A new era of UB football is underway.
UB Athletic Director Mark Alnutt officially introduced Maurice Linguist as the 26th head football coach in UB history Monday morning at the Murchie Family Fieldhouse.
Alnutt praised the qualities of UB’s new head coach with members of the local media and UB President Satish Tripathi in attendance.
“We wanted someone who’s a proven winner,” an exuberant Alnutt said. “A relentless recruiter, a family man. We wanted somebody that understood Buffalo, understood the Mid-American Conference and, more importantly, knew what it’d take to continue this tremendous trajectory that we’re on.”
After four months as Michigan’s co-defensive coordinator, the 37-year-old Linguist is set to become the fourth-youngest head coach in the FBS.
Linguist is entering his first season as a head coach, but he didn’t hold back when expounding upon his ambitions for the program.
“My vision for Buffalo football is clear and concise,” Linguist said in his opening statement. “We want to run the very best program in the United States of America. We want to continue the success that Lance [Leipold] has already created. We want to build and continue a championship culture of academic and athletic success. We want to build the most dominant football program in the MAC, graduate our football players, put championship rings on our fingers, develop our men to the very best version of themselves and do it all with integrity.”
Linguist dazzled Bulls fans with his public speaking skills, but also acknowledged the challenges ahead.
In the 30-minute press conference, Linguist outlined his vision for UB’s football program and discussed recruiting, his coaching staff (or lack thereof at the moment) and the program’s prospective identity under his leadership.
Here are four takeaways from Linguist’s introductory press conference:
Acknowledgment of the challenge at hand
With just 114 days until UB’s season opener against Wagner on Sept. 2, Linguist is faced with the challenge of assembling a staff, understanding his roster’s strengths and weaknesses and implementing his offensive, defensive and special teams philosophies.
Linguist also needs to solidify his incoming recruiting classes while attempting to retain the more than half-dozen Bulls who entered the transfer portal following Leipold’s departure.
Linguist has a lot to do, but not much time to do it.
“We are truly entering unprecedented times [and] we certainly recognize the challenge ahead moving forward,” Linguist said. “Our communication skills, our coaching skills, our cohesion and synergy are going to be put to test. We are doing something that has never been done before in terms of a transition. The good thing is, we are ready, we are focused and we are hungry.”
Linguist insists he won’t shake things up too dramatically because of the unique situation he and his team find themselves in. Most college head coaches are hired in December or January, not May.
While the process of installing schemes and gameplans may be expedited due to the circumstances, Linguist will rely on the system in place to guide his first year at UB.
“We recognize the challenges that we have because of the time,” Linguist said. “We had a team meeting the other day, and we clearly stated and expressed that to the team. This is not an overhaul, as much as it is a continuation. And we will slowly implement things that are true to our identity, but also take into consideration the timing of things.”
Physical playing style and aggressive philosophy
Linguist doesn’t have much time to install a new system or overhaul UB’s offensive schemes, so the new head coach suggested UB will run a similar multiple offense as last season.
Former offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki found immense success with his pro-style, spread and pistol offense in 2020, as the Bulls racked up 43.4 points per game last season, the fifth-best mark in the country.
Linguist says his UB team will have a physical style of play, one that will overwhelm opponents and maximize the team’s strengths.
“The number one ingredient to successful football, we believe, is play style,” Linguist said. “We will make people uncomfortable with how physical we play. We will play with a shocking level of effort. And we believe in a physical, free, disciplined and confident brand of football. We believe in a multiple pro-style system designed to take advantage of our strengths and hide our weaknesses.”
And it seems the Bulls will be just as aggressive on defense.
Linguist’s first major addition to his staff was Arkansas defensive analyst Joe Cauthen, whom he coached under at Valdosta State in 2008.
Cauthen, who was hired by the Razorbacks in March after two years as Houston’s defensive coordinator, is best known for directing one of the top defenses in the Sun Belt from 2014 to 2018 during his time at Arkansas State.
The Red Wolves totaled 79 interceptions in Cauthen’s five seasons as defensive coordinator, seventh-best in the nation during that span.
Known for his aggressive, turnover-inducing defensive philosophy, Cauthen will be the Bulls’ defensive coordinator in 2021.
Linguist says the Bulls’ staff will continue to take shape in the coming weeks, with crucial decisions yet to be made.
