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Monday, December 05, 2022
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Coaching changes, historic recruiting class mark wild football offseason

Maurice Linguist sparks radical change in his first full offseason as UB head coach

Offensive guard Bence Polgar (74) celebrates after a UB touchdown last season.
Offensive guard Bence Polgar (74) celebrates after a UB touchdown last season.

Following a disappointing 4-8 season that saw the Bulls miss out on a postseason bowl game for the first time in four seasons, second-year head coach Maurice Linguist felt it was time for a rebuild in the Queen City.

At least 20 Bulls — including quarterback Kyle Vantrease and tight end Tyler Stephens — have entered the transfer portal since the season ended in November. 

In response, Linguist has already inked 14 recruits to letters of intent and has hauled in 10 transfers, some of whom made the move from Power Five programs like Notre Dame, Florida, Arizona and Rutgers.

UB has also made significant changes on the coaching front, as former Texas A&M defensive assistant Brandon Bailey has replaced Joe Cauthen as defensive coordinator and veteran assistant Greg Knox will serve as UB’s running backs coach.

From new staff hires to talent turnover, here’s a look at UB’s eventful offseason:

Coaching changes

The Bulls’ defense struggled to put it together last season, allowing 29.9 points per game and 416.3 yards per contest. Cauthen stepped down as the team’s defensive coordinator and accepted the same position at Stephen F. Austin.

Bailey, who spent the past three seasons as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M, will step in as UB’s new defensive play-caller in 2022. Prior to joining the Texas A&M coaching staff, Bailey spent two seasons as a graduate assistant with Tulane and coached defensive backs for one season at Division II Arkansas-Monticello. 

Bailey has ties to Linguist, as the two worked together at Texas A&M in 2019, where Linguist served as defensive backs coach for the Aggies.

Bailey doesn’t have any prior experience in defensive play-calling, but the young coach has the opportunity to step into an enhanced role on Linguist’s defensive staff.

The offensive staff has also experienced turnover, as veteran SEC assistant Greg Knox will coach UB’s running backs in 2022. 

Knox has enjoyed an illustrious career as an assistant. He has over 30 years of coaching experience (including 25 in the SEC) under his belt. With stops at Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Florida, Knox has coached in 15 bowl games in his career.

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Like Bailey, Knox coached with Linguist for one season in the SEC. Linguist (safeties) and Knox (running backs) were both assistants at Mississippi State in 2016.

Other notable offseason staff changes include:

Wide receivers coach Dallas Baker has accepted the same position at Baylor.

Tight ends coach Ron Whitcomb added recruiting coordinator to his title.

Andy McCollum was elevated from defensive quality control coach to senior defensive analyst/chief of staff.

Former UB tight end Jake Molinich was hired as a strength and conditioning intern.

Bulls on the move

More than a dozen Bulls announced their move to the transfer portal immediately after the season ended, and many more followed suit. 

Here is an updated list of notable UB football players who have entered the transfer portal and have either found a new school or are still in the portal, according to 247Sports.com.

Back to Buffalo

While an eye-opening number of Bulls entered the portal after the season, some decided to return to UB.

Junior running back Dylan McDuffie, who entered the transfer portal in December 2021, elected to return to UB after rushing for 1,049 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. The 2021 third team All-MAC selection started the final six games of the season after he beat out senior Kevin Marks Jr. for the starting job. 

Junior offensive tackle Gabe Wallace also withdrew his name from the portal. Wallace started all 12 games for the Bulls in 2021 after seeing action as a reserve lineman during his first two seasons at UB.

Freshman running back Mike Washington will also return to UB after entering the transfer portal. The Utica, NY native appeared in three games and rushed for 132 yards on 23 carries. Washington found the end zone one time last season in a Week 9 matchup against Bowling Green.

Historic recruiting class

Linguist — a well-respected recruiter at his previous coaching stops — has wasted no time in recruiting talent.

The Bulls have inked 14 high school, junior college and prep school recruits and currently have the second-ranked recruiting class in the MAC, according to 247Sports.com. Including transfers, the Bulls have the MAC’s top overall recruiting class for 2022.

Highlights of Linguist’s first UB recruiting class include 6-foot-3, 185 lb. athlete Devin Grant and junior college cornerback Jayden Oliver. Grant — the second-highest ranked UB recruit in history and the nephew of former Bills safety Dean Marlowe — and Oliver — the fifth-highest ranked recruit in school history — represent two huge hauls for Linguist and his staff.

In addition to Grant and Oliver, wide receiver Tre Higgins, safety Tavian Mayo, running back Jackson Paradis and defensive linemen Jaylon Bass and Ja’mor Coard are all ranked as top 20 recruits in UB history.

Of the 14 recruits Linguist has added, not one is below a three-star ranking.

Linguist’s 2022 recruiting class has a higher ranking than any class during Lance Leipold’s tenure and currently stands at No. 66 in the nation, according to 247Sports.com.

Through both the high school and junior college ranks, Linguist is accumulating loads of talent in an attempt to build his own program and make up for the players lost in the portal.

Transfer portal additions

While UB lost a considerable amount of talent to the transfer portal, the Bulls were also able to use the portal as a tool during the offseason.

Linguist has rounded up 10 transfers, six of whom come from Power Five programs.

UB was able to get commitments from safety Jahmin Muse (Boston College), wide receiver Justin Marshall (Louisville), cornerback Caleb Oxford (Notre Dame) and quarterback Cole Snyder (Rutgers).

Former Arizona wide receiver Jalen “Boobie” Curry isn’t immediately eligible to play for the Bulls, but he was a major pull for Linguist’s staff. A four-star recruit coming out of St. Pius X High School in Houston, Curry caught 21 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns in three starts last season for the Wildcats. 

Linguist was able to get another four-star transfer to Buffalo in cornerback Elijah Blades. Considered the top junior college cornerback prospect in the country in 2018, Blades was originally recruited by Linguist in 2018 when he coached at Texas A&M. Blades eventually transferred to Florida, where he was dismissed from the team in 2021 for an undisclosed reason. In an unexpected turn of events, Linguist and Blades reunited in Buffalo.

Other 2022 transfers include former San Diego State offensive lineman Desmond Bessent, former UConn offensive lineman Sidney Walker, former Dartmouth tight end Robbie Mangas and Virginia Military Institute offensive lineman Nick Hartnett.

By bringing in a great deal of talent through traditional high school recruiting, the junior college ranks and the transfer portal, Linguist has positioned the 2022 Bulls for greater success.

With many of last year’s stars on the move and new coaches on the staff, UB’s program has changed radically over the past three months.

Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at anthony.decicco@ubspectrum.com and @DeCicco42 on Twitter


ANTHONY DECICCO
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Anthony DeCicco is the Editor-in-Chief of The Spectrum. His words have appeared in outlets such as SLAM Magazine. In 2020, he was awarded First Prize for Sports Column Writing at the Society of Professional Journalists' Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards. In his free time, he can be found watching ‘90s Knicks games and reading NFL Mock Drafts at 3 a.m. 

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