In defensive coordinator Brian Borland's new 4-3 base scheme, the defensive line will play a key part in the successes of the defense as a whole. The new 1 gap scheme that the defense will run puts a large responsibility on the defensive line to wreak havoc on the offensive line and make opposing quarterbacks' lives nightmares. The defensive line will also be the primary source of the UB pass-rush which will look to be reinvigorated after a down year last season. There is a solid group of veterans along the interior of the line with a young core of newcomers and converted linebackers that will be competing for time at both defensive end spots.
There is plenty of depth along the line with guys that have unique combinations of size, speed and strength that will give Brian Borland the tools to make defensive line combinations that can adapt to any situation.
DE - Solomon Jackson, So., 6-2, 233 - After redshirting in his first season at UB, Jackson served as a backup linebacker last season and played extensively on special teams. So far this spring, Jackson has ran with the 1st team defense at the weak side defensive end position. Even though he is undersized for a defensive end and has the build of a linebacker, Jackson can thrive in the weak side role because his primary responsibility will be to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback. In the spring game he had an impressive pair of "sacks" (I put sack in quotes because there was no contact allowed against the quarterbacks) against the first team offensive line showing off a ferocious motor. Jackson will likely rotate with several of the other players on this list, but if he is able to set the edge in the run game and be successful, he'll be on the field more often than not.
DT - Max Perisse, Jr., 6-4, 262 - Perisse also redshirted his first year at UB, but saw 12 and 10 games in his sophomore and junior year, respectively. He finished his sophomore season with 13 tackles (7 solo), 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble. Perisse has good inside size and an athletic nature. Although only being a junior, he will be expected to be a leader of the defensive line unit, which will not have a senior present on the squad. The positive of this will be that the entire defensive line will be returning next season.
DT - Brandon Crawford, Jr., 6-2, 275 - Crawford is the most game experienced member of the defensive line, having appeared in 18 games in his first two seasons and starting six. He was particularly impressive in his freshman season as one of only four true freshmen to play on the bowl team he had an impressive sack and forced fumble against San Diego State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. He transitioned from a hybrid linebacker/defensive end to a more traditional defensive tackle role last season and he thrived, putting consistent pressure on the pocket and registering three sacks. This season he will man the starting defensive tackle spot and the new 4-3 scheme will allow him to show off his pass-rushing prowess.
DE - Demone Harris, So., 6-4, 266 - Harris is a local product and walk-on from Bishop Timon-St. Jude who redshirted in his first season and appeared as a reserve defensive lineman last season. Harris has been running with the first team all spring long and into training camp. Harris has recorded several sacks during the 11-on-11 drills during the early stages of camp; he has excellent size for the strong side defensive end position, but will need to fend off several other players on this list for playing time during the season.
Corey Henderson, R-Fr., 6-4, 266 - Originally recruited as a linebacker, Henderson is one of several players who will be making the transition from linebacker to the defensive line. Henderson has good size and has been playing with the second team throughout the spring. There isn't much game tape on Henderson, but he will likely be part of the defensive line rotation and with his size he is capable of playing both defensive end and defensive tackle.
Randy Anyanwu, R-Fr., 6-2, 226 - Like Henderson and Jackson, Anyanwu is transitioning from linebacker to weak side defensive end. Anyanwu is a bit undersized like Jackson, but, like Jackson, Anyanwu can make up for the lack of size with his speed and unstoppable motor. In the spring game Anyanwu, like Jackson, also had a pair of sacks against the first team offense. Anyanwu has rotated in with the first team and worked with the second team throughout the spring and will look to compete with Jackson for the starting position at defensive end and will be at minimum a primary backup.
Myles Nicholas, R-Fr., 6-2, 236 - And yet another redshirt freshman that is making the transition from linebacker to defensive end, Nicholas is a WNY name to watch in the defensive end position battle. Nicholas has been working with the second team throughout the spring and will be competing for time with Jackson and Anyanwu.
Gusty Schwartzmeier, R-Fr., 6-4, 271 - Not only does he have one of the best names on the UB roster, but Schwartzmeier has an interesting combination of size and athleticism that will be used at both defensive end and perhaps defensive tackle throughout the season. He played with the second team during the spring game and showing great power in the run game. It should be noted that in high school he was the MVP of the NY Underclassmen Combine. Gusty will be competing for time along the defensive line and his athleticism will be a key in determining the amount of time that he sees.
Torey Hendrick, Jr., 6-2, 215 - One of the big surprises on National Signing Day that got plenty of attention was the addition of Hendrick, a 3-star JUCO transfer from ASA College. Hendrick had plenty of P-5 attention, at one point he was even committed to Iowa, but was unable to attend due to a credit paperwork SNAFU. But, what was Iowa's loss, is UB's gain. Hendrick is an explosive pass rusher that will likely see the field early as a pass rush specialist.
Chris Ford, So., 6-2, 318 - After appearing in nine games in a reserve role last season, Ford will look to become a bigger part of the defensive line rotation this season. Ford is a stout defender with the size to bully offensive linemen, especially in the run game. Look to see him in on early downs to support against the run, and if he shows off a pass rush ability then he will likely see more time on the field next to Brandon Crawford.
Jake Khoury, R-Fr., 6-2, 280 - Yet another redshirt freshman that will be competing for time along the defensive line; Khoury's size will likely allow him to swing between either defensive end or defensive tackle.
Zach Smekal, So., 6-3, 244 - Another defensive end prospect that will be competing for time in one of the two spots. Smekal was working with the second team recently, but suffered a knee injury and will be day-to-day.
Duke Hwang, Fr., 6-0, 280 - A speedy defensive tackle prospect making the short trek from Williamsville, Hwang is an intriguing prospect. Watching his game tape from high school you can see that Hwang is exceptionally fast for a man his size and he can give offensive linemen fits trying to contain him. Hwang may redshirt this coming season, but will be a factor in the coming years.
Christian Gonzalez, Fr., 6-2, 310 - A physically imposing presence, Gonzalez has the physical tools to contribute along the defensive line early in his career. Gonzalez has rotated in with the third team defense during the spring and may not take a redshirt to provide size and depth at the defensive tackle spot.
Justin Brandon, Fr., 6-0, 302 - Brandon comes to UB from Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, Indiana where he was an exceptional defensive lineman on the #12 team in the country last year. Brandon brings a good combination of size, athleticism and strength and will be an intriguing prospect along the interior of the UB defensive line.
Charles Harris, Fr., 6-3, 240 - Harris comes to UB with the size and explosiveness required to contribute immediately. Harris displayed power, and speed of a Division I pass rusher in high school and he'll likely contribute as a defensive end as a true freshman if he can play like he did in high school. The most tantalizing attribute that Harris has is that he is as good as his is after only playing football for 3 years, so his ceiling is high. However, he has a long list of players in front of him that he will need to compete with for playing time.
Joe Tutela, Fr., 6-1, 275 - A walk on who will likely redshirt this season and will compete for time in the coming seasons.
Be sure to stay tuned to Bull Run for more positional previews and Matt and I's Olympic Team Previews. Also, a big thank you to Drew who helped out on this post and will be helping me out the rest of the week.
Football Positional Previews:
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Olympic Team Previews: