Preview 2007 - Defense
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What you need to know:
Last year was a big transition year
with several young players getting time as the scheme was
switched from a 4-2-5 to a 4-3. Size is sacrificed for speed
almost everyone, but there are big backups at tackle. Now the
production against the run has to be better. Getting into the
backfield won't be an issue as UB could be among the MAC's
leaders in sacks and tackles for loss led by senior Trevor Scott
on the end. The secondary has the potential to be far better if
safeties Kareem Byrom and Mike Newton, along with rising corner
Kendric Hawkins, can spend all their time trying to make plays
against the pass instead of always having to deal with the run.
Ollice Ervin, 96
Trevor Scott, 9
Interceptions: Mike Newton, 5
Star of the defense: Senior DE Trevor Scott
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior LB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Dane Robinson
Best pro prospect: Sophomore CB Kendric Hawkins
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Scott, 2) LB Ollice
Ervin, 3) FS Kareem Byrom
Strength of the defense: Experience, pass rush
Weakness of the defense:
Linebacker, size in the front seven
Projected Starters: Former tight end Trevor
Scott stepped in and immediately became the team's sackmaster
cranking out nine along with 13.5 tackles for loss and 45 total stops.
The senior is an athletic 6-5 and 258 pounds and should only be better
with all the returning experience around him to take some of the
pressure off. When he gets a step on a tackle, he's making a play in the
On the other side will be junior Chris Callahan, a
reserve last season making 13 tackles and a sack as a linebacker. He'll
move to the defensive line to try to bring some speed and quickness to
the defensive front. He won't do much against the run, but he should be
able to get into the backfield.
The tackles have to be better against the run, but that could be a
problem with little size among the starters. 6-6, 262-pound senior
James Judges can play either inside or out finishing with 27 tackles
and three sacks after getting his weight back on following a bout with
mono two years ago. The former tight end's job will be to use his
quickness to be an active defender at tackle and get into the backfield.
6-2, 267-pound Dane Robinson is more of an end playing tackle
making 13 tackles and two sacks last year. If he's not applying
pressure, he's not going to be effective on the inside.
Projected Top Reserves: With the tackles so light,
it'll be up to 290-pound sophomore Anel Montanez and 288-pound
junior Ronald Hilaire to provide more bulk in the middle. Staying
in shape is the key for Hilaire, who slimmed down a bit last season and
made 20 tackles getting the start in eight games. Montanez will play
behind Robinson after making nine stops as a reserve.
At one end, 6-5,
259-pound sophomore Bruno Lapointe is a tremendous athlete who
has yet to see any playing time. He'll back up Scott as a pure pass
Sophomore Tom Drewes and senior Andre Smith will
combine to play behind Callahan. Smith hasn't been able to stay healthy
struggling through a leg problem that cost him almost a year and a half.
Watch Out For ... the pass rush to be among the best
in the MAC. All four spots on the front line can move with Scott on the
way to becoming an All-MAC star. The line will sacrifice size to make
Quickness. Basically, the line has four ends manning the front
line. Against the teams that don't run with much power, they'll be in a
little bit of trouble.
Weakness: Size. Teams with big, talented offensive lines should
be able to power away at will. If Hilaire and Montanez aren't players,
there will be big problems.
Outlook: With so much experience returning, the
production should be better. UB will be one of the MAC's leaders in
tackles for loss and sacks, but it'll be at the expense of the run
defense. The problem with the Bulls in the past was that they couldn't
do anything well, and now they can do one thing really, really well. Now
they need to be more well-rounded.
Projected Starters: Senior Ollice Ervin was
fantastic last season finishing second on the team with 96 tackles, 1.5
sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss, and now he'll have to be even better as
the only returning starter. He's a do-it-all defender with the speed to
keep shining on the outside, and the toughness and size at 232 pounds to
play in the middle if needed.
Taking over on the inside will be junior
Jamal Chisam, a former safety who's only 5-11 and 208 pounds, but
is tough. He'll have to prove he can hold up on a regular basis after
making just one tackle.
On the outside, senior Larry Hutchinson
spent time last season alternating between being a backup lineman and
outside linebacker. He's only 212 pounds, but he's tough and speedy.
Projected Top Reserves: At 6-1 and 244 pounds,
senior Todd Robertson is a far bigger option on the inside behind
Chisam. While not nearly as fast, he has experience making ten tackles.
He'll spend most of his time on special teams along with being the
team's biggest linebacker.
Former JUCO transfer David Hubbard is
purely a backup on the outside playing behind Ervin after making 11
tackles in five games.
JUCO transfer Adekunle Akingba was a star
for Nassau CC over the last two years. With tremendous athleticism,
he'll play an immediate role on the outside.
