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.
Kareem Byrom, 85
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:
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
Linebacker Rating: 4.5
- 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
- Jeff Bublavi, Sr. - 45 tackles, 1 sack, 4 TFL, 2 broken up
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.
- 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
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
- 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
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.
- CB Gerald Jackson, Soph. - 14 tackles, 4 broken up
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
- 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.
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
- 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.