Last years three man line loses Jerry Housey and Anel Montanez. With the support of the linebackers, that defensive line made a relatively smooth adjustment to the new scheme brought in by Coach Inge. The lone lineman coming back is Steven Means, the pride of Grover Cleveland.
Means earned his way into the starting rotation after five games of spot duty in 2009. His most infamous moments that season involved celebration penalties. Something that he and the coaching staff have worked on, his discipline and Means seems to understand its his turn to be the seasoned leader.
His freshman season Means led the Bulls with five sacks and ranked third on the squad with 6.5 tackles for loss. In total he had 25 tackles, two quarterback hurries, and a pass breakup. When his freshman year was over Means was honored by Phil Steele as a first-team All-Freshman.
His numbers were down quite a bit last season and most of his production came in the early weeks. As UB's season wore on Means kept the pressure on but struggled to finish the big plays.
"I had a lot of missed opportunities. I missed a lot of tackles, I missed a lot of sacks. I missed more sacks than I actually had and that's just something I have to work on and capitalize during this upcoming season." -- Steven Means to the Buffalo News
Still with his numbers down he was still flat our the most effective pass rusher UB has seen since Trevor Scott and will likey carry a huge part of the workload this season.
In addition to making the mental transition to a leader Means has taken it upon himself to bulk up and improve his performance against the run. He is up 15 pounds since last season (250) but has maintained his speed at about a 4.5, 40.
Who else, besides means, will be trying to crack the starting lineup this season?
Smith has been a constant, and effective spot lineman for UB since 2008. During that span Smith has 50 tackles and a handful of of tackles for loss/sacks. With The graduation of two starting lineman Smith may be the guy who finishes spring as the starting nose tackle.
Smith never red-shirted. He was one of Pennsylvania's best defensive linemen going into 2007 before breaking his leg during the season. He had been so promising as a Junior that an injury shortened game did not keep him from being nominated for the McDonald’s All-Star Game, the Big 33 (Ohio vs. Pennsylvania) and East-West All-Star games.
In addition to his experience Smith is also the most massive of UB's defensive lineman. He went into camp just under 290 almost 20 pounds heaver than any other defensive lineman.
DuBois is another Senior who has both been a long time depth player and who has spent a good part of the Quinn era bulking up. Getting up to 270 and maintaining his speed like puts him opposite of means and in front of Khalil Mack on the line.
He has shown some real field awareness, including a pick six last season against Northern Illinois.
Right now Dubois, along with Means and Smith are probably your starting line. But there are several others who will challenge for the spots.
Penden has not really had a chance to show what he can do. He missed a good part of last season due to injury.
Pendon between the 4-3 defense of 2009, and the 3-4 ran last season Penden has become one of the few players on the roster with experience on both the interior and exterior of the defensive lines.
If he fails to break into a starting role Penden will be key to helping both the ends and eventual nose tackle stay fresh throughout the season.
Cahill is a Juco who enrolled at the beginning of this semester. He attended Corona Del Sol High School in Tempe had committed to Army. After Attending the United States Military Academy Preparatory School in Monmouth, N.J. he elected not to attend Army. but decided, instead, to forgo that offer.
Cahill brings a bit of experience from his days at Scottsdale Community College. According to the coaching Staff he also came to the program with an idea of what they are looking for out of him:
Wyatt Cahill has come in witha good understanding of what we are trying to do on defense -- Jeff Quinn
Colby Way is a huge prospect out of State College Pennsylvania. He played linebacker, defensive end, tight end, fullback and quarterback while leading State College to its first state championship appearance during the 2009 season.
As a true freshman Way saw action in 11 games, he made nine tackles and was key on special teams, a consistent contributor who recorded a blocked field goal.
He also saw work as a defensive end, its a good bet that he lands on the depth chart behind DuBois or Means this season. Way is only a sophomore so what might be a second seat on the depth chart this year could very well grow into something more next year, or even late this season if there are injury or performance issues.
The Four Horsemen of 2009...
Barksdale has good blood lines, His brother, Joseph, was a three-year starter at LSU and an All-SEC selection. He has also caught the eye of some of the coaching staff as one of the freshman with a real chance of playing meaningful downs on the line.
Sokoli is an all around solid athlete who will be buried on the depth chart this season but may end up on special teams while he bulks up a bit more for the line.
O' Sullivan is listed as a defensive end but also servers as the teams long snapper.
Howard fought through as a walk on last season and looks to be, at most, a special teams player this season.