“We have coaches that are on the way right now,” Linguist said. “We’re in the middle of making some decisions on certain positions and other coaches. We’re going to get the right men in place, just because of the timing of things we’re not going to make any impulse or knee jerk decisions. We’re going to make sure we’re thoughtful in who we hire, but we’re in the midst of doing all those things right now.”
Emphasis on recruiting
When discussing recruiting, Linguist described himself as a “relentless 24/7, 365-day recruiter.”
A talented recruiter with a proven track record at some of the nation’s biggest programs, Linguist is immensely confident in his ability to recruit top high school talent.
He promised recruiting excellence, especially within New York State.
“We are going to dominate the state of New York in recruiting first,” Linguist said. “Every high school coach in this state, we want that connection, that friendship, that relationship, the very best players in the state of New York will come to the University at Buffalo. We’re going to go toe-to-toe with whoever’s out there and win those one-on-one battles to get the very best players in this Buffalo uniform.”
To highlight his dedication to recruiting, Linguist told the story of the time he secured a four-star recruit while his wife was giving birth to their first child when he was at the University of Minnesota.
“When we were in Minneapolis and my wife was pregnant with my first child, Maura, we were going into the delivery room,” Linguist said. “And I remember I got a call from a four-star recruit. And I had a decision to make. I wasn’t gonna leave my wife, but I had to answer that phone. My wife looked up to me and said, ‘I know you’re not talking to a recruit.’ Just so we’re all on the same page, we got him signed.”
Linguist identified a five-step process to recruiting: identify, evaluate, recruit, retain and develop.
The fourth step of that process has been tested early in his stint at UB.
Eight Bulls entered the transfer portal following Leipold’s move to Kansas, and during Linguist’s first weekend as UB head coach, he convinced senior linebacker Tim Terry Jr. to withdraw his name from the transfer portal.
With critical recruiting prowess and a relatable personality, Linguist is confident in his ability to retain the seven Bulls remaining in the portal.
“Ultimately, there was a transition that took place so you understand the process of so many kids entering the portal,” Linguist said. “We’ve already reached out to a number of those guys, we are constantly everyday recruiting our roster, and we are very confident in our ability to lay out a vision and a plan that we believe our student athletes are going to want to be a part of and ultimately retain those gentlemen in the portal.”
Linguist’s five F’s
Linguist defined the “five F’s in his life” as faith, family, football, flight and a healthy balance of focus and fun.
“Number one is my faith. Coaching is my ministry,” Linguist said. “And I thank God for the opportunity and where he’s brought me from and where he has me right now. My family is here today and all over. Nothing is more important to me than being a father and being a husband.
“You think about the power of football, which is my third F, that’s why we’re all here today. Where it’s brought me from, the opportunities that it’s presented me with. I got an opportunity to get my undergrad [and] my masters paid for through football [at Baylor University].”
Linguist then broke down his professional and personal “flight.”
When he was in high school, Linguist says he was told he was too small to play safety, which he ultimately did at Baylor. Then, when he began coaching, he did so at Valdosta State, which plays at the Division II level.
“Growing up, my personal flight was I had the case of the ‘too’s,’” Linguist said. “In high school, they said I was too short. I was the last to get a scholarship. I think Baylor had one in their back pocket and threw one at me. I ended up being an honorable mention All-Big 12 safety, an Academic All-Big 12 safety and was the team defensive MVP.
“I think about my professional flight, the journey that has been. The ups, the downs. That’s where I get my healthy competitive chip from. The grit and the toughness that you got to have. The losses, the highs, the lows, the wins. I’m battle tested, and I’m thankful for it.”
Linguist saved his final “F” for staying focused while having fun. Linguist emphasized the importance of enjoying the moment, even while coaching a game that can be quite serious at times.
“And I also believe in the last F, for having a healthy balance between being focused and having fun,” Linguist said. “Enjoying the game of football, enjoying the men around us, enjoying the community, enjoying the games, enjoying people from all different backgrounds, putting differences aside to come together for one common purpose.”
By addressing the challenges and the essential matters surrounding the football program, Linguist foreshadowed what the UB football program can become under his leadership.
Linguist is determined to build upon the foundation Leipold created to make UB football into something that brings people together for years to come.
“We’re going to work tirelessly to put a product on the field that every fan, supporter and alumni can be proud of,” Linguist said. “We want non football fans in Western New York to be attracted to our football program, not just because we had a great season. But because of who we are and what we stand for as men.”
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found playing video games, watching ‘90s Knicks games and arguing with people on NBA Twitter at 3 a.m.