UB football held its annual Pro Day Thursday morning at the Murchie Family Fieldhouse in front of dozens of scouts and many more watching on livestream.
UB’s Pro Day served as the only in-person opportunity for NFL teams to evaluate the school’s top prospects, after the 2021 NFL Combine was canceled due to COVID-19. Media members were not allowed inside the facility and NFL teams were allowed a maximum of three scouts or team officials.
Six Bulls participated in the pre-draft event: running back Jaret Patterson, defensive end Malcolm Koonce, wide receiver Antonio Nunn, offensive tackle Kayode Awosika, linebacker Tyree Thompson and offensive lineman Ray Thomas-Ishman.
The 2021 NFL Draft is just 41 days away, so the path to the draft is well underway for UB’s football stars. Here are the results from the school’s Pro Day:
Position: Running Back
Official Numbers: 5’6, 195 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 ¼
Arm Length: 28 ¾
Unofficial 40-yard dash time: 4.53
Broad jump: 9-9
Patterson didn’t have an easy path to Buffalo.
The Glendale, MD native was just a two-star recruit coming out of high school.
But that hasn’t stopped him from breaking nearly every rushing record in program history.
Patterson has been dominant over the past three seasons for UB, which earned him the opportunity to showcase his talents for NFL scouts. He hasn’t forgotten about his past and says he took the night before his big day to reflect on his journey.
“I shed a tear last night, just reflecting about my journey,” Patterson said. “I know it's not over, I know it’s only the beginning but it's just a blessing to be in this position.”
During his UB career, Patterson rushed for 3,884 yards and 52 touchdowns. The junior also posted an outstanding 6.1 yards per carry. In a shortened 2020 season, Patterson needed just six games to reach 1,072 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. He led the nation with an average of 178.7 yards per game.
Patterson torched Kent State on Nov. 28, rushing for a MAC record 409 yards and an FBS record eight rushing touchdowns.
But for all his success as a runner, Patterson was unable to do much as a pass catcher, hauling in just 20 passes for 271 yards in three seasons. He used Pro Day as an opportunity to flash his versatility.
“I always could [catch the ball], I just wasn’t given an opportunity. If you have a good offensive line, a dominant offensive line and a running back that’s getting eight yards a pop, you’re not gonna fix it, you’re gonna stick with what’s working,” Patterson said. “I don’t blame anybody, we were winning, we were dominating teams with our run game, but I could always run routes and catch.”
Patterson’s critics question his size, but the UB running back isn’t too concerned about the naysayers. The junior knows there’s a history of shorter running backs who have become Pro Bowlers in the NFL.
“There’s guys that came before me that did it,” Patterson said. “Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, the list can go on and on, so that’s my mindset. It doesn’t matter about the measurables, it’s about whether he is a good ball player and what value you bring to the team.”
Patterson has spoken with Jones-Drew, a former three-time Pro Bowler for the Jacksonville Jaguars, about the draft process and thriving as a smaller back in the NFL.
“Maurice Jones-Drew has been dropping a lot of hidden gems to me and just stuff like that,” Patterson said. “A guy being the same stature like that and he went on to play eight years and had a great career. So that’s one of the guys I kind of lean on if I need some advice or it’s just picking his brain, he’s in my corner.”
Patterson says he has spoken with the majority of NFL teams, with some telling the star running back they have a third round grade on him.
“Teams wanted to see three things from me: what I run in the 40 [yard dash], can I run routes and can I catch,” Patterson said. “I feel like I checked all those boxes today.”
Position: Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
Official Numbers: 6’2, 249 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 ⅝
Arm Length: 33 ⅜
(Did not participate in performance drills due to a foot injury)
Koonce, a Peekskill, NY native, has had a dominant collegiate career in Buffalo, earning first-team All-MAC selections in 2019 and 2020.
Koonce has 17 career sacks, ranking seventh in program history.
The 2021 Reece’s Senior Bowl invitee wasn’t able to participate in drills due to a foot injury.
At 6’2, 249 pounds, Koonce believes he has enough athleticism to adapt to multiple positions at the next level.Despite mainly playing as a stand-up defensive end for the Bulls, Koonce is confident in his ability to fit in with both 3-4 and 4-3 defensive fronts.
