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Buffalo Bulls Football Positional Preview - Linebackers

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Moving to the defensive side of the ball and taking a look at the Bulls' linebackers for the upcoming season.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

We'll be having a pattern this week of going back and forth between offensive and defensive position groups (with special teams as well), so today we take a look toward the defensive side. The linebacking corps is an interesting blend of youth and veterans, but one that is considerably undersized when compared to other schools because a number of defensive backs have been converted to play outside linebacker. This was done primarily because many of the players who were at linebacker were converted to defensive end for the new 4-3 scheme and the graduation of Jake Stockman and Lee Skinner took a considerable toll as well.

Projected Starters

OLB - Jarrett Franklin, Jr., 6-0, 217 - The Bulls' top returning tackler from a season ago, Franklin is the most experienced among the linebackers having appearing 21 games and starting 10 in his first two seasons in Amherst. For his career so far, Franklin has amassed 70 tackles, 8 for loss and 2.5 sacks. Franklin, while undersized, can be an effective pass-rusher when given the chance and is solid in the run game as well, with a career-high 8 tackles against run-happy Army last season. With a full season of starting experience under his belt, and with his time as Khalil Mack's understudy during his freshman season, Franklin has the experience and know-how to once again  be the cornerstone of the linebacking corps and give Defensive Coordinator Brian Borland a veteran to lean on.

ILB - Nick Gilbo, Sr., 6-0, 226A former walk-on who burst onto the scene in a big way during his first season with the Bulls in 2013, Gilbo looks to have locked down the starting role in the middle of Coach Borland's defense. In Gilbo's first game for UB against Ohio State, he impressed in a big way with four tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble, a performance that was only bested by Khalil Mack. However, after appearing in 6 games, Gilbo dealt with injuries and was unable to finish out the season. Last season, he appeared in 11 games, racking up 37 tackles with four for loss and 1.5 sacks. During the spring game, Gilbo was the leader of the defense, with 6 tackles and he was in on nearly every play putting pressure on the quarterback. Gilbo has the ability to be the thumping middle linebacker that punishes running backs on a weekly basis for the Bulls, while also pitching an underrated pass-rush that will help keep the heat on opposing quarterbacks; he looks to be UB's tackling machine.

OLB - Okezie Alozie Sr., 6-0, 214 - One of the several defensive backs making the move to linebacker, Alozie looks to fill the big shoes left by Adam Redden in the starting lineup. Over the course of his career Alozie has had experience at both safety and linebacker so the transition won't be as steep as for some other players. Like Franklin, Alozie also brings with him a wealth of game experience having started 9 games and appeared in 34 over his 3 years; he also has 99 career tackles with 7.5 for a loss and 4 sacks. He's another undersized guy, but will be another important piece in the Bulls' front seven.

Backups

Kyril Threats, Sr., 6-2, 224 - The former walk-on from ECC proved himself a valuable member of the team after overcoming academic issues that lead to his dismissal from the ECC program. He brought a consistent pass rush and contributed on a team that struggled last season. He'll be challenging for starting time and will see the field early and often. With the news that starter Jarrett Franklin will be out indefinitely with a back injury, Threats has stepped into the starting role at outside linebacker, stay tuned for updates.

Brandon Berry, Jr., 6-0, 208 - Another former safety who has been converted to linebacker, Berry will be competing for playing time after appearing in nine games last season and serving on special teams during his redshirt-freshman season.

Ishmael Hargrove, So., 6-2, 197 - He appeared in four games as a true freshman but did not record any tackles on defense; but he will be competing for reserve playing time once again.

CJ Stancil, Jr., 5-11, 204 - Yet another defensive back making the move to linebacker, Stancil will compete for more playing time after playing primarily on speical teams. However, he's undersized and will need to show a lot to move ahead of some other guys on the depth chart.

Greg Lis, So., 6-0, 226 - A rising sophomore who played in a reserve role and on special teams last season, Lis will likely be one of the primary backups at inside linebacker behind Nick Gilbo. Lis is a hard-hitting thumper who showed promise in the Norfolk State game registering 4 solo tackles. He'll be on the field in relief for Gilbo this season, in preparation for a competition for the starting job the following season.

Will White, R-Fr., 5-11, 218One of the Quinn era's highest rated recruits, White is a former All-State linebacker for Cass Tech in Detroit, Michigan. White will look to compete for time at inside linebacker after a solid spring game and offseason work.

Travis Pitzonka, Sr., 6-0, 214A local product who was a walk on, and fan-favorite, Pitzonka has been a key member of the kick coverage team appearing in 34 games during his career in Amherst. During his senior season, Pitzonka will once again be a leader on special teams and will look to expand his role on defense as well as he was the second team inside linebacker during the practices at training camp.

Matt Mallory, R-Fr., 6-3, 222 - Another former walk-on, Mallory will add depth and look to break onto the field. Mallory played with the second unit during UB's first practice of training camp.

Incoming Freshmen

For the incoming freshmen this year, there are several guys new to the team who are walk-ons that don't have much information posted outside of measurables. Because of this, its reasonable to expect that the majority of them will be redshirted and allowed to bulk up and acclimate to the college game for their freshman year, or will serve on the scout team or special teams. The newcomers to the team are:

Jake Ames

Zach Emer

Mike Mitris

Nico Ruggerio

Nick Ames

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Be sure to stay tuned to Bull Run for more positional previews and Matt and I's Olympic Team Previews.

Football Positional Previews:

Quarterbacks

Olympic Team Previews:

Volleyball - Team Preview

Volleyball - Lineup Guess

Men's Soccer - Team Preview

Go Bulls!