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Syracuse faced different styles in the ACC

By Rodney McKissic

Before Syracuse entered the ACC, the Orange heard they would have to change its style because their new league was more finesse than physical. Not true according to C.J. Fair.

“I think the physicality of the ACC was underestimated or underrated I should say,” Fair said. “You got some teams that have similar styles like Virginia has a similar style to Pittsburgh. You play against Duke, they’re more up and down. It’s just you get a taste of everything in the ACC, not just one style.”

Bayr Moussa Keita agrees.

“Everybody told us it’s a run and gun type of play, but we play different teams, and they have a different style of play. You play Boston College and they’re going to make you hold the ball and work the defense. If you play Duke, they’re going to go up and down. So I think I underestimated it.”

Meyer: Mack could start for Buckeyes

Rodney McKissic

Count Urban Meyer among the growing list of admirers of UB linebacker Khalil Mack.

Meyer said during the Big Ten conference call on Tuesday that Mack could start for the nation's No. 2 ranked team. Asked about jumping to a quick start in Saturday's game against the Bulls, Meyer quickly turned his attention to Mack, the Butkus Award candidate, who already holds school records for tackles for loss (56) and forced fumbles (11).

"They have a linebacker who could certainly start for Ohio State," Meyer said. "He will be a great NFL player. The more I watch him - I watched him during the summer but not with the same intensity as I've watched the last few days. Excellent player."

Head-hunting rule has Tepper concerned

By Rodney McKissic

NCAA referees are placing an emphasis on head hunting or targeting this season, which has Lou Tepper concerned.

The UB defensive coordinator understands the intent of the rule – concussions are a huge point of discussion – but he would prefer that instant replay was involved.

If a hit to the head is deemed intentional or if a player lowers his head and leads the crown of his helmet, the player will be ejected from the game. If the play occurs in the second half, the player will be tossed and also suspended for the first half of the next game.

Tepper said during training camp a defender hit a player on the shoulder pad with his head and Tepper figures if that were a real game he would have been ejected.

“There’s going to be errors and there’s going to be prejudice toward the defense,” Tepper said. “I’m very concerned about the rule. If we were going to have instant replay and they say, ‘Hey, that’s a good penalty or not’ but they don’t. They throw you out and then afterwards they decide whether you’re going to play the next week.”

There are tailbacks who lead with their helmets, and Tepper figures defenders will get hit with penalties more often than not during those kinds of collisions.

“They’re coming head first and right into you and that’s rarely ever called,” he said. “We can be aiming for your chest and you could come with your head down and we’re going to get called for spearing. I think it’s troublesome legislation.”

Tepper teaches the “biting the ball” technique where if a ball carrier has the ball in either arm, the defender puts his facemask wherever the ball is.

“I want to attack it as though I were biting it and that keeps my face and not my head down,” Tepper said. 

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Junior tailback James Potts appears to have progressed nicely after tearing his ACL which kept him sidelined for most of last season. Other than missing a day when he sat out for precautionary reasons because of a knee bruise, Potts has participated fully in practice.

He said he has shown no ill effects from the surgery, cutting with ease on the left knee, and added he feels fast than when he arrived from Boynton Beach, Fla., four years ago.

“My freshman year during the summer, I ran a 4.37 but I haven’t run it since then but I definitely think I’m faster,” he said. “Every year you get bigger, stronger and faster so it’s only right that I get faster.”

Running backs coach Matt Simon said there was evidence of Potts’ increased speed prior to suffering the injury during the team’s win against Morgan State.

“He’s playing faster,” Simon said. “He’s more knowledgeable so his reaction and execution is a step quicker.”

UB has good depth in the backfield and they need it because it’s been rare when the Bulls had a leading rusher who appeared in all 12 games in a season.

It takes two

By Rodney McKissic

How will UB replace Steven Means at defensive end? Apparently, it's going to take two players.

The likely starter will be senior Beau Bachtelle, whose strength is stopping the run, while newcomer Tedroy Lynch, a 6-foot-2, 249-pound junior college transfer from Shiremanstown, Pa., is a potent pass rusher.

