2011 Buffalo Preview – Defense
Buffalo DE Steven Means
Buffalo DE Steven Means
Posted May 11, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Buffalo Bulls Defense

Buffalo Bulls

Preview 2011 - Defense

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What You Need To Know: The UB 3-4 defense turned in a strong season despite getting little help from the offense. The Bulls finished 32nd in the nation in total defense thanks to a loaded secondary, but the team needs to replace all four defensive backs from a strong pass defense. The defensive front seven should be great on the outside with Khalil Mack one of the league's best all-around players and Jaleel Verser a star if he can stay healthy. The front three won't get to the quarterback, except when Steven Means is getting the job done at one end, but it should be good against the run.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Khalil Mack, 68
Sacks: Khalil Mack, Steven Means, 4.5
Interceptions: Gordon DuBois, Steven Means, 1

Star of the defense: Sophomore LB Khalil Mack
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore CB Carlos Lammons
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore FS Okoye Houston
Best pro prospect: Mack
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Mack, 2) DE Steven Means, 3) LB Jaleel Verser
Strength of the defense: Outside Linebacker, Defensive Line
Weakness of the defense: Secondary Experience, Pass Rush

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: The defensive front struggled a bit last year in the 3-4 with little pass rush, but the run defense was decent and there were enough plays made behind the line to get by.

The lone returning starter up front is a good one. Junior Steven Means might not be built for the 3-4 as an end, but the 6-3, 246-pound veteran held up well and has turned into a dangerous pass rusher. He came to UB like a beefed up safety, and while he bulked up, he moves like a defensive back with 50 tackles last year along with 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. A big-time athlete, he's okay against the run, but his job is to get behind the line.

Working at the other end spot will be either senior Gordon DuBois or sophomore Colby Way . The 6-4, 263-pound Way comes from State College in the shadow of Penn State, and he has the type of work ethic that should make him a dangerous all-around defender after making nine tackles as a true freshman. The 6-2, 270-pound DuBois is built like a tackle and is great for the 3-4. He only came up with a half a sack and he made just seven tackles, but he came up with an interception for a score against Northern Illinois.

Manning the nose should be Richie Smith , a 6-3, 289-pound veteran who made 24 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss as he takes over for Anel Montanez. Smith can work as a defensive end if needed, but he'll bring more size to the middle for Montanez. He would've been at a bigger name school if he didn't suffer a major leg injury late in his high school career.

Working behind Smith at times on the inside, but with the quickness to play on the outside, will be JUCO transfer Wyatt Cahill , a 6-3, 261-pounder who started out his career at Army before getting to UB through Scottsdale Community College. Also looking to make a big impact is 6-4, 264-pound redshirt freshman Dalton Barksdale , brother of former LSU star, Joseph Barksdale. Dalton is a phenomenal athlete who'll be expected to get to the quarterback on a regular basis.

Watch Out For … Way. The potential is there for him to become a breakout performer with the right energy and the right size to come up with plenty of big stats on sheer want-to. He's not Means, but he should flourish in the rotation.
Strength: Size. There might not be a 300-pound brick wall on the nose, but there's decent size for the 3-4, outside of Means, and the line should be able to hold up well against the run.
Weakness: Sacks. Means is a playmaker, but if the back eight isn't getting to the quarterback, there won't be any semblance of a pass rush. The Bulls came up with a mere 16 sacks last year.
Outlook: The Bull defensive line has been quietly effective over the last few seasons, and while it won't hit the quarterback when Means isn't getting the job done, it'll be effective against the mediocre MAC running games and should be decent enough to let the linebacking corps clean everything up.
Unit Rating: 4.5


State of the Unit: One of the team's most effective areas, the linebacking corps is going to be turned loose in the 3-4 with good speed on the outside and decent toughness on the inside. Second-leading tackler Justin Winters is gone from the inside and fourth-leading stopper Raphael Akobundu is gone, but there are good prospects waiting to fill in.

6-3, 241-pound sophomore Khalil Mack was one of the stars of the defensive front seven working like a pass rushing defensive end at times from his outside linebacker spot. The star recruit of two years ago out of Florida flew all over the field finishing third on the team with 68 tackles while tying for the team lead with 4.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. He's the hybrid for the defense who'll be used in a variety of ways.

Working at the other outside spot will be junior Jaleel Verser , a 6-6, 242-pounder with a quick first step and excellent size. He had to get past a knee injury that gave him problems a few years ago and an ankle injury that limited him to seven games with just 14 tackles with a sack. When he's right, he's a major playmaking prospect who should be a big factor if he can stay on the field.

Taking over on the inside will by senior Fred Branch and, likely, Scott Pettigrew , a 6-1, 222-pound junior who's coming off a knee injury. Pettigrew got hurt last offseason after being one of the main men for the run defense making 55 tackles with three fumble recoveries two years ago. The 6-2, 227-pound Branch isn't all that big, but he has some experience making 20 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss. Also in the equation is 6-2, 226-pound junior Mark Richardson , who made nine tackles and is looking for more time to show what he can do.

