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2023 Buffalo Bulls Positional Previews: Offensive Line

All-MAC guard Gabe Wallace is back to headline a Buffalo offensive line which retains three starters from 2022.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 02 Wagner at Buffalo Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Buffalo has built an impressive offensive line pedigree through the years. In 2020, Buffalo was named one of 11 semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award, recognizing the nation’s top offensive line. This is an incredibly rare feat for a MAC program which has since to be replicated. But it was well-deserved considering the Bulls ranked third in the country in rushing offense and only yielded one sack throughout that entire pandemic-shortened season.

Fast-forward three years and an entire coaching regime later, and there is still plenty to like on Buffalo’s offensive line. The Bulls garnered two All-MAC selections in the trenches last year — left guard Gabe Wallace, who returns, and right tackle Desmond Bessent, who graduated from the program. Besides Bessent, the other notable departures primarily hail from the interior, as Buffalo lost starting center Jack Hasz to UNLV in the transfer portal and center/guard Nick Hartnett, who started three games in his final collegiate season of 2022.

Matt Stansfield returns for his third season as Buffalo’s offensive line coach, and he’ll operate with plenty of familiar pieces. Entering his third go-around as a full-time starter, Gabe Wallace is Buffalo’s most veteran lineman and has been present for all three bowl wins in Buffalo history. The 6’6”, 337 pound Canada native is among the best interior linemen in the conference, holding status as one of four returning guards who warranted an All-MAC selection in 2022.

Lining on the opposite side of Wallace is right guard Tyler Doty, who also remains on campus after starting the final 10 games last year. The Academic All-MAC selection was a breakout talent in 2022 — rapidly turning his first taste of on-field action into a full-fledged starting role.

That leaves one glaring vacancy on the interior. Luckily for Buffalo, the team has nine games of FBS starting experience at center on the roster. Sidney Walker transferred over from UConn prior to the kickoff of 2022, but he suffered a season-ending injury which prevented participation. Walker was a former JUCO star before arriving at UConn, and he could revert to a No. 1 center role at his new home in Buffalo.

Another option Buffalo has at its disposal is Division II transfer Nick Beans. Beans hails from Notre Dame College located in South Euclid, OH. In three years as a starter there, he qualified for first team all-conference honors on three occasions.

Dom Polizzi has been with the program since 2019 and the former walk-on was finally upgraded to a scholarship player last season. Formerly a defensive tackle, Polizzi earned his first collegiate start at guard last year, and throughout the season, was occasionally inserted to register snaps with the offense. He may compete for the starting gig at center (or guard, if Wallace or Doty shift positions), but viewers should become accustomed to seeing him rotate onto the field quite frequently in 2023.

One of the tackle spots will be occupied by Isaiah Wright, who manned the left tackle role for all 13 games last year. The former Rutgers transfer will continue protecting the blindside of fellow Rutgers transfer Cole Snyder at quarterback, and he’ll be a prime contender to elevate to All-MAC status in 2023 as the Bulls’ most experienced tackle — considering at least one Buffalo offensive tackle has qualified for the honor every year since 2018.

The right tackle spot opens up following Bessent’s expiration of eligibility. Caelan Shepard entered the rotation in 2022 after primarily serving on special teams in the two years prior and could fill that void this fall.

Buffalo lured in several transfers, primarily from the JUCO level, many of which are expected to bolster depth behind the starters.

Trevor Brock was a First Team All-American at Iowa Western Community College, while Jamarr Davis was an All-Region selection at Northwest Mississippi Community College. Alex Heininger also arrives as an intra-conference transfer, arriving from Central Michigan after redshirting his freshman campaign last fall. To round out the newcomers, Buffalo landed James Carrington from Allegheny College of Division III and Staten Island native Henry Tabansi is listed as the only true freshman lineman on the roster.

The aforementioned transfers should occupy most of the remaining spots on the two-deep. But looking at the rest of the returning pieces from last year, true sophomore Matt Pajuste is a prime candidate poised for an expanded role, possibly as a reserve on offense or a mainstay on special teams.

When assembling all the pieces together, a projected starting offensive line in Buffalo could look like the following, from left to right: Wright, Wallace, Walker, Doty, and Shepard.