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Time to look at next years two deep and our recruiting? (Part two defense)

. I was hoping to get this out sooner but the events of the past two months put this on the back burner.

See: Part One

One of the things I find far more exciting about College football than the NFL is the turnover. Not the delicious breakfast pastry and I don't mean the pics and fumbles that killed UB this season. I am referring, of course, to the fact that with very rare exceptions a university only gets four years out of their players. Of course this hurts mid majors more than the AQ schools but like death, graduation comes for all.

After changing coaches the question of how and differing philosophies may impact the programs direction or approach it takes to recruiting is bound to come up. UB's defense in 2009 could be described as being, in theory, a bend but don't break defense. It's hard to judge just how successful the Bulls were, the defense was stuck with so many short fields that before they had a chance to break opponents were in the red zone.

Next Season Coach Quinn says he hopes to form an "Attacking Aggressive Style, relentless pursuit and when they arrive they will arrive in a bad mood". He has, reportedly, already brought in Bill Inge to take over the UB Linebackers and if he builds that unit in the same manner he styled Cincinnati that's going to mean a focus on the middle men anchoring the defense so that the guys on the outside can swarm on anything going to the corner.

Defensive Line: (Next Years Two Deep)

K. Scott
J. Housey
R. Smith
A. Sparks
A. Montanez
S. Richberg
S. Means
G. DuBois

This year on the Field:

Under Turner Gill the defense had always been anchored by the defensive backs, this was supposed to be a breakout year for the defensive front line. There were signs of life, glimpses of promise in 2009 but the defensive unit often faced short fields and lopsided time of possession. Steven Means led the team with five sacks, he is one of the more promising defensive prospects UB has had, ever, and should be the anchor up front for years to come.

This years Recruiting Needs:

UB's came into this year very well stocked, evidenced by the fact UB is losing just two of their top eight linemen to graduation (Dane Robinson, and his backup Kevin Johnson) . UB enters 2010 in a slightly less enviable position, while they are again losing only two linemen both will likely starters.

So far UB has no defensive line commits in 2009 there are some prospects that have mentioned an interest in UB:
  • Micah Robinson: This is an interesting prospect but with offers from more than a dozen AQ and Non-AQ schools I don't think there is a big shot of Buffalo landing him.
  • Matt Huckabee: I discussed Huckabee when Hofstra announced they were folding up their football program. ESPN has him has Buffalo, Temple, and FIU as his schools of interest.
  • Dee Harris: Harris is either only interested in Buffalo (per ESPN) or not at all interested in Buffalo (Scout). He has nice metrics and has yet to be offered by Buffalo.
Beyond Next Season:

For the first time in ten years UB has as athletic a front four as anyone in the conference (save maybe Temple). With Means being the likely power on this line for the next several years, and other impressively large and athletic underclassmen UB is as big, fast, and deep as it has been at any point in the modern 1A era. The main objective needs to be making sure to keep that depth up, one to two impressive linemen a year need to be brought in with, hopefully, the occasional Means or Scott.

Linebackers: (Next Years Two Deep)

R. Akobundu
D. Willis*
S. Pettigrew
F. Branch
J. Winters
J. Copeland
* Willis may well land a starting spot

This Year on the Field:

Like the linemen UB's linebackers are physically as good as they have ever had but for the first half of the season the middle of the UB defense played very soft. Things did get better as the year went on but this is a unit which should have been more of a force than it was. The Bright spot had to be Justin Winters who was second on the team in sacks (15th in the conference) , and third in Tackles (19th in conference) .

This years Recruiting Needs:

UB is not losing a linebacker this year, after next season we lose four, including two starters the losses after 2010 will be Justin Winters, Raphael Akobundu, Tom Drewes, Jerry Housey. Ideally you would want to see at four of the seventeen scholarships go to solid linebacker recruits (17-23%) but in reality a class including two, maybe three, solid recruits would be enough to make a foundation.

Right now the Bulls have two offers extended:
  • Jake Stockman: Stockman is described by ESPN as being a productive linebacker prospect who shows flashes of ability that projects well at the next level. Right now he is holding offers from UB, Navy, Air Force, and Eastern Illinois (FCS)
  • Christian Insley: According to ESPN Insley has the size we like to see for the inside linebacker position at the major level of competition but he may lack speed on the outside. Right now his only offers are from Buffalo and Akron.
UB's only staff coach known to be on board next season is Bill Inge so there is a good chance to nail down some of the line backing prospects.

Beyond Next Season:

If the Bulls are only able to pull two recruits this year they are going to have a heavy need to restock the position. Three four defenses tend to keep between 14-16 linebackers on the roster (about four per class). Pulling two this year means that they need to pull an average of five or six over the following years to keep the Linebackers deep enough to handle any year with significant injury.

Defensive Backs: (Next Years Two Deep)

D. Cook
R. Cotton
D. Shannon
I. Baugh
J. Copeland
B. Kargbo
J. Thomas
S. Lott

This Year on the Field:

In terms of yardage and situational results the Defensive secondary played a pretty solid season. Opposing quarterbacks had a passing efficiency under 120 (only three other teams in the MAC managed that). They hit well and tackled well against the pass but they were soft in two areas, Take aways, and run support. Too many times when taking down a running back they were falling backwards and an extra yard here or two there really killed UB this season.

This years Recruiting Needs:

UB is having two massive holes pokes in the defense with the loss of Hawkins an Newton and next year they are going to get stung even worse (Shannon, Thomas, Cook, and Lott). The number of underclassmen with significant playing experience is thin (four had playing time in six or more games the past season). While Quinn's staff will get to push more experience on the younger Bulls the loss of leadership and of physical backs over the next two years has the potential to be devastating. UB needs to pick up three solid backs this year, anything short of that is asking for trouble down the line, so far they have two solid verbals:
Both are solid recruits and could be physically talented enough to fill the upcoming gaps being left by the backs graduating next season. The Bulls are targeting several more defensive backs for next season, among them are:
  • Johnie Simon: Athletic and quick with good height, all he needs to do is bulk up a bit. Active defensive back who plays a physical game. He has seven offers (including one from Rutgers) so if Quinn and company are going to land him they need to hit the ground running.
  • Ryland Ward: Ward is describes as a tough, physical defensive back who likes to mix it up. His height might be an issue but his football skills are not, best of all he shows strong run support. He has offers from CMU, EMU, and Ohio but has indicated interest in any MAC School.
Beyond Next Season:

It's vital that this years freshman and sophomores get meaningful game experience next season. Right now 2011 is shaping up to leave the defensive back field in as precarious a position as our wide receivers sit in 2010.