Buffalo Preview 2006 - Defense

Posted Aug 7, 2006

Buffalo Bulls Preview 2006 - Buffalo Bull Defense

What you need to know ... The old 4-2-5 alignment has been scrapped for a true 4-3 under defensive coordinator Jimmy Williams. That's a good thing considering the returning production at linebacker with Ramon Guzman and Jeff Bublavi leading a group that should be one of the team's strengths by season's end. The secondary will be fine once the new corners get their feet wet with safeties Kareem Byrom and Jesse Imes providing the help early on. The line has to find a consistent pass rusher to replace Aaron Sanders.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Kareem Byrom, 85
Sacks: Ramon Guzman, 2.5
Interceptions: Kareem Byrom, 3

Star of the defense: Junior SS Kareem Byrom
Player that has to step up and become a star: Redshirt freshman CB Mike Newton
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DE Trevor Scott
Best pro prospect: Junior DE Andrae Smith
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Byrom, 2) LB Ramon Guzman, 3)FS Jesse Imes
Strength of the defense: Safety
Weakness of the defense:
Pass rush

Defensive Line
The line will be a work in progress with the coaching staff still waiting to see what ends Andrae Smith and James Judges can do when they're at full strength. In the meantime, tight end Trevor Scott and young pass rushing prospect Dane Robinson saw plenty of work this spring. The tackles, outside of 6-4 Marck Abraham, are short and big. The entire group needs to do a better job of getting into the backfield after helping to generate a mere 18 sacks and loses top sacker Aaron Sanders.
The key to the unit: Find a way to consistently get into the backfield while being far more productive against the run. In other words, be better in all phases.

Defensive Line Rating: 4.5

Projected Starters
- DE Dane Robinson, RFr.
Robinson moved up the depth chart pushing his way past Andre Smith, for now, by showing good quickness and pass rushing potential and thanks to Smith's injury. He's one of the team's biggest ends at 258 pounds with enough potential to grow into the starting job.

- DT Marck Abraham, Jr. - 10 tackles
He bulked up to 280 pounds and now needs to be one of the consistent rocks on the inside. He has more quickness than his stats show and the size to quickly improve the team's run defense now that he's the full-time starter.

- DT Labinot Hakanjin, Jr.
A bowling ball in the middle, the former JUCO transfer sat out last season and has two years remaining. He's 6-0 and 280 pounds with the quickness to become a strong interior pass rusher.

- DE Trevor Scott. Jr.
The former tight end moves over to the defensive side after catching eight passes for 55 yards. He's an athletic 6-5 and 254 pounds with surprising speed. He's going to need time to figure out what he's doing, but he could grow into a surprising replacement for all-star sack man Aaron Sanders.

Top Backups
- DE Andrae Smith, Jr. - 13 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL
The new coaching staff is looking for Smith to become a consistent pass rusher and to use his experience to be one of the leaders of the line. He will be after he returns from a leg injury so he can show off what he can do. He has room in his 6-4 frame to get even bigger than his current 252 pounds.
- DT Ron Hilaire, Soph. - 14 tackles
A big body on the inside, Hilaire turned in a decent freshman season as a key reserve. He's in better shape this year at 293 pounds pushing for time behind Marck Abraham.
- DE James Judges, Jr. - 5 tackles, 1 sack
The new coaching staff is still looking to see what he can do at full strength. The 6-6, 247-pound former tight end tried to get over a bout with mono and won't be able to push for the starting job until summer practice.

The move to the 4-3 plays into one of the team's strengths with several good linebacker options and the potential to form a good rotation. Ramon Guzman is a good outside linebacker to build around, while Jeff Bublavi is experienced enough to hold down a job until former safety Jamal Chisam appears ready. Ollice Ervin and true freshman Tom Dewes should be fine in the middle as the season goes on.
The key to the unit: Hold up against the run and quickly figure out who can make the most big plays to help out Ramon Guzman.
Linebacker Rating: 4.5

Projected Starters
- Ramon Guzman, Sr. - 51 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 6 TFL, 1 interception, 4 broken up passes
The former strong safety turned into one of the team's best defenders using his speed and range to do a little of everything on the outside. He's a good-hitting 6-2 and 233 pounds and should be one of the leaders of the defense in several categories.

- Ollice Ervin, Jr. - 17 tackles
A decent reserve over the last two seasons, the 230-pound junior will get the first look in the middle. He's a fast 230 pounds with the potential and experience to quickly grow into one of the team's top tacklers.

- Jeff Bublavi, Sr. - 45 tackles, 1 sack, 4 TFL, 2 broken up passes
The former walk-on might be limited, but he makes plays with 107 tackles over the last two seasons. He's only 5-10 and 194 pounds using his toughness to overcome his size on the outside. He has enough starting experience to now be one of the defense's most consistent tacklers.