The 6-5, 273-pound Bachtelle was part of the defensive line rotation a year ago appearing in 12 games and recording 11 tackles with three solos. At Lackawanna Junior College last season Lynch finished with 13 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks. Both took reps with the first team today

"He's more like Steven Means was when he first came here," UB DC Lou Tepper said of Lynch. "He may not understand the full gamut of our defense but he knows how to lay his ears back and and rush the passer. Those two will kind of combine to take Steven's place."

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The Bulls’ offense is ready for a leap forward and here are two reasons why:

*The most recognizable one: The Bulls played the last four games of ’12 with Joe Licata at quarterback. Alex Zordich was resolute and to his credit showed great leadership but his stats tell the true saga. In eight starts, he completed 106 of 208 passes (51.0 percent) with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions.

If you take away the Morgan State game, UB’s offense scored 20 or more points three times in its first eight games. With the return of a seasoned Licata, who lead the Bulls to three wins in the final four games, prospects look much brighter.

*Think about how Branden Oliver performed last year under problematic conditions. The senior tailback missed five games because of injury and still rushed for 821 yards and five touchdowns despite playing against eight-man fronts geared to silence his production and a rickety passing game that couldn't take pressure off him. OC Alex Wood will find more ways to get him the ball in open space, including putting him in the slot.

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The first play in 11 on 11 drills drew some oohs and aahs when Licata faked a handoff to Oliver, tucked the ball under his arm and ran for a 30-yard gain. Will UB - gasp - run more read option plays with Licata.

"Oh no it wasn't a read option," UB coach Jeff Quinn said, laughing. "That was just Joe Licata doing his thing man."

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Friday will be the first day in full pads, and the way the defense was flying around the last two days, the players appear eager to hit somebody. ... Junior wide receiver Cordero Dixon went down with a minor injury during 7 on 7 drills but returned to practice. ... Senior linebacker Khalil Mack participated in all drills but sat out the 11 on 11 portion so younger players - like true freshmen Solomon Jackson - could receive some reps. ... The depth chart at QB according to the reps during 11 on 11 is Licata, Zordich, redshirt freshman Collin Michael and sophomore Tony Daniel.

True freshmen step into the spotlight

By Rodney McKissic

With so many returning starters, there are only a few spots available where true freshmen can potentially make an impact, but three days into UB's training camp a few could find their way onto the depth chart.

On defense, defensive back Houston Glass from Kentwood, Mich., and linebackers Solomon Jackson from Stone Mountain, Ga., and Brandon Crawford from Madison, Fla., have looked strong.

"Those guys have really stepped up," UB coach Jeff Quinn said. "They've been here this summer and I think they have a chance to go out there and prove what they know and what they can do to help this defense."

Offensively three wideouts - Boise Ross from Bethlehem, Pa., Jamarl Eiland from Canton, Mich., and Jacob Martinez from South Port, Fla., are pushing for immediate playing time as is long snapper Corbin Grassman, the cousin of punter Tyler Grassman, from Alexander, Ohio.

"Those guys kind of jump out right now," Quinn said. "I think they've all done a nice job. They've been very attentive and they understand they're opportunities are going to be presented by the way they come out prepared and the way they perform."

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Joe Licata will be the first to admit he isn't the most swift afoot, but the sophomore quarterback is making plays and showing mobility in the pocket.

"That's been a little something we've talked to him about," Quinn said. "Just being more present in the pocket, making plays back there, staying alive. The kids are doing a great job up front, the big fellas. ... That's giving Joe some time to get his eyes down field and find some open receivers."

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While Quinn likes his freshmen wide receivers, redshirt freshman Malcolm Robinson was mentioned a possible No. 2 threat at receiver to complement senior Alex Neutz. Robinson attended Canton (Ohio) McKinley High School, one of the largest and oldest schools in the talent-rich state.

Quinn also mentioned junior wideouts Cordero Dixon and Devon Hughes and tight ends Jimmy Gordon and Alex Dennison, a pair of seniors, sophomore Matt Wesier and redshirt freshman Mason Schreck as target who have showed promise in the early days of camp.

"Those guys all give another added feature that we need in order for us to continue moving the chains and putting ourselves in scoring position and capitalize on that," Quinn said. "All those guys are going to be factors."

Niagara women lose three players

By Rodney McKissic

The Niagara University women’s basketball team will enter next season minus three major contributors.

