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Camellia added to MAC bowl picture

By Rodney McKissic

UB coach Jeff Quinn is excited about the Mid-American Conference adding the Camellia Bowl beginning next year in Birmingham, Ala.

Teams from the MAC and Sun Belt will meet in the new bowl game, ESPN announced Monday, which will debut in December 2014 under a six-year deal. The newly renovated Cramton Bowl will serve as the host of the bowl which is tentatively scheduled to be held prior to Christmas Day.

The MAC was able to gain another guaranteed bowl because of its product, which reached its peak in 2012. Seven teams – Kent State, Bowling Green, Ohio, Northern Illinois, Ball State, Toledo and Central Michigan – gained bowl eligibility in 2012, a conference record. Northern Illinois became the first MAC team to qualify for a Bowl Championship Series bowl.

“We have a lot of quality players returning in our league,” Quinn said. “It’s a great league and its definitely deserving of these postseason opportunities. … It’s nice to see the MAC secure another bowl.”

The MAC has deals with the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and the GoDaddy Bowl as well as an option for some of the ESPN-owned games.

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Junior guard Trevor Sales missed practice on Tuesday with an injury to his right knee although Quinn said the injury isn’t serious. Sales was hurt during Monday evening’s session of two-a-days.

“He felt really good in the morning and we’re going to do what’s right to get him back and healthy for Ohio State,” Quinn said. “He told me, ‘Look coach, don’t worry if you need me to go, I’m ready.’ Trevor is probably as tough as anybody I’ve ever coached.”

The boot was removed from Dillon Guy’s left foot, another sign that the junior guard is close to returning to practice after suffering an ankle sprain.  
Senior wide receiver Fred Lee, also recovering from an ankle injury, also missed practice. Both remain day-to-day. Senior safety Derek Brim returned to practice but was limited.

Others who sat out Tuesday were junior linebacker Ryan Paxson, sophomore linebacker Brandon Tammaro, sophomore offensive lineman John Kling, redshirt freshman offensive lineman Dan Collura as well as linebacker Brandon Crawford and tailback James Coleman, pair of true freshmen.

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Running the ball was the emphasis during both 11-on-11 drills and senior tailback Branden Oliver received plenty of reps.

“We have one of the best tailbacks in the country, and we’re going to put the damn ball in his hands,” Quinn said.

Quinn didn’t, nevertheless, care for the blocking along the offensive line. One defender greeted Oliver as soon as the ball was handed off.

“I need guys up front who understand the responsibility of being a good, pad level, powerful guy. We have solid schemes and it’s about having players with the right attitude.”

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The Bulls practice twice today and will hold a situational scripted scrimmage on Thursday, Quinn said.

“We’ll finish things off with some things in a game that are unusually or special that don’t happen every week but when they do you want to be prepared,” Quinn said. “Things like clock management, personnel, last seconds of the game and so on and so forth.”

The Bulls practice Friday before a bench-controlled scripted practice on Saturday.

“We’ll go through everything imaginable and put it all together,” Quinn said. “That will be a thud or tag off mentality, not tackling.

Video: Return of leading pass rusher adds to strength of UB Bulls' unit

The News' sports reporter Rodney McKissic says the UB Bulls have one of the better passing rush units in their division.

Lee day-to-day with ankle injury

By Rodney McKissic

Senior wide receiver Fred Lee was one of several Bulls who sat out today's morning session.

Coach Jeff Quinn said Lee, UB’s fourth leading receiver a year ago, is day-to-day after suffering an ankle injury during Saturday’s scrimmage.

“It’s the third week of fall camp and Fred’s tough, he’s going to be alright and it’s a day-to-day thing,” Quinn said. “He’s a little nicked up but that’s why that Next Bull In mentality is so important.”

Also day-to-day is Dillon Guy. The junior guard is no longer on crutches and his left foot is in a boot as he recovers from an ankle sprain.

“He keeps improving,” Quinn said. “We’ve been very fortunate. It’s not easy to lose anybody but at the end of the day it’s a tough game.”

Others who sat out Monday were senior safety Derek Brim, sophomore linebacker Brandon Tammaro, redshirt freshman offensive lineman Dan Collura as well as linebacker Brandon Crawford and tailback James Coleman, pair of true freshmen.

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Quinn had the offense playing at a quicker tempo not only to help the unit's cohesion but also prepare the defense for Ohio State. Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer, along with Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, was one of the first to embrace the hurry-up, spread attack that is all the rage these days in college football. Time can be better served celebrating touchdowns than huddling.

“They would huddle, run the play, huddle and run the play,” Quinn said. “Then what they found out that in the last two minutes those offenses that move quick can score in less than two minutes. Look at how many heroic finishes that we used to witness. They someone said, ‘Why don’t we do that every play?’ Why wait until the last two minutes of the game?’’

During 11-on-11 drills, the Bulls ran a play and set up at the line of scrimmage in under 10 seconds but Quinn was heard bellowing, “Too slow!”

