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Audio: DiCesare, Sully in Georgia preview UB's opener

The News' Bob DiCesare and Jerry Sullivan, outside of Athens, Ga., in preparation to cover the University at Buffalo's opener Saturday check in with this preview:

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Grassman Gives UB Leg Up

One never can be sure that what a freshman shows in training camp will carry into the season. And even if those skills are on display in the opener, it remains a question whether it will carry through season's end. Still, it's worth noting that punter Tyler Grassman, a true freshman from Columbus, Ohio, has been booming it in practice at UB Stadium, especially over the course of the last week. He won the job over place kicker Patrick Clarke, although teams prefer to split the duties when its a viable option. Clarke was perfect on FG and EXP attempts after taking over for Peter Fardon during last season.

Saturday's game against sixth-ranked Georgia will be one of two the Bulls will play in Athens this year. The other is in Athens, Ohio against the Bobcats. That' will be my third Athens (Greece, 2004). Since I'll be behind the wheel of the rental car after me and Sully land in Atlanta Friday, I just might  take him 2 1/2 hours out of the way for a stop in Athens, Tenn., to set up the Athenian Grand Slam.

-- Bob DiCesare



Richt on Georgia Ranking

Here's what Georgia coach Mark Richt had to say Tuesday about Georgia's lofty preseason ranking. The Bulldogs are No. 6 in the AP poll:

“The year we were preseason No. 1 (in 2008), that was the year Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones started as freshmen, and it’s hard to think you’re the preseason No. 1 team when you have a lot of freshman linemen starting for you. We have a brand new punter, kicker, tailbacks. There are a lot of question marks, no doubt, but I think everybody in the country have some kind of issue. Sometimes teams look more glamorous when they are far away. You don’t see all the warts.”

Of course, Glenn was drafted by the Bills in the second round in April, 41st overall.

Richt on the strength of the SEC:

“Our teams have been able to have one make it to the national championship game every year for the last six years and win it. If we were in that game six years in a row and won three out of six, I don’t think people would be talking about the SEC as being a dominant conference. The reality is we’ve won the last six in a row, and with teams that might have had a loss here or loss there. One year there were two losses with LSU having two losses. People are saying a one-loss SEC team may still be the best team in America, or at least still has the right to play for it. Of course Alabama had one loss and they didn’t win the league, but they played for the national championship and won it. I think it’s a tribute to the programs as a whole."

-- Bob DiCesare

UB Football Chat -- 2 p.m.

Bonnies to meet UConn in 2013-14 season

Success can earn you some interesting opportunities.

Like playing seven-time national champion Connecticut.

The St. Bonaventure women's basketball program will be part of the inaugural Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge in the 2013-14 season. Four teams will play games at Connecticut and four at Ohio State with the final games at the MassMutal Center in Springfield, Mass.

The Bonnies will kick off the event playing UConn at Gampel Pavilion and will also meet Old Dominion and Boston University. Those games will be played Nov. 22-27. Meanwhile the Ohio State pool includes the Buckeyes, Bowling Green, Marist and Monmouth. All eight teams will travel to Springfield for games on Dec. 1. The Bonnies will meet Bowling Green on that date. 

The NCAA exempt tournament is being sponsored by the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

--- Amy Moritz

Mack Suspension Fight-Related

The suspension of star linebacker Khalil Mack resulted from a fight involving UB teammate Fred Lee, sources tell me. Mack did not participate in Saturday's scrimmage or today's practice. Lee missed Saturday but practiced today with a yellow (injured) jersey. It remains unclear when Mack will be reinstated or whether the matter has gone beyond the oversight of the football team and athletic department. More to come.

-- Bob DiCesare


JJ Settling in at UB

Caught up with former Sweet Home star and UB freshman Jordan Johnson at media day Tuesday. He's itching to get on the field. Since he'd be no better than third on the RB depth chart behind Bo Oliver and James Potts -- and probably lower -- that would mean contributing on special teams, possibly as a return man. He's all for it.