“I think I can play any position,” Koonce said. “I’m hearing mixed things, just playing like standard D[efensive] end, or playing kind of like an outside linebacker position where I’m dropping coverage and stuff like that. So it’s just kind of been all over the place.”
Koonce has 33 ⅜-inch arms along with an 81-inch wingspan — two inches longer than Pittsburgh Steelers star T.J. Watt, who measured in with a 79-inch wingspan in 2017.
Myles Garrett, the first overall selection in the 2017 Draft, has an 82-inch wingspan. The combination of big arms and a long reach allows Koonce to attack offensive linemen with his length and wreak havoc in the backfield.
“I think I’m very athletic and I can be slippery at times, so I would say like slipperiness, with a sprinkle of violent hands is my recipe for success,” Koonce said.
Making the NFL has long been a dream for Koonce, but he says he is also looking forward to what he learns off the field.
“What I’m really looking forward to at the next level is just understanding how to become a pro in every shape and form,” Koonce said. “A pro at football, a pro at my life, a pro with relationships I have with people. That's something that I'm looking forward to coming up.”
Position: Wide Receiver
Official Numbers: Unofficial 40-yard dash time: 4.44
Broad jump: 10
Nunn was Buffalo’s leading receiver this past season, racking in 37 catches for 584 yards and two scores. The senior was able to notch second-team All-MAC honors in 2020 with these numbers.
The Tampa native hasn’t gotten as much of an opportunity at UB because of the Bulls’ run-heavy offense, but he says this taught him lessons about the sport.
“I had to learn things different from other receivers who probably get the ball seven to 10 times a game. It forced me to know the defense more [and] be more physical in the run game,” Nunn said. “We’re not here just to catch footballs all day, you’re a special teams guy and you have to be willing to block.”
The senior wide receiver says he knows he doesn’t have to get drafted to make it on an NFL roster and learned a lot about transitioning to the pros from former teammates Cam Lewis, K.J. Osborn and Tyree Jackson.
“It doesn’t matter if you get drafted, undrafted or not. As long as you get a foot in the door there, your job is to make sure you’re staying there,” Nunn said. “So it really motivated me, learning from him [Lewis] and his journey, K.J.’s journey, and Tyree.”
Position: Offensive Tackle
Official Numbers: 6’3, 307 lbs.
Unofficial 40-yard dash time: 5.14
Awosika has been a force to be reckoned with during his four-year tenure at UB. He played right tackle in 2018 and 2019 before switching to left tackle this past season.
Awosika was named first-team All-MAC in 2020 after earning second-team All-MAC honors in 2019.
The senior offensive tackle was a key cog for a group that paved the way for record-setting running backs and gave up just one sack all season. Awosika has had talks with teams about moving to guard and wanted to show his “versatility” during his Pro Day.
“I really wanted to show the versatility, so any team anywhere a team wants me to play is what I want to play. If I had to pick one, probably gonna be right guard or right tackle,” Awosika said.
Awosika has been lauded for his dedication and work ethic. He says he is ready to put in the work and attack all phases of the game, both mentally and physically.
“Teams are going to get someone who prepares, they’re going to get someone who is motivated and cares extremely in improving every single day,” Awosika said. “I’m bringing every ounce of my essence of how much I love football to an organization, and I’m excited to do so. They’re not gonna have to worry about this guy showing up late and not gonna have to worry about him not studying the playbook, any of those extra things, none of that's gonna happen with me. It’s all about consistency and preparation, and that's how I want to help an organization.”
Awosika says he has heard from 15 teams, including the Saints, Seahawks, Colts, Eagles and defending Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers.
Here are the other results:
Class: Graduate Student
Position: Outside Linebacker
Unofficial 40-yard dash time: 5.0
Broad jump: 9-1
Class: Graduate Student
Position: Offensive Tackle/Guard
Unofficial 40-yard dash time: 5.56
Broad jump: 8-1
Anthony DeCicco contributed to the reporting of this piece.
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Hunter Skoczylas is the sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found looking up random sports statistics, jamming to Fleetwood Mac and dedicating his Sunday afternoons to watching the Buffalo Bills.