The heady times continued at UB Tuesday with the morning announcement that linebacker Khalil Mack is a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award given annually to the best defensive player in the country. The news came a day after Mack was named a semifinalist for the Butkus Award that goes to the nation’s top linebacker.
“It’s a blessing,” Mack said Tuesday. “It’s a blessing to be a semifinalist in those categories and being with some of the best talent in college football. It’s a blessing and I’m excited.”
The other 15 semifinalist for the Bednarik Award are:
Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA,;Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson; Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin; Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt; Ifo Ekpre-Omomu, DB, Oregon; Kyle Fuller, DB, Virginia Tech; Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas; Lamarcus Joyner, DB, Florida State; C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama.
Also: Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford; Michael Sam, DE, Missouri; Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State; Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU; Nikita Whitlock, DT, Wake Forest, and Leonard Williams, DE, Southern California.
As with the Butkus Award, Mack is the lone semifinalist from outside one of the BCS conferences. Barr, Borland, Mosley, Shazier and Van Noy join Mack is being semifinalists for both awards.
It’s been a whirlwind week for the Bulls on the honors front. On Monday, Mack and Branden Oliver were named the Mid-American Conference defensive and offensive players of the week off UB’s 41-21 victory at Kent State. Later Monday, the Lambert Poll came out showing the Bulls had vaulted from fifth to a tie for first. The Lambert Trophy compiles weekly rankings with the season-ending award going to the team voted best in the east.
UB is tied for the top with Penn State, followed by Rutgers, Pitt, Boston College, Syracuse, Temple, Army, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
St. Francis grad Adam Redden, UB’s tackles leader heading into Saturday’s 41-21 victory at Kent State, will miss the Ohio U. game next Tuesday — and likely more. Coach Jeff Quinn said linebacker Blake Bean and defensive end Colby Way are day to day and probable for the Ohio game. He didn’t paint as optimistic a picture for Redden, who left the game against Kent State in the with a right knee injury.
“It’s probably going to take him a little longer to get back,” Quinn said. ”Whether we can or not, it all depends on how this season goes.”
Quinn said the team’s awaiting results of Redden’s MRI. He was on crutches Tuesday. He’ll be replaced by Okezie Alozie and Tomarris Bell at what’s basically a hybrid linebacker/safety position opposite Mack. Redden ranks second on the team in tackles for loss, and is third in sacks.
Joe Licata is 9-3 since taking over as the starting quarterback last year. His stats over the last five games: 74 of 120 (61.67 percent) for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns against one interception. He went 6 of 10 on third down against Kent State, with one of the incompletions a drop and four of the catches resulting in first downs. His 10 third-down passes targeted six different receivers.
Quinn said he was “impressed with Joe Licata’s efficiency, especially a lot of his third-down throws. He does a great job. We value the ball. We haven’t turned the ball over.”
“For the most part if I would describe him on the field, cool and calm,” said Bulls center Trevor Sales. “He’s a year older, he’s played more games, he’s watched more film and he’s a little better in shape this year I’d say.”
Licata shed some weight in the offseason to improve his mobility.
UB has made great strides on special teams over last season but an area of concern is one so often taken for granted: extra-point attempts. Kent defensive lineman Roosevelt Nix broke through to smother Patrick Clarke’s attempt after UB’s first touchdown, marking the third time the Bulls have had a point attempt blocked this season.
“They know there’s no excuse at all, and I’ve challenged them,” Quinn said. “We’ve addressed it, they understand it, they’re responsible to understand that that will never happen again, because they don’t want to see coach Quinn on the sidelines or after the game because I don’t let that go without me getting after them pretty good,”
Freshman wideout Boise Ross has been elevated into a starting role on the depth chart, replacing John Dunmore. In the four games since UB burned his redshirt Ross has two catches for 20 yards and two rushes for 14 yards. He’s also joined Devin Campbell as a deep man on kicks and totaled 74 yards on two returns Saturday.
“His mental approach to the game has been outstanding, just his maturity level,” Quinn said. “We knew he had the skill level to do it. Would he be able to handle all the responsibilities of all the signals, the day-to-day routine that this level brings. And he has answered the call, so to speak.”