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The UB Bulls are being built brick by brick

Leipold’s second recruiting class shows trends, building blocks for success


The Spectrum

I was curious to see what the 2016 Buffalo football team’s recruiting class would like.

While Lance Leipold was the head coach last year as the recruits honored their commitments and attend Buffalo, there was a perception that those players - a few of them - were holdovers from a class built by the previous regime. So, I wanted to see what Leipold and his staff would do, some of the players and states that would target, and which position would be addressed. 

As Leipold and his coaching staff closed out this recruiting class, there were several positive trends that should help the Bulls in the future.  

The first is that Leipold, for the second consecutive season, has snagged a big-time Georgia running back recruit and brought them to Buffalo. Last year it was Jonathan Hawkins, this year, it was Kameron Pickett. Just on watch a few of his highlight tapes, Pickett looks like a nice player, capable of making plays out the backfield as a runner and a receiver. While most of his tapes showed him running outside of the tackles, he wasn’t afraid of contact and broke several tackles.

With Jordan Johnson entering his senior season and Leipold liking to spread the wealth with his running backs, it wouldn’t shock me to see Hawkins get an increased role this year, leading up to a Hawkins and Pickett all-Georgia backfield for Buffalo in a couple years.

The second is the constant addition of talent on the offensive line, which is important for future success. The offensive line needs to keep your quarterback upright while your defensive line needs to be able to create pressure and bother the opposing quarterback. The Bulls coaching staff continued to add more big bodies, led by Kayode Awosika, an offensive tackle prospect from Minnesota.

I thought last year's offensive line rotation started out rough but turned it around midway through the season. You can argue their midseason bounceback was the reason the Bulls had a chance to make a bowl game. That offensive line kept quarterback Joe Licata upright and it allowed him to make some plays downfield, as well as spring holes for Anthone Taylor and Johnson.

The third, and probably the most interesting, is that Leipold and his coaching staff are aiming for bigger players in the secondary. Last year, the Bulls got Dev Lamour (six-foot-one) and Jeremiah Dadeboe (six-foot-two) in their recruiting class. This year, the Bulls acquired four secondary recruits - Roy Baker, Tyrone Hill, O.J. O’Neal, Tim Roberts - all at or above six feet tall.

The Mid-American Conference is known for its explosive offensive teams. Points being scored regularly and teams totaling 80 to 90 points between the two on a regular basis. Because of that, the Bulls are going to see some excellent receivers, excellent running backs, and excellent quarterbacks. Personally, I like the idea of getting larger defensive backs who can cover and make plays on the ball at the point of attack.

It’s also a trend in the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks are most known for the “Legion of Boom” secondary with Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas (Thomas is just five-foot-eleven”, but may be the best safety in the game) and a litany of tall, rangy cornerbacks (Tharold Simon, Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane). On the college level, LSU is most known for their tall, rangy defensive backs. It seems like every year, the Tigers are sending a few to the NFL (Patrick Peterson, Jalen Collins, Devin Breaux, Simon and the best one - five-foot-nine Tyrann Mathieu) and they seem to be good.

The Bulls are coming off a season where there were plenty of games available for them to win. Whether it was being outworked in the trenches, first half mishaps or blown plays or just stalled offense, there were a few plays in every loss this past season that swung the Bulls from a bowl team to just on the outside.

However, I think they’re closer than we think. Losing Licata at quarterback and Nick Gilbo and Okezie Alozie at linebacker will hurt and the program will most likely take a step back, but they bring back their starting running back, two of their top four receivers, the majority of their offensive line and most if the players rotating on the defensive line. Ryan Williamson and Boise Ross will be back to man the secondary, too.

And if anything, the Bulls added to areas. You added another good running back into the mix in Pickett, you added several big bodies to help bolster the offensive line and you brought in another class of big defensive backs, in lieu of creating a strong secondary.

Leipold and his coaching staff’s aspirations of building Buffalo into a viable contender for bowl games and MAC championships start with recruiting the right talent to Buffalo and this week, I thought the Bulls did a good job. 

Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on twitter at @HaynesTheWriter. 


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