A little over two years ago when Stu Riddle announced his first Buffalo recruiting class, Oklahoma native Austin Place garnered possibly the best line of Press Release Coach Praise I've ever read:
"Austin demonstrates a fine blend of old fashioned defensive steel in the tackle with modern day silkiness when on the ball."
31 starts later, I think that quote ages perfectly for Austin, a key part of the rapidly improving defensive group that I've been praising so much this summer.
In between the steeliness and silk that Riddle highlighted years ago, Place especially has a knack for gaining possession quickly after making a stop on defense and turning the ball upfield. It's smooth.
More from the Bulls defense
I've spent enough words on the defense and growing levels of experience, but of that group, Place perhaps brings the strongest nose for offense. He's only got one goal in his career, but David Enstrom is the only other defender who can say that, and Austin took more shots than any other defenders last season. For what it's worth, he also scored both goals in UB's 2014 preseason exhibition against Rochester, both times collecting loose balls off the head of Fox Slotemaker.
Place started this past summer with FC Buffalo but didn't seem to play at all - unless I'm reading their website wrong - and I believe left Buffalo to spend some time in Oklahoma before the Blitzers' season was over.
In 2015, I'd expect Austin to once against start nearly every game, likely from the right back position on the edge of the defense, which is where I most remember him last year and is better suited for his ability to work the ball forward than a more central spot. He's less likely to be affected by new guy Nick Forrester - unless I'm wildly wrong about Forrester's likely central position or immediate impact - and I imagine three months from now I'll still be talking about the still-improving in-sync defense at UB Stadium