Loss of Bortenschlager doesn’t hurt UB Bulls’ recruiting class – but losing Williams does

Talk about a 1-2 punch.

Over the past two weeks, the Buffalo football team lost its two top recruits in quarterback Max Bortenschlager and linebacker Tyreek Williams, both three-star recruits. Bortenschlager bolted for Maryland and Williams took up an offer from Rutgers after decommiting from UB.

Understandable for both players. Maryland is in the Big Ten Conference and Williams simply took the better offer and opted to stay closer to home. Whatever rhyme or reason for their departures, what’s done is done. Buffalo’s top two recruits in the 2016 class are no longer set to wear the blue and white.

But what seems like a detrimental blow to a program is actually not that crushing to the offensive side of the ball.

Losing a player like Bortenschlager hurts, but it does help Buffalo realize the potential already on the team. With Joe Licata graduated, the vacancy at quarterback is likely to be filled by Iowa State transfer Grant Rohach. He’ll give Buffalo ample time to prepare for their quarterback of the future: freshman Tyree Jackson.

Jackson is built like a poor man’s Cam Newton. He counts on his legs to make plays happen, but his ability to throw the ball more than 50 yards in the air is what makes him valuable. I’m fine with the Bulls’ potential plan for quarterback for the next couple of years.

The defense, however, is a different story.

Buffalo’s defense was nothing short of a middle-of-the-pack unit that had moments of excellence and subpar play. At times, it looked like the Bulls’ secondary alone could have propelled them to a bowl game. Other times, it was the linebackers.

But never in the equation was the defensive line. For lack of a better term, the defensive line was a mess this season.

This past season, Buffalo’s rush defense ranked 10th in the conference and allowed 2,200 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns. And even with a respectable 22 sacks on the year, the blitzing linebacker trio of seniors Okezie Alozie and Nick Gilbo, with junior Brandon Berry, were usually the ones getting to the quarterback.

In order to have a successful defense, the front seven has to be filled with speedsters and dominant forces that are able to either drop back in coverage or charge for the ball carrier or quarterback. Bowling Green – the eventual winners of the conference last season – had two of the best linebackers in the Mid-American Conference.

With Alozie and Gilbo – Buffalo’s main sources of front-seven production this past season and most prominent playmakers – graduating, Berry is left alone with an inexperienced group to lead.

It could have been a lot easier with Williams.

Tyreek Williams was supposed to be the No. 1 recruit for Buffalo’s 2016 recruiting class. I only needed three or four minutes of game tape to see the type of player he is – everything Buffalo needs.

He’s an aggressive pass rusher with impeccable speed coming off the edge against an offensive tackle. He has a knack to spot the ball carrier and begin picture-perfect pursuits toward them. Williams also has the uncanny skill of still being able to hold impressive pass defense in the zone.

And he can play two positions.

Williams, eerily similar to NFL linebacker and former Bull Khalil Mack, is just as impressive playing defensive end as he does linebacker. His mixed skill set makes him a wild card on the field, making opposing offenses weary of which plays to run.

We’ll have to see how head coach Lance Leipold and his staff adjust to the losses when they officially announce the 2016 recruiting class Wednesday afternoon.

Of course, no one knows what a player will be like entering college. But losing a three-star recruit for a unit that needs new and efficient players to improve is a setback.

Jordan Grossman is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at jordan.grossman@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jordanmgrossman.