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NFL scouts representing the Colts, Lions and Redskins observed Monday’s practice, yet another example of the increased interest in the Bulls’ program. Three more are scheduled to observer practice Tuesday, two on Thursday and one on Saturday.

“They don’t waste their time,” said defensive line coach Jappy Oliver, the Bulls pro liaison. “We’re trying to sell people. They find them and they come and check them out.”

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Khalil Mack gave some pointers to true freshman Soloman Jackson after practice.

“We worked on playing low, playing at pad level and being firm on contact and getting off blocks,” Mack said. “It just something we’re working on.”

Coach Mack?

“A little bit,” he said. “But you make me sound old.”

Instant Return for UB's Ross?

By Bob DiCesare

True freshman wideout Boise Ross looks like he’ll be in the mix as a punter returner along with Devin Campbell.

 “I’ve been doing punt return and kick return ever since my freshman year of high school,” Ross said. “It’s been a smooth transition from there. Just getting it down and getting into the college speed is the only difference that I’m trying to handle right now. It’s not relly that much different, just the height of the ball and the speed of the players really.”

Ross played his senior season at Liberty High in Bethlehem, Pa., and last September had an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown (and a 46-yard TD reception) in a game against Nazareth.

Sokoli Making Impact at NG

By Bob DiCesare

Earlier this week in camp UB defensive coordinator Lou Tepper pointed to nose guard Kristjan Sokoli as a defensive player who's made great strides from last season to this one. 

“I got to thanking Zach Duval for that, our strength coach,” Sokoli said. “I kind of tried to bulk up and first and towards summer conditioning the big focus became to stay low and cut fast and move better and maybe shave off a few pounds. They put 30 pounds on me and then took over maybe five or seven. Overall, it was one of my better offseasons. It’s paying off now because I feel bigger, faster and stronger.”

 A 6-foot-5, 300-pound junior from Bloomfield, N.J., Sokoli benefitted from rotating with Cahill last season. Dalton Barksdale will be the one spelling Sokoli at the nose this season.

 “My big focus right now is being able to play the whole game, being able to play my hardest football and my best football in the fourth quarter where it counts the most,” he said. “But at the same time I know Dalton Barksdale, he’ll be there too and he gives us a consistent look at nose guard but we all got to be ready to play four quarters of football.”

Johnson Injury and UB Notes

By Bob DiCesare

Former Sweet Home star Jordan Johnson underwent elbow surgery this week and likely will sit out the season. Johnson, a redshirt freshman running back, suffered a fracture and dislocation and will wear a cast for about another week. Johnson bulked up from 205 to 232 during the offseason before returning to a playing weight of 225. He would have been no higher than fifth on the running back depth chart behind Bo Oliver, Anthone Taylor, Devin Campbell and James Potts but would have factored in on special teams. Recovery time is estimated at six months.

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Todd Therrein (Wmsv. East), a converted DL, and Bobby Blodgett -- both sophomores -- are getting the work at right guard while Dillon Guy nurses an ankle sprain . . .  Backup slot receiver Cordero Dixon remained sidelined with an unspecified injury. . . . True freshman wideout Jamarl Eiland rejoined the team Friday after returning home because of a death in the family. . . . Boise Ross showed a great speed burst after a catch and appears the most likely of three true frosh WRs to see action this season. Teammates have nicknamed Ross "Mr. Potato." (Boise . .. Idaho ... Get it?) . . . Bulls will scrimmage the final hour of practice Saturday beginning at 12:45. Quinn said the offensive emphasis will be on specific situations, such as red-zone and two-minute execution.

Video: Taking a look at UB's offensive line and free safety positions

The News' sports reporter Aaron Mansfield takes a look at UB's offensive line and free safety positions and speaks with head coach Jeff Quinn.

UB camp: Thursday injury updates

By Aaron Mansfield

Several players missed practice today with injuries. Redshirt freshman running back Jordan Johnson (Sweet Home) was on the sidelines with his left arm in a sling.

“Jordan banged up his elbow, so we’re going to have to keep a close eye on that and see how long it’s going to take,” head coach Jeff Quinn said.

Junior wide receiver Cordero Dixon, who is expected to compete for the slot position, was in street clothes. Dixon took a big shot Monday from corner Cortney Lester and was on the ground for about five minutes before walking off under his own power.

Junior right guard Dillon Guy was on crutches, but Quinn said the injury -- a rolled ankle acquired in the team's morning session -- is not too serious and he expects Guy back soon.

“Dillon’s a tough kid, and we’re expecting he’ll be out for a few days and we’ll see what happens,” Quinn said.

Senior wide receiver Fred Lee got hit today and was surrounded by the medical staff for several minutes before he walked off. It appeared he simply had the wind knocked out of him.

“He kind of laughed,” Quinn said. “Freddy’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever known.”

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Follow reporter Aaron Mansfield on Twitter @aaroncmansfield.

