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A Very Early Look at the 2015 Buffalo Bulls Football Defensive Starters

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Predicting the offensive side of the ball was straightforward but the defense is altogether another story

Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls defense last year - to be kind - struggled. It was average but only in aggregate.

Add to the struggle that Lou Tepper's creation was simply an awkward 3-3-5. The defense has struggled for the most part the entire Quinn stay. In 2013 the Bulls ranked 37th in yards per play against thanks to Mr. Mack but regressed last year to 62nd. And honestly, the offense masked the defense much of the time. Buffalo was able to trade blow for blow when the 'D' allowed a large run or home run throw.

The best player over the course of the season was arguably Kristjan Sokoli. Kristijan was a dominant force at nose tackle who made the players around him look that much better but unfortunately his run in Amherst is over. This leads us to the largest question of the 2015 football season.

First: how is the team going to react switching to a conventional 4-3 defense under new coach Brain Borland and who are the players up front?

We know who two will be. Max Perisse and Brandon Crawford filled in last season and were able to make an impact. For substitutes to enter the game and be difference makers shows great signs for me.  Perisse had flashed of brilliance. But that's only half of the line.

The linebacking core also came up flat last season. Two of the three starters are returning with more experience.

The worst part of last years defense? The secondary. It was worse than bad. So bad that onetime hot WR prospect Boise Ross was stolen from the offensive side of the ball once it became clear that Marqus Baker would not be returning in time for Baylor. To Boise's credit, he's now the star on the defensive side of the ball.  As the season progressed, Boise was the best player on the field for either team.

Keep in mind when we discuss stats for last season Buffalo was robbed of a home MAC game.

Defensive Line - Four Man Front

66 Max Perisse DL 6-4 DL 271 JR Chester, PA

A difference maker who came on strong as the season progresses. Had great games on the road in Ohio and UMass. Look for Max to be the leader of the front four. Max ended up with 12 tackles and picked up a sack against Norfolk State

55 Brandon Crawford DL 6-2 275 JR Madison, FL

Brandon racked up three sacks last season and will need to put together more this year.

***

Buffalo besides losing Sokoli lost Tedroy Lynch, Dalton Barksdale (sounds like a character from the Wire!) and Kendall Roberson. Projected players to fill now two openings with change up front.

##   Torey Hendrick  DE  6-4  230 JR  Dawsonville, GA.

Torey is going to be an interesting addition to the Bulls Team. A JUCO transfer from ASA College in Brooklyn, Torey once had offers from a host of P5 programs. But academic issues took Torey to ASA, and a miscalculation in credits kept him from enrolling at Iowa last year. A winding road to Buffalo but the Bulls could sure use the help. Let's hope academically Torey can stay on the field. Hit the books, we need you.

97 Zach Smekal DL 6-3 247 SO Medford, NJ

Call it a hunch.

Others

Another interesting transfer is Charles Harris. Charles did not play football until sophomore year and never played organized ball in his youth.  College is a priority with a brother who attends Auburn. Also look out for 6-3 Demona Harris, 6-2 Solomon Jackson to play their way into a starting spot.

The Linebackers

Over the course of the Tepper era, there was not clear delineation between LB, DB, and Safety.

3 Okezie Alozie LB 6-1 217 SR Bethlehem, PA

Last season Okezie was technically a DB, but earned his spot after playing well in the weird Redden role two seasons ago. Okezie had 48 tackles in 11 games with three sacks. The Bulls struggled nightly and hopes are with the change and another season the Bulls take a large step up .

43 Nick Gilbo LB 6-1 222 SR Port Henry, NY

Another senior with hopes for a big jump in production. Nick had 37 tackles and credited for two half sacks, and Matt doesn't shut up about Gilbo's performance against Ohio State before a knee injury.

36 Jarrett Franklin LB 6-1 217 JR Saint Charles, MO

Franklin and Alozie had similar production in very different roles. Jarrett had 48 tackles with one sack.

Look for the backups to be Kyril Threats, Travis Pitzonka, and Brandon Berry. I am hoping that one of the three have a great summer and push to be a starter. Much of the defense's success rest on the LBers and all three starters alreayd have extensive experience.

Defensive Backs

IV A new hope!

1 Boise Ross DB 6-1 182 JR Bethlehem, PA

My next hope for a Bull in the NFL Draft. Ross was pegged by many to fill the huge WR gap when Alex Neutz and Fred Lee left, but had issues with routes and dropping some passes. Secondly, a complete lack of talent in the secondary and Marqus Baker's illness precipitated the move from WR to DB.  Boise started strong but as I stated earlier is a star in the making.

Any true Bulls fan know how Boise was named?

5 Marqus Baker DB 5-10 180 SR Tampa, FL

Limited action thanks to that illness, but Marqus was set to be a starter and showed it once he came on strong at the end of last season. Marqus's best game was the beat down of Akron. Look for him to be tested much more than Boise.

Safety

Two new starters.

Gone are starting safeties Witney Sherry and Adam Redden. Safety will be a highly contested position. I could go with Berry and Dadeboe or Houston Glass as they were the primary backups last season. Also see Ryan Williamson and William Rembert.

17 Andrews Dadeboe DB 6-1 196 JR York, PA

I would have put Houston in this spot but he only recorded production in only the first three games last season. I have a feeling the defensive line will struggle to get pressure and the safeties will have to step up, so I'm giving the edge to Andrews on the basis of experience.

23 Brandon Berry DB 6-1 204 SO Detroit, MI

Brandon did not have any stats the last three games of the season. Not sure if he was injured of not. Again the safety position is up for grabs but Brandon did have a good start to the season.

Once again keep an eye out for Houston Glass, who got plenty of playing time, and Ryan Williamson and William Rembert, who can both hit hard.