UB’s defense continued to dominate training camp Saturday, holding the offense without a touchdown during a controlled scrimmage as the Bulls hit the midway point of preparations for the Aug. 31 opener at Ohio State.
No one is sounding the alarm because the offense has produced only a single touchdown in two scrimmages. For one, UB’s defense ranked No. 2 in the Mid-American Conference last season and has the personnel to sit atop the MAC this time around. Secondly, the Bulls have made virtually no attempt in two scrimmages to stretch the field with the passing game and spent a large portion of Saturday looking at the backup options behind senior receivers Alex Neutz and Fred Lee.
Besides, there were some uncertainties surrounding the ‘D’ heading into camp, such as how well the Bulls would fill the vacancies left by the departures of defensive end Steven Means and nose tackle Wyatt Cahill. Senior transfer Beau Bachtelle isn’t Means (who is?), but he has been solid at left end. Meanwhile, nose tackle Kristjan Sokoli has been one of training camp’s more impressive figures.
“I got to thank Zach Duval for that, our strength coach,” Sokoli said. “I kind of tried to bulk up first and toward 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 off 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 spell 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,” Sokoli 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.”
True freshman wideout Boise Ross looks like he’ll be in the mix as a punt 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 really 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.
Guard Dillon Guy and slot receiver Cordero Dixon were joined on the sidelines Saturday by safety Derek Brim. Head coach Jeff Quinn said Brim’s injury, undisclosed, isn’t serious and all three players remain day-to-day. … Running back James Potts, on his way back from a torn knee ligament, didn’t participate in the scrimmage but did some sprint work on the sideline beforehand. … Kicker Patrick Clarke pushed a 25-yard field goal attempt wide left but rebounded to hit from 40 and 41 yards later in the scrimmage. … Safety Okoye Houston and cornerback Cortney Lester had interceptions Saturday. … Todd Therrien started the scrimmage at guard in place of Guy.