Five years has been a blur for Steven Means since he arrived at the University at Buffalo as a raw freshman and worked his way into the lineup quickly.
The Bulls host Western Michigan on Saturday at UB Stadium in what will be the final home contest for Means and other seniors.
“For it to be the last game it’s kind of surreal,” said Means, the former Grover Cleveland standout. “I remember my first day on campus for my official visit. I remember just considering UB as an option and to see that I’m down to my last three games is a crazy feeling. It’s been a long ride and I’ve enjoyed the whole ride and I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to be here.”
Five years ago Means was such an unblockable, dominant scout team player that former coach Turner Gill considered burning his redshirt status in the 2008 season. Means played in 12 games, starting seven, in his redshirt freshman season a year later as a 4-3 defensive end. Now he is used at both end and outside linebacker in the Bulls’ base 3-4.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Means finished with a career-best 10 tackles, including two for a loss, last weekend against Miami (Ohio) and the 15.5 career sacks, tied for the sixth most in school history, are proof of his impact.
“I feel as though I’m not hesitating anymore,” said Means, who has 40 career starts, more than any player on the current roster. “I’m doing everything I can and I’m scratching and clawing. You can put me in the three technique, four technique, zero and I’m going to try and penetrate the line of scrimmage as fiercely as I can and as aggressively as I can. … I’m just doing everything I can to show all of my God-given abilities and try to win.”
Means is one of nine seniors on the two-deep who will be playing their final home game. The list includes right guard Graham Whinery, right tackle Gokhan Ozkan, fullback Rashad Jean, nose guard Wyatt Cahill, inside linebacker Willie Moseley and outside linebackers Isaac Baugh, Dalonte Wallace and Imani Chatman.
“Just the ride that we’ve had along the way and the stuff the coaching staff has taught us, growing up and becoming good quality people and good quality men, that’s what I’m glad I’m taking away from this experience," Moseley said. “I’m glad I had a chance to grow up and become a man like I’m sure other guys in this program will do as well.”
Means is also one of 11 local products on the depth chart, and the Bulls’ starting point in recruiting continues to be Western New York.
“Local players on this program means a lot because it brings more fans from Buffalo to the games,” Means said. “As long as we’re winning, we’re going to get fans to the games. As long as [coach Jeff Quinn] is doing a great job like he’s doing coaching and providing the great game plans that he has with his coaching staff, we’re going to win and continue to bring fans in.”
Five local players — wideout Alex Neutz (Grand Island), left tackle Andre Davis (Maryvale), left guard Jasen Carlson (Southwestern) and free safety Derek Brim (Canisius) — are atop the two deep. Quinn has expanded the Bulls’ recruiting base and 11 states are represented on the depth chart which also includes two Canadians.
“This area has always had good players, it’s just a matter of digging in and making sure they fit what you’re looking for,” Quinn said. “But there’s great players in Richmond, Va,; there’s great players all over, and I can certainly tell you no matter where they’re located and where they’re playing we’re going to go out and search and find them.”
It appears UB will have to prepare for two quarterbacks but Western Michigan will have to do the same.
Quinn was non-committal on Saturday’s starter and lists both junior Alex Zordich and redshirt freshman Joe Licata (Williamsville South) atop this week’s depth chart. Zordich, who missed the Miami (Ohio) game with a rib injury, will try and practice this week. Licata played well in his first start as a collegian in completing 13 of 24 passes for 127 yards two touchdowns.
“Alex is getting better and that’s key from my perspective and we need to see that day-to-day,” Quinn said. “We’re certainly excited about what Joe did [against Miami] and he’s going to learn and grow from that experience and have that opportunity again as things move along, along with Zordich.”
Sophomore corner Cortney Lester is also day-to-day as is sophomore free safety Witney Sherry. Both were unavailable against Miami.
Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder was cleared to practice Monday for the first time since injuring his finger on Sept. 22 against Connecticut, according to Mlive.com.
MLive.com said Broncos coach Bill Cubit lists Carder as day-to-day and it’s unclear if he’ll play against the Bulls. If Carder, who started the team’s first four games, can’t go Cubit will continue to go with Tyler Van Tubbergen, who has six starts and has passed for 1,825 yards with 15 TDs and 11 interceptions.