Watch Out For ... the corps to desperately miss Jeff
Bublavi and Ramon Guzman. They might not have been the best defenders
around, but they made a whole bunch of plays cleaning things up behind a
porous offensive line.
Ervin. A bit overshadowed last season, now
he'll be the star of the linebacking corps and he should crank out an
All-MAC caliber season. He'll be all over the field making plays.
Weakness: Experience. There's no sure thing other than Ervin to
rely on. Chisam and Hutchinson can run, but can they hold up for a full
season against the pounding running teams? That remains to be seen.
Outlook: By design, this is a smallish corps with
three safeties manning the spots. They can all run and will all be all
over the field, but can they make plays at the point of attack and make
the run defense better? Ervin will do his part; it'll take a good
rotation at the other two spots for the defense to make a big
Projected Starters: The safeties return, and now
they have to use their experience to start making more plays. Sophomore
Mike Newton is back at strong safety after making 60 tackles and
leading the team with five interceptions. While he's not all that big at
5-10 and 195 pounds, he's fast. The former cornerback used his
athleticism to make up for several mistakes, and now that he knows what
he's doing, he should be more consistent against the run and should be
in better position against the pass.
Senior Kareem Byrom has the
best overall skills on the UB defense. He has range, big hitting
ability, and great tackling skills with 173 stops over the last two
seasons. Now he has to do more when the ball is in the air after
spending all his time trying to help out against the run. How tough is
he? Despite only being 5-10 and 200 pounds, he played linebacker times
The team's rising new star is sophomore Kendric Hawkins, who
plays like a safety at corner finishing fourth on the team with 70
tackles to go along with eight tackles for loss, two interceptions and
five broken up passes. While he had several problems in pass coverage as
a freshman, he has the skills to become a top cover-corner for the next
Junior Andre Evans has a little bit of experience
starting the final three games of last season making nine tackles. While
he's not Hawkins as a football player, he has the speed to stay with any
receiver in the MAC and should be a great leader.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Sherrod Lott
will be one of the team's top reserves if he doesn't beat out Evans
for a starting corner job after making 33 tackles and 2.5 tackles for
loss. While he didn't do anything against the pass, that should change
now that he has his freshman year behind him.
Junior corner Keon
Perry made eight stops in ten games. He has great quickness, but he
has to prove he can cover someone one on one.
Free safety Chris Storr
saw a little bit of work making ten tackles, and now will be a key
reserve behind Byrom and could see time in nickel situations.
Watch Out For ... the overall production to be
better. The team had to fight through the inexperience and youth of last
year, and now there's enough experience to be better after finishing
117th in the nation in pass efficiency defense.
Potential. Hawkins, Byrom and Newton have
the potential to form one of the league's best trios of defensive backs,
while Evans has enough athleticism to make some big plays here and
Weakness: Playmaking corners against the pass ... maybe.
Hawkins, Evans and Lott can tackle, but can they pick off passes? Five
of the team's ten picks came from Newton, and now someone has to show
they can come up with a few interceptions.
Outlook: There's enough experience to be far
better, but it still might be another year until all the young players
grow into their potential. As long as teams continue to run the ball at
will, the overall yardage numbers will be fine. Making more plays on
short to midrange throws will be the key.
Projected Starters: The return game should be
fantastic with the return of quarterback/receiver Naaman Roosevelt,
who averaged 13.1 yards per return on 11 punt returns and an impressive
25.9 yards per kickoff return. Now the kicking game has to be as good.
Gone is Adam Tanalski, who took over and hit six of seven field goal
attempts, and in comes junior Gerry McGroarty, who hit two of six
field goals in 2005. He has a big leg, but he has to prove he can be
Senior punter Ben Woods struggled averaging just 38
yards per kick putting 13 inside the 20. With plenty of chances to kick
over the last two seasons hitting 147 punts, but he hasn't aired many
out. He has enough of a leg to handle kickoffs and be solid, but he has
little blast on his punts.
Watch Out For ... the coaching staff to be in a bit
of a quandary when it comes to Roosevelt. Even if the sophomore doesn't
win the starting quarterback job, he still might be too valuable to risk
using as a kick returner with no number three quarterback option to go
to. On the flip side, Roosevelt is the team's most explosive player and
one of the nation's best all-around return men.
Roosevelt. For an offense that struggles as much as Buffalo's does,
getting good field position is a must, which is why ...
Weakness: ... the punting has to be better. Woods gets used far
too often to not be more of a weapon. He has to do a better job of
pinning teams deep, and he has to bail the team out of more jams with a
Outlook: The kicking game has to be better than it
appears. Everyone will be holding their collective breath every time
McGroarty kicks until he proves he can be consistent. You know what
you're getting with Woods, and if Roosevelt isn't the main man, the
coaching staff will have to scramble to find returners. Kade Pittman
will likely get work on kickoff returns. The coverage units could stand
to be better.