"I wouldn't mind," Johnson said. "Any way to get on the field is good for me. I wouldn't want to red-shirt."

Johnson's viewing this season as a great opportunity. He has a highly respected RB coach in Matt Simon and an ideal role model in Oliver, who was 14th nationally in rushing last year.

"I'm just out here to get better and learn from Bo," Johnson said. "He's one of the best running backs around and I've seen that every day in practice with his work ethic. When we're in our film sessions you can see why he's high in the NCAA ranks and why he ran as well as he did last season.

"So far it's been everything I expected. Everybody out here competing, getting better every day. Every day's a learning day, every day's a physical day and every day's a day to get better.""

-- Bob DiCesare

Billy Baron won't use scholarship for Canisius

Billy Baron doesn't have an assist yet for the Canisius basketball team, but he's already quite the team player.

Not only will Baron be eligible to play this season after receiving an NCAA waiver, but with his dad, Jim Baron, as coach, he won't use up one of the team's scholarships, either. 

Canisius confirmed today that Billy Baron falls under what the NCAA calls "non-recruited, non-scholarship student-athletes" and won't use one of the team's 13 allowed scholarships.

He's been accepted into the college and the school said he will be eligible for Canisius' tuition reimbursement program that allows faculty members to send their children to the school for free. 

With Phil Valenti and Jermaine Johnson coming in, the team currently has two scholarships remaining for the upcoming season, which it may or may not use. Tyrel Edwards' name has been thrown around for months as a Canisius recruit, but as of Aug. 15, a week and a half before classes start, the athletic department hasn't seen any paperwork from him.

The roster right now has 11 scholarship players, Baron, and walk-ons Tyler Funk and Sean Ezeamama, who both played last year.

The Griffs will have four more scholarships next season after Harold Washington, Alshwan Hymes, Freddy Asprilla and Isaac Sosa graduate. 

It will be another week or two before Canisius' schedule is released.

--- Nick Veronica

Twitter: @NickVeronica

Billy Baron eligible to play for Canisius this season

Canisius junior guard Billy Baron -- who transferred from Rhode Island to follow his father, head coach Jim Baron -- has received a waiver from the NCAA that will allow him to compete in the upcoming season without having to sit out a year.

Billy Baron scored 13.0 points per game last year with Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 and looks to be a starter for the Griffs this season. He has been accepted into the college and has two years of eligibility remaining.

Jim Baron was fired March 4 and later hired by Canisius. Billy started his career in the Atlantic Coast Conference with Virginia, but transferred to Rhode Island to play with his dad after just one semester. He sat out the full, NCAA-required year before being eligible for the final 20 games last season.

Baron's waiver is another step in NCAA precedent that allows players to play immediately if they transfer because their father was fired. Central Michigan's Trey Zeigler was also granted the waiver earlier this year to play at Pittsburgh after his father, Ernie, was fired.

--- Nick Veronica

Twitter: @NickVeronica

Major Recruit Verbals to UB

Why has James Coleman, a running back sought by the likes of Michigan, West Virginia and Rutgers, made made a verbal commitment to attend UB?

For one, Coleman, who attends Christ the King in New York City, is friends with another player who has given UB a verbal commitment -- wide receiver Kyvaune Brammer of Brooklyn Tech. What's more, Coleman said he was won over after discussions with UB running backs coach Matt Simon, who at the NFL level coached 2,000-yard NFL rusher Jamal Lewis and 2006 MVP LaDainian Tomlinson.

"His whole attitude, his aura, was different," Coleman said of Simon in a New York Post story. "He was a straight shooter. When I verballed, I called him. We have a good bond."

The question is: Will the verbal stand up if bigger schools amp up their pursuit?

"Right now my mind is set on Buffalo. It's a good fit for me," Coleman said. "I didn't want to feel pressure on my back. I feel like I commit now, I can relax."

Coleman goes 6-3, 210 pounds and plays on Christ the King's powerhouse basketball team. Hmm. Another James Starks?

-- Bob DiCesare

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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.

@TBNDicesare |

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 |