 

After breakout 2012, Brim ready to help lead secondary

 

Courtesy of Nick Fischetti/The Spectrum -- Derek Brim (15) combines with senior corner Najja Johnson (22) to make a hit against Miami Ohio in the Bulls' 27-24 win Nov. 3, 2012.
Courtesy of Nick Fischetti/The Spectrum -- Derek Brim (15) combines with senior corner Najja Johnson (22) to make a hit against Miami Ohio in the Bulls' 27-24 win Nov. 3, 2012.

By Aaron Mansfield

 

It’s a mantra that gets repeated often around UB Stadium: Next Bull In. Derek Brim kept that mantra in his mind, and his readiness paid major dividends last season.

Brim, a junior safety, stepped in last year when first-stringer Witney Sherry, who was third on the team in tackles at the time, went down with a shoulder injury in Week Six. Sherry missed the rest of the season, and Brim took full advantage of his opportunity.

Brim started the final five games and finished the year with 47 tackles, including 19 in his first two starts and 34 as a starter. Now the job is his, and the 6-foot, 199-pound safety is considered among the Bulls’ strongest defenders.

“As a group, we’ve been all working hard, trying to be the best secondary in the MAC,” Brim said.

Asked about preparing for this season compared to previous years, in which he was a backup, Brim said, “it’s pretty much the same mindset” – an answer emblematic of his buying into that Next Bull In mentality.

He made an impressive interception in practice today but was quick to attribute the pick to senior Adam Redden, who was deflected the ball in tight man-to-man coverage and plays both defensive back and linebacker.

“Redden did a great job and the ball just kind of flipped into my hands, so I give the credit to him,” Brim said.

Brim’s exceptional hands, however, were evident on the play. He was a star wide receiver at Canisius High School and started his collegiate career at the same position. But he switched to defensive back after his redshirt freshman year because the Bulls had a traffic jam at wide receiver, with guys like Marcus Rivers, Terrell Jackson and Alex Neutz ahead of him in the pecking order.

Brim was primarily a special teams player until his opportunity came last year.

“It’s great to see how well Derek has developed,” head coach Jeff Quinn said. “Derek came in as a non-scholarship football player in our program, really worked hard, kind of quiet. He kind of keeps things to himself. He’s not real loud. He does communicate and he communicates well with the back end.

“But boy oh boy, he brings it. He’s a hitter. He’s a contact guy.”

Brim walked on to the squad as a freshman and now he will start in ‘The Horseshoe’ Aug. 31 against USA Today’s No. 2 team in the nation, Ohio State.

So, with all that talent and boy-oh-boy-he-brings-it ability, why walk on to the Bulls? One reason is the team's location.

“I love playing in my hometown of Buffalo,” Brim said. “It’s great. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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Follow reporter Aaron Mansfield on Twitter @aaroncmansfield.


Battle for third string

By Rodney McKissic

The first two slots at QB are set with Joe Licata at starter and Alex Zordich the backup. Who’s No. 3 is anyone’s guess but quarterbacks coach Don Patterson says it’s a toss up between redshirt freshman Collin Michael and sophomore Tony Daniel.

 “It’s definitely a competition and we don’t have a clear-cut winner right now,” Patterson said. “At the end of spring I thought that Colin had moved slightly ahead of Tony and the depth chart reflected that. But Tony’s worked hard this summer just as the other guys have too and Tony has responded well.”

As a result, both Michael and Daniel are receiving equal reps in training camp.

“It’s in progress,” Patterson said. “What’s challenging is they don’t get that many snaps so it’s not a lot to go on on any particular day. It has to be based on the body of work over the whole camp.”

And while the competition for third string may not sound like a huge deal consider that one season when Patterson was an assistant at Iowa, the Hawkeyes were forced to start their fifth string quarterback because of injuries.

“Some years you play all year without a single injury to the QB,” Patterson said. “Here’s how we explain it to the guys who are third or fourth, ‘If you’re third, you’re two plays away from having to go play,’ ’’ Patterson said. “Worst case scenario is you’re two plays away. Those guys understand that they have to be prepared to play.”

Patterson said the staff will have a clear idea who the third quarterback will be before the season opener at Ohio State.

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UB held two practices on Wednesday. The Bulls worked out in shells and shorts during the morning session with an emphasis on teaching and fundamentals and went to full pads for the afternoon portion. It was the second two-a-day practice this week. UB will work out once today, twice Friday and hold its second scrimmage of training camp on Saturday. … Five players sat out practice with unspecified injuries on Wednesday including junior tailback James Potts, who was seen on the sidelines trying to keep his right knee loose. Potts tore his right ACL last season which forced him to miss the majority of the season as well as spring practice. … The others included defensive backs Whitney Sherry, William Rembert, and James Chambers and wide receiver Cordero Dixon. Chambers had his right arm in a sling. … The defense made some good plays during 7-on-7 drills including two picks by Cortney Lester (off Licata) and senior Tomarris Bell (off Zordich).

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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 | bdicesare@buffnews.com


Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic began his journalism career in 1989 after graduating from the University of Cincinnati and has worked for The Buffalo News since 2001. A proud father of four children, he enjoys reading in his spare time.

@RodneyMcKissic | rmckissic@buffnews.com


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 | amoritz@buffnews.com

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