For the Bulls 2011 will bring four new faces to the defensive backfield, we just don't have a clue who they are going to be.
Gone are UB Record book resident Davonte Shannon, Draft prospect Josh Thomas, All MAC defensive back Domonic Cook, and long time Starter Sherrod Lott. Coming into spring ball is a group of players with little playing time and even fewer starts.
Coach Quinn experimented with several non senior starters last season but it never went too well. By the time UB really got into the meat of MAC play the roster was fixed Shannon, Cook, Thomas, and Lott.
Mid American Conference games often turn into pass heavy shooting matches, this makes the battles unfolding in the defensive backfield some of the most critical match-ups taking place this spring. The fact that freshman wide outs like Redden and Cortney Lester have been moved over to defensive back shows that the roster for defensive backs is as up in the air as the roster for receivers is set.
Things may not be as worrisome as the depth chart would lead you to believe. Sophomore Carlos Lammons saw action in 10 games last year with 19 tackles and a pass breakup. UB Will also have Cincinnati transfer Romel Dismuke going into camp. Finally Okoye Houston had a regular spot on the depth chart last season, putting him up front in the race to take over the safety spot.
Houston was a very promising recruit from the class of 2009. He was invited to play in the 2010 South Carolina All Star game and ranked in the top 150 as both a safety (140 by ESPN) and a corner back (80 by rivals).
His style of play will be familiar to Buffalo Fans. He possess an aggressive nature which quickly vaulted him to a regular backup role last season.
Over the course of 2010 he had 15 total tackles, including nine solo. He accomplished his best game against Akron with three solo tackles and a tackle for loss. When he was in Houston had a solid grasp of the defense, There will be a drop off from Davonte Shannon this season but the future looks bright.
Lammons was one of the top 50 defensive backs in the country coming out of high school and spent 2008 as a red shirt.
Last Season he added depth to the secondary and in the process racked up 19 tackles (15 solo).
Lammons is as close to a returning starter as UB can manage. His four starts last season tops any returning Bull.
In his first start against the Rhody Rams he had three solo tackles. He also tallied a start and had three tackles against Connecticut and matched and had his best game (four tackles against) Northern Illinois.
Lammons has looked solid this spring and already had the confidence of the coaching Staff. Odds are when the summer two deep is released Lammons will be a starter.
Dismuke transferred over from Cincinnati after the coaching staff vanished with head coach Brian Kelly leaving for Notre Dame, Coach Quinn to Buffalo, and the staffs pretty much divided between the two schools.
I had a chat with some hardcore Bearcat fans who told me that Dismuke left the Bearcats for two reasons.
First many thought he would not emerge as the starter. He was good and they really would have liked having him for depth and some dime/nickle looks, but that him leaving wsa not going to blow up their depth chart.
The other reason was his relationship with the coaching staff(s). He reportedly got along very well with the Cincinnati coaches who left and had something of a cold relationship with incoming head coach Butch Jones.
He red shirted in 2009 and had to sit out last season per NCAA rules. Now a Sophomore Dismuke is a valuable asset for a mid major team rebuilding their defensive backfield.
Petit walked on in 2008 and landed a role on special teams. That's pretty much the role that he has held for three years. A solid special teams player who provides a little bit of depth in the UB secondary.
The main difference between this year and last it the flux in the secondary in the depth chart. The lack of experience alone might get him some more time on the field.
Because of the depth issue he is going to get his chance to show coaches what he can do this spring. UB is pretty thin at corner back, so much so that receivers are getting slid over to the backfield. Anyone who can walk on and hit the filed their first year is capable of breaking out. Still it would really be a surprise if Petit comes out higher than second on the depth chart.
Hayes is guaranteed to see the field as a special teams player, a role he has been filling since his arrival back in 2008.
Used sparingly as a defensive back over the years he sits among a large group of athletes that will get a chance to push for time in UB's depleted backfield but he does not have the game experience advantage that an upperclassman should have over redshirt freshmen
Hayes is one among the glut of Texas blood that Coach Gill infused into the program. He tallied 132 tackles, two interceptions, 11 pass breakups and forced a fumble for coach Nathan Sanford at Northland Christian High School. He was a huge part of that Schools back, to back, to back district championships.
Baugh Has decent footwork and speed but what sets him apart from some of the other backs is his size.
At six foot and just over two hundred pounds he is one of the taller backs and is second in mass only to Ray Anthony Long.
This is another back who is a long shot to start but who will benefit from hist experience in a year when coach Inge has to hit the reset button on most of the defense. He will, at the very least, be out on special teams.
Ray Anthony Long
Long is the biggest player in the defensive backfield, and one of the fastest. When you add in the fact that he played in 12 games as a linebacker during UB's 2008 championship he suddenly is a good looking back in an aggressive defense.
Despite his speed long has struggled in pass coverage, he is way more effective as that 5th linebacker playing in the backfield.
In addition to his transition from Linebacker to defensive back Long is also a very effective special teams player, blocking a punt during the Ball State game last season.
Long has a crack at the starting lineup, seems most of the noise is around Houston but if his coverage has improved in the off season he may come out of spring as either the starter or as someone with one of coach Quinn's "OR's" next to his name on the depth chart.
The Florida Triad:
UB has three redShirt Freshmen fighting for spots this spring. Cortney Lester, Dwellie Striggles, and Keith Takeh are all long shots to start. All three are Floridians who possess good speed and have played in excellent high school programs.
Cortney Lester has a MAC pedigree, his father played for Ball State. He was moved over from receiever this off season because of the depth issues at both positions. While Dwellie Striggles and Keith Takeh were both recruited as defensive backs.