Perhaps no single unit will benefit as much from the addition of Lou Tepper as the UB Linebackers will.
After all Tepper literally wrote a book on the position, he's also been a coordinator for some of the best programs in the nation. Departing coordinator William Inge happened to see Tepper within days of deciding that he was leaving the Bulls for a chance to coach in the NFL. Tepper was a natural fit to replace Inge as they were both came up as line backing coaches.
Tepper leads a defense led by one of the best linebackers in the conference, Khalil Mack. Last year, as a sophomore he was a first-team All-MAC selection and an honorable mention All-American by Sports Illustrated. His most impressive numbers were his 20.5 tackles for loss, third most in the nation and five forced fumbles.
But Mack is an all around defender on the season he had 65 tackles, five and a half sacks and 13 quarterback hurries.
Mack is Joned on the right side of the line by Lee Skinner. Skinner walked on in 2010. After not getting a division one scholarship offer Skinner bumped into Coach Jeff Quinn at a high school wrestling championship. Skinner then had to setp into the starting role last seasons when John Syty suffered a career ending concussion.
Skinner made September a month to remember. He racked up 31 tackles in the first month. He finished the season with 80 which was second on the team and the most of any returning player.
The outside linebacker opposite of Mack is still up in the air. Right now its between Imani Chatman or Dalonte Wallace.
Chatman spent most of his time last season on the sidelines. When he was not on the sidelines he was playing with the special teams units. He saw action in six games last season, in each the final two he had a tackle. While absent from the offensive and defensive depth charts late last season Chatman made strides throughout the spring.
Dalonte Wallace has not been a name that the casual fan might notice but he has been a key component of UB defenses and special teams. In three years he has played 27 of a possible 36 games, hes racked up 31 tackles, including three for a loss, and he's registered a sack.
The right inside linebacker spot will likely be manned by Scott Pettigrew. Pettigrew was set to back up Jaleel Verser but Verser is not eligible to play this season.
Two years ago Scott Pettigew suffered a spring knee injury that ended his season before it began.He was a returning starter fighting to hold his spot when he suffered a season ending injury during srping camps.
Despite the setbacks Pettigrew, who is described by coaches as a hard-nosed linebacker would not see his playing career and because of injuries, no matter how severe. He set about working his way back on the field and wound up playing in every game last season. He backed up Fred Branch last season and racking up thirty tackles and forced fumble.
The other player fighting to fill the void left by Verser is Jake Stockman. last season the redshirt freshman had a big impact on special teams and also played some minutes with the defense. In all Stockman saw action in ten games and recorded nine tackles.
During this springs Blue and white game Stockman notched 7 tackles, matching the numbers put up by Lee Skinner. After that game he landed on the depth chart as an inside linebacker behind Verser and Pettigrew. (hat tip to adcgjh for pointing out stockman's rising stock)
|Pos||Player||Games||Int||Yds||Ast||Solo||Loss -A||Loss -s||Loss - YDS||Sack -A||Sack -S||Yds||brk||ff||hurries|
Losing Verser hurt this unit. He had the size to provide a real threat to opposing Quarterbacks. With him out of the mix it becomes a bit easier for opposing offenses to game plan solely around Mack.
Depending on how fast coach Tepper wants to implement his system this could be a hard year. Last season the Bulls Linebackers made many of their stops too far down field when attacked with the run and did not get consistent pressure on the Quarterback in passing situations.
But if the Buffalo defense is going to improve this season it will be the linebackers leading the charge.