Mack and Verser need to be the stars, but seniors John Copeland and John Syty are veterans who know what they're doing. The 6-2, 214-pound Copeland has been a spot starter who got the call late last year and finished with 28 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss. Syty is a 6-3, 224-pound former walk-on who has been a key special teamer and top reserve making 17 tackles. However, he doesn't get into the backfield on a regular basis.

Watch Out For … Verser. Mack is the star of the linebacking corps, but Verser has the size/speed/freakish athleticism to become a star if, and it has been a big if, he can stay healthy and can keep the foot on the gas for a full sixty minutes.
Strength: Outside options. Mack needs to be accounted for on every play, while Verser, Copeland and Syty are nice players to count on to make plenty of big plays.
Weakness: Reliable inside defenders. Branch is fine, but he's not a special player, while Pettigrew is trying to come back healthy after his big knee injury. The stats will be there and they should be fine with things funneled to them, but the playmakers are on the outside.
Outlook: UB has done a good job of bringing in decent linebacker prospects, and if everyone can stay and get healthy, this should be a whale of a corps. Mack and Verser should be terrors on the outside, but the key to the corps could be the health of Pettigrew, who could be fantastic if he gets through a full 12 games.
Unit Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

State of the Unit: And here's the problem. The defensive front will be solid and the linebacking corps has the potential to be excellent, but the secondary has to replace all four starters including an all-timer of a safety in Davonte Shannon, fellow safety Domonic Cook, and NFL-caliber corner Josh Thomas. Even with a lack of a pass rush to help out, the Bulls still finished 18th in the nation in pass defense and 42nd in pass efficiency D.

So who gets to replace Shannon at free safety? While Okoye Houston isn't going to be Shannon, but the 6-0, 195-pound sophomore has the potential to become a major-league playmaker with tremendous range and good tackling skills. He made 15 tackles in limited action, and he needs to quickly become a steady factor, while junior Isaac Baugh is a thick 6-0, 203-pound hitter who should man the strong safety spot. A star special teamer, he only made four tackles, but he should be ready to produce now that the job is his … for now.

Also in the hunt for time at safety is senior Alan Hayes , a 5-11, 205-pound speedster who made three tackles in a limited role, while 6-1, 215-pound junior Ray Anthony Long is a big thumper who'll push for time at strong safety and can play a variety of roles after making 11 stops.

The safety situation will work itself out, but the corner jobs should be solid with sophomore Carlos Lammons ready to shine after making 19 tackles as a backup behind Sherrod Lott, while sophomore Romel Dismuke should be set to shine immediately. The 5-9, 188-pound Dismuke is a transfer from Cincinnati with tremendous quickness and good playmaking potential, while Lammons hits like a safety and isn't going to be afraid to make things happen against the run.

Coming over from receiver is 6-2, 177-pound sophomore Adam Redden , a special teamer so far with excellent athleticism and interesting size for a corner. He'll battle with senior Jon Petit , who made four tackles as a reserve, for playing time in the rotation.

Watch Out For … Houston. Shannon was special and Cook was a terrific safety, and Houston should be the next in line. He has all the skills and all the tools to be an all-star.
Strength: Speed and quickness. The coaching staffs past and present did a good job of bringing in athletes, and it'll show with all four spots being able to move.
Weakness: Experience. The Bulls were loaded last year with one of the better MAC secondaries in recent history. There are good prospects ready to step in, but it's asking a lot to replace a foursome like UB had last year.
Outlook: The secondary will be fine. It's not going to be as good as it was last year, and it needs to make more picks on the corner, but in time, this group will be alright. There will be plenty of mistakes, but there's too much speed and athleticism to not be solid.
Unit Rating: 5

Special Teams

State of the Unit: The Bulls got a good year from PK A.J. Principe, the school's all-time leading scorer, who hit 7-of-11 field goals, and now has to hope for senior Peter Fardon , a backup punter, to become a solid placekicker. The Australian who played Australian Rules Football has a big leg, but he has to be consistent.

Fardon averaged 34.1 yards per punt, but he was able to put six of his 22 inside the 20 when he got his chances. Senior Jacob Schum was okay, putting 13 of his 58 kicks inside the 20 with 13 fair catches, but he only averaged 38.5 yards per boot. UB finished 111th in the nation in punting netting 33.22 yards per try.

WR Terrell Jackson is one of the nation's top punt returners, averaging 16.7 yards per try, but he has to do more on kickoff returns averaging just 19.6 yards per try. Jeffvon Gill will get a few chances to take over the return duties.

Watch Out For … Fardon as a place kicker. The offense is soft enough that the Bulls will need all the points they can get, and Fardon, or an untested option, has to be reliable.
Strength: Jackson. Field position is everything for a struggling attack, and Jackson has home run hitting ability to make things happen every time he's touching the ball.
Weakness: Kickoff coverage and punting. The Bulls have been awful at trying to come up with big boots, and the coverage team can't be blamed. The kickoff coverage team allowed 24.7 yards per try.
Outlook: Outside of Jackson as a punt returner, the Bulls have a lot of work to do to be even average. The team isn't good enough to not be better on special teams, and there will be plenty of focus on the kicking game all offseason.
Unit Rating: 4
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- 2011 Buffalo Defense | 2011 Buffalo Depth Chart
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