With Buffalo at 5-1 right now, Lance Leipold may not be an unknown Group of 5 head coach much longer.
Lane Kiffin. Bryan Harsin. Neal Brown. Scott Satterfield. Jason Candle. Blake Anderson. These are the names that immediately come out when Group of 5 head coaches in line for a job in a Power 5 conference are mentioned, and rightfully so. But what Lance Leipold is doing at Buffalo is going largely unnoticed.
With Saturday’s 34-24 win over Central Michigan, spurred by 307 rushing yards and two backs who went over 100 (Kevin Marks and Jarret Patterson), the Bulls moved to 5-1 on the season. That’s the best start in school history, surpassing a 4-1-1 start in 1963 and 4-2 starts in 1962 and 2013.
Buffalo has popped up very occasionally, with eight-wins seasons under Turner Gill (2008) and Jeff Quinn (2013). Leipold went 5-7 in his first season (2015), then down to 2-10 in 2016 before a surprising 6-6 campaign last year that included a win over Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic squad.
Leipold came to Buffalo off some great success at Wisconsin-Whitewater. Over his eight seasons (2007-2014) as head coach, the Warhawks went 109-6 with five undefeated seasons and six Division III titles.
In junior quarterback Tyree Jackson and senior wide receiver Anthony Johnson, Buffalo has two legit NFL prospects on the offensive side of the ball. Senior linebacker Khalil Hodge is probably going to be drafted next April too. His predecessor Quinn surely had some hand in recruiting Johnson and Hodge, but Leipold gets credit for keeping those guys around as he took over and whatever role he played in getting Jackson.
As they progress through the rest of MAC play this year, the Bulls should be favored in five of their final six games. A road trip to Toledo on Oct. 20 will be a challenge, and the regular season will close with back-to-back road games against Ohio and Bowling Green. A 9 or 10-win season is firmly in play, which will remove any drama attached to going to a bowl after Buffalo earned eligibility but were not picked for the postseason last year.
Leipold will probably start to be asked about his desire to take the next step in his coaching career. The standard line about building something at Buffalo will surely follow, but that won’t stop Power 5 schools from calling if the Bulls take care of business as expected from here on out.