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Top 70 MAC Football Players: #48 Ron Willoughby (WR- Buffalo Bulls)

Kevin Hoffman (USA TODAY Sports)

Buffalo's transition from 2013 to 2014 understandably focused on the defense. There was Khalil Mack, of course, but UB also lost Colby Way, Najja Johnson, and Okoye Houston to graduation.

While Anthone Taylor returned to fill Branden Oliver's shoes, Jeff Quinn found himself with an equally big hole on the edges of his offense: From 2013 to 2014 UB's receiving corps lost 17 touchdowns and 119 receptions with the graduations of Alex Neutz and Fred Lee. Throw in Oliver's 25 catches, and Joe Licata was set to work with an entirely new cast in his junior season.

By midway through the season, junior Ron Willoughby and senior Devon Hughes had established themselves as the clear one-two in the Buffalo arsenal, and despite similar numbers over the final ten games of the year, Willoughby got all the attention after a breakout performance in the season opener against Duquesne.

As the media scrambled to learn more about the receiver who had just three career receptions entering the season, Licata went to the junior early and often, targeting Willoughby 15 times in the game, including on four of his final five passes, to help UB rallied from a surprising 28-24 fourth-quarter deficit to a 38-28 victory on the strength of two scores from the wide receiver in the final ten minutes.

Willoughby would not replicate his 10-catch, 132-yard performance again in 2014, but the storyline was set and he consistently put up numbers even as the UB offense flagged over the course of the season and even within games. Only Baylor and a cancelled game held him without multiple receptions, and only Ohio of UB's final five opponents held him under 90 yards. He'd finish the season eighth in the conference in yards/game.

At 6'4", Willoughby's size makes him an ideal target for Joe Licata's sometimes-looping deep balls; 13 of his 50 catches and three of his 9 touchdowns in 2014 went for 20 or more yards:

Devon Hughes has now graduated, Boise Ross' midseason move to the defensive backfield is now permanent, and Willoughby is without question the first option among the the Buffalo receiving corps. Marcus McGillthe previously-highlighted Devin Campbell, and a handful of underclassmen are jockeying to fill out the two-deep, and new coach Lance Leipold is likely to use his tight ends more than the 25 receptions they managed in 2014.

Barring a huge game in the season-opener against Albany, the senior won't be able to rack up four touchdowns against FCS competition this year, but he also won't have to split attention with Hughes. Though he never replicated that opening performance against Duquesne, Willoughby showed strong chemistry with Joe Licata throughout the season and will offer the quarterback the year-to-year consistency he didn't enjoy between his sophomore and junior years.

A Third-Team All MAC selection in 2014, Willoughby cracked the Second Team in Phil Steele's preseason rankings. Benefiting both as the clear top dog of the receiving corps and from an attack that returns experienced talent at every skill position, Willoughby should carry the receiving banner as one the diverse UB offense's top threats in 2015.