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Copeland shines at safety

---While UB’s front seven is pretty much set, some issues in the secondary have to be addressed except for perhaps strong safety where senior Josh Copeland has stood out.

Copeland tied senior defensive tackle Richie Smith for game-high honors in tackles with six during Saturday’s Blue-White Scrimmage and the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse.

The defensive staff contemplated moving Copeland to safety prior to the start of spring practice but just three practices into workout they saw a need to strengthen the secondary. The staff made a similar move last year when they moved Domonic Cook from corner to safety.

“(Copeland) was reminding us of Davonte Shannon and in some ways maybe even better because he knows how to tackle and get his head in there because he was a linebacker,’’ said Ernest Jones, who along with Mike Dietzel coaches the Bulls secondary. “He was a natural fit.’’

For Copeland, who was recruited to play safety, it’s all about getting on the field.

“I like safety, but I like coming down, being physical, hitting and playing linebacker,’’ Copeland said. “Wherever they need me, that’s where I’ll play. We’ve had a lot of challenges the last couple of years with the changes and playing both linebacker and safety. I’ve been waiting patiently and I’ve been preparing myself well so I feel like I’m ready.’’

The rest of the secondary has to be developed. Sophomore Romel Dismuke and redshirt freshman Cortney Lester, who converted from wide receiver, started at corner while junior Isaac Baugh started a free safety with Copeland at strong.

The offense pounced on their inexperience as junior Jerry Davis and sophomore Alex Zordich combined to throw for 322 yards and three touchdowns. Four completions covered more than 40 yards. Senior Marcus Rivers caught nine passes for 198 yards and three TDs.

“When you lose guys like Domonic Cook, Josh Thomas and Sherrod Lott there’s going to be some growing pains,’’ Jones said. “”We do have some athletic guys who can play, it’s going to come down to fundamentals. The fundamentals are what we have to work on.’’

Overall the defense had a pair of interceptions, one by junior linebacker Jaleel Verser, which he returned 17 yards and sophomore safety Okoye Houston. Sophomore Khalil Mack had four solo tackles, while Joe Petit added five tackles, as did linebacker Scott Pettigrew who was also credited with a pass breakup. Redshirt freshman defensive end Kristjan Sokoli added a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

Junior linebacker Dalonte Wallace, junior tackle Wyatt Cahill and sophomore end Colby Way each recorded a sack.

---UB's running game was led by Jeffvon Gill who had 35 yards on 10 carries and redshirt freshman James Potts, who had 27 yards on just five carries (5.4 per carry), while sophomore Branden Oliver added a three-yard touchdown run in the second half.

--Rodney McKissic


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About Campus Watch

Bob Dicesare

Bob DiCesare

Western New York native Bob DiCesare covers UB football, Big 4 basketball and writes an occasional column. He still holds a grudge against Chris Ford who, he's convinced, cost St. Bonaventure the 1970 NCAA basketball championship.

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Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered colleges for The Buffalo News since 1999. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |