In nearly 30 years of coaching, Chris Cosh has nearly seen it all. Between numerous stops – including South Florida, Kansas State, Michigan State and Illinois among others – you’d be hard-pressed to find a football consequence that Cosh hasn’t experienced.
It’s that kind of familiarity which has provided the first-year University at Buffalo defensive line coach with a surplus of teaching methods.
“I’m going to gain a lot, too, by being here in an atmosphere that does a great deal of teaching,” said Cosh, who replaces Jappy Oliver, now at Virginia. “When you have good kids who know how to work and be good teammates to one another, I want to foster that and build on that and help them reach another bowl game and continue to get better.”
There isn’t much missing from Cosh’s resume. He’s served as defensive coordinator at schools in the Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Big 12. His experience is much needed for a defensive line that has to be retooled after losing starting ends Colby Way, an All-Mid-American Conference selection, and Beau Bachtelle.
“When I was looking for a defensive line coach, I was looking for a guy who had experience, someone who coached not only the defensive line but the linebackers, and Chris has done that,” UB coach Jeff Quinn said. “There’s an added dimension to our defense when you have a guy who’s coordinated. He’s been there and done that.”
Cosh came highly recommended by UB defensive coordinator Lou Tepper, who coached him when he played linebacker at Virginia Tech in the early ’80s. Near the end of Cosh’s Pro Day his senior year in 1982, NFL scouts were headed for the exits until a 260-pound freshman from Norfolk named Bruce Smith ran the 40 in 4.6 seconds.
“He woke some people up real early,” Cosh said.
Not long after his playing career ended, Cosh dipped into coaching. Then-Virginia Tech head coach Bill Dooley allowed Cosh to become a student assistant under Tepper, who showed him how to teach the game’s fundamentals.
Schematically, he gained experience under Nick Saban at Michigan State, and at South Carolina Lou Holtz introduced Cosh and Charlie Strong to the essentials of the three-man front alignment.
There’s also a part of Cosh that’s hungry. He wasn’t retained at South Florida when Willie Taggart took over the program and Cosh didn’t coach in 2013. Still, he’s taking over a group that needs his guidance and expertise. He went back and watched video from last year’s team to assess personnel and become more familiar with Tepper’s defense.
“You kind of gear your drills to what your scheme’s about,” Cosh said. “You have to gear your drills to what the kids need to improve on.”
UB is already making some adjustments on the defensive line, a unit that looms as one of the more significant concerns. The lone returning starter is nose tackle Kristjan Sokoli, who started all 13 games last season and finished with 29 tackles – five for loss – and 2.5 sacks.
“You have Kristjan back who is the hub of the middle,” Cosh said. “You have some guys who have played and have some game experience.”
Seniors Tedroy Lynch and Dalton Barksdale have been working with the first team at defensive end. Barksdale started once in 2013 in place of the injured Way and registered 17 tackles, including two for loss. Lynch, who transferred from Lackawanna (Pa.) Junior College last season, finished with 17 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 11 games as a junior.
Others who figure into the rotation are Brandon Crawford, who will also see time at outside linebacker, and Max Perisse, a pair of sophomores. Redshirt freshman Demone Harris, the Bishop Timon-St. Jude product, will also play as will senior Kendall Roberson.
“Hopefully they’ll continue to improve, understand the scheme, understand the game and understand the speed and keep getting stronger,” Quinn said. “We need that production. It’s a work in progress, we all know that, but it’s been steady each day and I think the kids have become more accustomed to who Chris is and what he’s about.”
Wideout Marcus McGill injured his left ankle in practice Friday and didn’t return. It is not known if he’ll take part in this morning’s scrimmage at UB Stadium.