For the University at Buffalo to be a successful football program, it’s crucial for them to recruit well locally.
While not always the case, local high school football in Western New York is better than ever before, producing quality college recruits left and right.
In the past decade, locals have gone to play for schools such as Ohio State, Penn State, Clemson, Syracuse, Buffalo, and so forth.
A few of the many locals to stand out include Doug Worthington, Mike Williams, Naaman Roosevelt, and James Starks, all of whom went to play in the NFL
The last two, Roosevelt and Starks both made a tremendous impact at UB, leading the Bulls to their first MAC Championship in 2008.
Right now, the Bulls are going through another period in which a group of Buffalo locals is leading the way.
While plenty of New York natives play for the Bulls, a group led by Joe Licata, Alex Neutz, and Adam Redden leads the way for UB heading into this year.
Neutz, the most established of the three was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list as one of the top returning wide receivers in the country.
In 2012, the Grand Island native totaled 65 receptions for 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He’s the Bulls best receiver since Naaman Roosevelt but wasn’t highly regarded out of high school.
A few schools in Ohio as well as Albany and some other FCS schools in the northeast gave Neutz scholarship offers but Buffalo was ultimately the place for him.
“You could go away and play away from home but I don’t think it’s the same emotion.” Neutz said, “I know so many people in the area and so many of them come to support me and it’s just nice to give back to them.”
Staying close to home was also very important to Bulls sophomore quarterback Joe Licata, a Williamsville native.
“I wanted to stay local.” Licata said “I’m really close to my family, being in front of them was a huge decision for me.”
Licata is entering his first season as the established starting quarterback of the Bulls.
After losing last year’s quarterback competition with Alex Zordich coming out of fall camp, Licata took over towards the end of the season, going 3-1 in four starts with the Bulls.
A highly touted 3-star recruit out of high school, Licata dreamed of playing at UB as a kid.
“I really always wanted to come to UB.” Licata said “I always dreamed of playing here, either basketball or football and I’m lucky enough to be able to play football for my hometown team with Buffalo on my chest.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Adam Redden stands out, coming out of St. Francis High School.
A projected starter, Redden has made an impact with the Bulls on both defense and special teams, recording 27 tackles and blocking two kicks in 2012.
For Redden, staying at home was a bonus in addition to going to the best school for him.
“It came down to basically academics and scholarships. Being local is definitely a plus but you have to think about the future school wise.” Redden said.
In addition to the three players above, UB has plenty of other impact locals on their team including Maryvale grad Andre Davis who has started 24 consecutive games for the Bulls offensive line.
Jeff Quinn has done a solid job of bringing in good local talent to UB and it’s one of the reasons why the Bulls are slowly starting to turnaround their program.
Licata has the potential to become one of the best quarterbacks in UB history while both Neutz and Redden have proved their ability on the field.
It’s the small perks of being home that makes local players enjoy the experience.
For Neutz, it’s being close to his girlfriend.
“My girlfriend is here so I wanted to stay close to her and my family so that was a huge factor in all that.”
For Licata, it was staying close to his family.
“I’m really close to my family, being in front of them was a huge decision for me”
And for Redden, it was about the complete package.
“It was the best choice for me and I also get to stay home so it’s a win-win”
For the Bulls to be successful in 2013, a lot of the team’s hopes are going to fall on this talented trio of Buffalo area locals.
The Bulls open their season August 31st when they hit the road to Columbus to take on #2 Ohio State.