Starters Lauren Gatto and Kayla Stroman reserve Shy Britton will not return to the team, Niagara athletic department spokesman Derick Thornton confirmed on Tuesday.

Gatto and Stroman both received their degrees this month while Britton was dismissed from the team for a violation of the school’s student athlete’s code of conduct.

The 6-foot-2 Gatto will be difficult to replace. The Illinois-Chicago transfer led the team in scoring (14.0), rebounding (6.2) and field-goal percentage (49.0 percent). She graduated with a master’s degree in business management and had a year of eligibility remaining.

Stroman, who also earned a business management degree, was a fixture at point guard in her three-plus seasons at Niagara. She started all 31 games as a freshman before her sophomore season was cut short by a knee injury. Stroman, who had one season of eligibility remaining, started the next 63 games of her career, including 31 last season when she averaged 6.6 points and a team-high 4.0 assists.

Britton saw action in 30 games last season and started five while averaging 6.5 points and 3.2 rebounds.  

Canisius lands Stetson transfer

By Rodney McKissic

Canisius gained some much needed help in their backcourt with the addition of former Stetson guard Chris Perez.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Perez, who also played one season at Liberty, has already graduated from Stetson and will be eligible to play immediately. He has one season of eligibility remaining.

Perez is expected to fill the void created by the graduation of Isaac Sosa, the Golden Griffins' third-leading scorer behind Billy Baron and Harold Washington at 11.6 points a game.

Canisius not only loses both Sosa and Washington but reserve guards Alshwan Hymes and Reggie Groves, who had one season of eligibility remaining but has graduated and will not return to the team.

Also not returning are a pair of freshmen: Guard Jermaine Johnson, who will transfer to a junior college, and forward Tyrel Edwards who is seeking to attend an NAIA school.

In 31 games including 30 starts, Perez was Stetson's second-leading scorer at 15.1 points. He shot 48.6 percent from the floor overall and 31.1 percent from 3-point range. He also averaged 4.1 rebounds and led the team in steals with 35.

Gregg signs with Bonnies

---St. Bonaventure announced the signing of Denzel Gregg, a 6-foot-7 forward from Syracuse, who played his last two seasons at St. Thomas More Prep School in Connecticut.

Gregg helped St. Thomas to a 24-8 record and a spot in the National Prep School Tournament semifinals this past season. Gregg averaged 12 points and six rebounds a game for a balanced team that featured 10 players who received college scholarships.

“We’re most excited about Denzel's tremendous upside,” Schmidt said in a statement released by the school about the 17-year-old Gregg. “He's a long, athletic forward whose versatility will allow him to guard multiple positions at the defensive end and create mismatches on the offensive side of the ball.”

ESPN College Basketball analysts graded Gregg as one the top-125 class of 2013 forwards in the nation, and the New England Basketball Recruiting Report ranked him as the No. 22 overall prospect in his class.

An ESPN analyst had the following to say about the 195-pound senior:

“Gregg is an explosive athlete with incredible leaping ability. He's as quick off his feet as he is high above the rim, a terrific lob catcher and the type of finisher who can instantly change the momentum of a game.”

Gregg is St. Bonaventure’s first commitment this year.

---Rodney McKissic

Big 4 players honored by NABC

Niagara's Juan'ya Green and Antoine Mason, Canisius' Billy Barron and UB's Javon McCrea were all named to the NABC Division I All-District teams which were announced today.

Green and Baron were named to the District 1 first team with Iona's Lamont Jones, Siena's O.D. Anosike and Stony Brook's Tommy Brenton. Mason was on the second team with Loyola's Erik Etherly, Boston University's D.J. Irving, Fairfield's Derek Needham and Stony Brook's Jameel Warney.

McCrea was on the District 14 first team along with Ohio's D.J. Cooper, Akron's Zeke Marshall, Toledo's Rian Pearson and Kent State's Chris Evans.

---Rodney McKissic

Inge hired at Indiana

William Inge, the former Buffalo Bills and University at Buffalo assistant coach, has been hired as the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Indiana.

Inge was the Bills assistant defensive line coach under Chan Gailey last season after spending two seasons as the defensive coordinator with Jeff Quinn at UB.

Inge's previous stops were all at the collegiate level including Cincinnati, San Diego State, Colorado and Northern Iowa.

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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


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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