Top Backups
- Chris Callahan, Soph. - 4 tackles
A special teamer with a great motor, the 238-pound sophomore will see a little bit of time behind Ramon Guzman on the outside. He can step in on the other side when more bulk is needed against the run.
- Jamal Chisam, Soph.
Back after missing all of last year with an injury, the safety will bring his impressive speed to the outside. He'll be better against the pass than Jeff Bublavi with far more athleticism and a little more size.
- Tom Dewes, Fr.
The true freshman came to school early and looks like a potential starter. At 236 pounds he's a bigger option on the inside than Ollice Ervin with far bigger upside. He has the potential to be a fantastic pass rusher.

Defensive Backs
The secondary finished ninth in the nation allowing just 174 yards per game. It got dinked and dunked on a bit and the stats are a bit misleading since everyone spent so much time running the ball, but it was a strong group in the old 4-2-5 alignment. Now the defense is playing a 4-3 and star corner Gemara Williams is gone, so it'll be up to a pair of redshirt freshmen, Kendric Hawkins and Mike Newton, to shine right away at corner with Gerald Jackson likely to push hard for his old starting spot. The safeties are small, but experienced with Kareem Byrom and Jesse Imes each possible All-MAC performers if the make a few more big plays.
The key to the unit: Hope for the corners to pick off more passes and to hold up under the pressure of starting from scratch.
Secondary Rating: 5

Projected Starters
- CB Kendric Hawkins, RFr.
Hawkins will battle with Gerald Jackson all season long for a starting job. He's a decent sized corner at 5-10 and 181 pounds with good tackling ability. He showed good flashes this spring of becoming a big-time playmaker, but he's still a bit raw.

- SS Kareem Byrom, Jr. - 85 tackles, 3 interceptions, 2 broken up passes, 1.5 TFL
The team's leader in both tackles and interceptions will be the leader of the back seven. He missed all of 2004 with academic problems before returning last season to be a big hitter even though he's only 5-11 and 180 pounds. His range is limitless and can play free safety if needed.

- FS Jesse Imes, Jr. - 51 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 broken up pass
Used as part defensive back and part safety in the old 4-2-5 mix, finished fourth on the team in tackles even though he missed two games. He can play either safety position, and now he has to show he can make more big plays against the pass.

- CB Mike Newton, RFr.
Newton hit the weights hard in his freshman season bulking up 20 pounds to a strong 196 pounds. He'll have to try to fill the big shoes of Gemara Williams, who was a terror when the ball was in the air. Newton isn't nearly as fast as Williams, but he can move.

Top Backups
- CB Gerald Jackson, Soph. - 14 tackles, 4 broken up passes
Jackson got eight starts in his true freshman season and did a decent job when picked on. He didn't do much against the run and didn't come up with enough big plays, but he got his feet wet and will see plenty of time behind Kendric Hawkins if he doesn't end up getting the starting nod.
- SS Mario Henry, Soph. - 13 tackles, 1 broken up pass
The 202-pound true sophomore is one of the surest tacklers in the secondary and a much bigger option than Kareem Byrom. He has no chance of taking over the starting job unless Byrom moves to free safety, but he could see time in nickel packages.
- FS Ronald Sears, Jr. - 2 tackles, 1 interception
Purely a reserve so far, Sears will see time on special teams and be a key backup behind Jesse Imes at free safety.

Special Teams
The special teams were abysmal in all areas last season and has to be an immediate area of focus for the new coaching staff. The Bulls were last in the MAC in punting netting 30.5 yards per kick, hit four of 13 field goal attempts, and finished last in the MAC and near the bottom nationally in kickoff returns averaging 16.63 yards per try and punt returns averaging 4.04 yards per return. Ben Woods is back at punter and has to crank out more bombs. A consistent field goal kicker mist be found, and Gary Rice, Evan Wallace and James Starks has to provide some semblance of production to the return game.
The key to the unit: Be better at everything. That shouldn't be hard.
Special Teams Rating: 4

Projected Starters
- PK Garry McGroarty. Soph. - 2-5 FGs
McGroarty will battle with Adam Tanalski to take over the full-time kicking job after the Bulls struggled mightily last year hitting four of 13 field goals. McGroarty has a little bit of experience and showed off a decent leg nailing a 46-yard shot against Toledo, but he also missed three midrange kicks.
- P Ben Woods, Jr. - 80 punts, 2,967 yards, 37.1 yards per kick, 12 inside the 20
Woods got plenty of chances to show what he could do with a whopping 80 punts, but he struggled to get much blast on his kicks as Buffalo finished dead last in the MAC in net punting. He has a good leg; now he has to show it off.

Related Stories
Buffalo Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
Buffalo Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
Buffalo Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006

Add Topics to My HotList
Get free email alerts with news about your favorite topics. Click link to add to My HotList.
Football > Buffalo
[View My HotList]