facility.
If any of the Bulls remained skeptical of Gill after their first meeting, they seem to have been won over during spring practice. Fast-paced and intense from Day One, Gill's practices have started to produce the change in attitude he was hoping for. "We're running a West Coast offense, and they're throwing a lot," says senior tight end Chad Upshaw, a cousin of NFL Players Association head Gene Upshaw. "All the skill players are pretty excited. There's a new energy to the team."
Last year Buffalo ranked 116th in scoring and 112th in total offense among 117 I-A schools. Gill, who arrived with less than two months to recruit, signed 19 players, including quarterback Naaman Roosevelt (the top player in western New York out of St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute) and five offensive linemen, including 6-foot-6, 305-pound Brian Kelly (a nephew of former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, out of Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va.).
With a nonconference schedule that includes visits to Auburn, Boston College and Wisconsin, Gill is in for a tough fall. "We've got a ways to go," he says, "but everybody's very upbeat. That's the first thing I wanted to accomplish."