Position-by-Position Breakdowns: Defensive line
Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2013 23:08
With stellar defensive end Steven Means having graduated, the Bulls need a new man to step up and anchor the defensive line. Colby Way seems like the man for the job.
“I’ve been working a lot on my pass-rush moves,” Way said. “I want to be the type of player that Steve really was. You know, he’s big shoes to fill with how scary he was coming off the edges.”
Way, a senior from State College, Pa., made Phil Steele’s first-team All-Mid-American Conference preseason team after starting all 12 games last year and finishing fifth on the squad with 58 tackles and second with seven sacks.
He has emerged as a leader of this year’s squad and head coach Jeff Quinn named Way one of the team’s five captains.
“He reaches out to all the players at his position and really on the entire defense and it spills over into our entire team,” Quinn said. “He’s a guy who is a very competent, conscious young man who brings others along.”
Competent might be an understatement. Way has a 3.5 GPA in computer engineering.
“Here’s a guy who represents our program in a social context with great class and distinction,” Quinn said. “He’s a great young man. He’s an other-centered person. He’s physically and skill-wise one of our best, and he’s got a great attitude. I’ve never seen him in a bad mood – other than on the field when he’s playing.”
At 6-foot-4 and 293 pounds, Way is intimidating coming off the edge. NFLdraftscout.com has ranked him 22nd out of 260 defensive ends.
Way is a versatile athlete who threw a touchdown pass on a trick play in high school.
He made major strides between his freshman and sophomore years in Buffalo. He gained 45 pounds in one year. What do you eat to do that? “Everything,” he said.
Though Way’s physical skill is remarkable, Quinn most respects the senior’s attitude.
“The thing that I’ve seen all along from Colby is just his maturity level,” Quinn said. “He takes a great deal of pride in his performance, his understanding of the game. He prepares extremely hard. Very knowledgeable football player.”
Kristjan Sokoli did it all in high school. You name the position, he played it: tight end, defensive end, left tackle, punter, kicker. He also played basketball and threw the discus.
The Bulls just need him to play defensive tackle – but they’re counting on him to ace that position. Sokoli has been in the mix for minutes his whole UB career, but this is the first year the junior enters as a starter. He said his game improved over the summer.
“I feel like I’ve been more active, and that’s my goal: to be more active inside and make more plays,” Sokoli said. “When it comes down to it, that’s what counts – making plays and performing for your teammates.”
He appeared in all 12 games last year and made one start. Sokoli finished the season with 20 tackles. The year before that, the 6-foot-5, 300-pounder played in 10 games, forced a fumble and had 14 tackles, including four for loss, as a freshman.
He has shown an abundance of potential. This is the year the Bulls need that potential to turn into big-time, consistent play.
Sokoli said it helps competing on a daily basis with a star like Colby Way on the defensive line.
“He’s a helpful teammate and it’s a pleasure playing with him because he also competes with you,” Sokoli said. “We’re constantly competing to get better. And he’s there pushing you, but we push him as well.”
Sokoli, a Bloomfield, N.J., native, also said he learned that “hard work pays off” from watching Steven Means enter the NFL.
“That guy worked really hard and he came at the field with an approach, an intensity that I really look up to,” Sokoli said.
The Bulls will need the versatile athlete to duplicate that intensity this season.
Fans might not know much about Beau Bachtelle – which is why they might be surprised to find out he has stepped up as one of the defense’s leaders. Bachtelle is a senior, but he played his first two years at Modesto Junior College in California.
He played a backup role on the defensive line last year and finished the season with 11 tackles. This year, though, he is expected to start following the departure of Wyatt Cahill.
Bachtelle said summer workouts were big for both the team’s chemistry and his own confidence.
“Everybody kind of came together, and it was nice for me to be able to come out and help be a leader and bring all the people on the team together, so it was big for me,” he said.
He said he learned a lot from shadowing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Steven Means last season – Bachtelle was his direct backup – and it has also helped having standout senior Colby Way on the line with him.
Bachtelle’s goal for this season is simple.
“Win,” he said. “That’s it. Just win. Let’s get to the MAC Championship and get a ring on our finger.”
The 6-foot-5 senior sports long, slicked-back black hair and weighs in at 273 pounds. Bachtelle is a beast in the weight room. The Union Democrat reported that he has squatted 655 pounds and hang-cleaned 365 pounds – both astronomical numbers.