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UB Preview: Defensive line is deeper than ever

UB FOOTBALL PREVIEW: DEFENSIVE LINE

(This is the first of eight position previews that will run this week. The full Buffalo News college football preview runs in Sunday's paper.)

Overview: This is the Bulls’ deepest, most talented position. UB is counting on its defense to keep it in games this year, starting with the front four.

Projected starters: DE Brandon Crawford, DT Max Perisse, DT Chris Ford, DE Demone Harris.

Key backups: DT Remaine Douglas, DT Justin Brandon, DE Charles Harris, DE Torey Hendrick, DE Randy Anyanwu, DE Myles Nicholas, DE Wes Scott, DT Corey Henderson, DE Joe Keels, DT Duke Hwang, DT Jake Khoury.

Strengths: The 315-pound Ford and 285-pound Perisse form an active, stout middle twosome. With the 275-pound Crawford as an edge-setting end, the run front should be sturdy. Look for Douglas, a 303-pound senior transfer from Louisiana-Lafayette, to make a big impact vs. the run and pass. He looked great in training camp. He can play inside or outside. Brandon, a sophomore from Indiana, doesn’t look like much of a player standing on the sidelines. But he is a talented penetrator and disruptor. He saw the fifth most DL snaps last year (29 a game) as a true freshman and has had a good camp. Both Harrises have the body types to be top-third DEs in the MAC, if they keep improving. Scott, a California junior college transfer, looked good in training camp, too.

Questions: Do the Bulls have enough edge-rush talent? Senior end Torey Hendrick is the designated speed rusher who could make a huge impact. The New Jersey native at one time was committed to Iowa and held offers from Arizona State and Kansas. He had to go to junior college instead and sat out last season after transferring to UB. If he plays well, UB could have a top-four D-Line in the MAC. Can the Harrisses step up their rush game? Keels, a senior transfer from Nebraska, is a run-first end. But he has been hurt in camp so it remains to be seen if he can contribute.

2015 Stats: 187.2 rush yards allowed per game, 11th in the MAC.

Analytics: UB got only 10 of its 22 sacks last year without blitzing. Coordinator Brian Borland will dial up creative pressures and is more aggressive than his predecessor, Lou Tepper. But Borland is not a gambler. Tepper blitzed 27 percent of pass plays in 2014 and rushed three men 58.6 percent. Borland blitzed 24.5 percent and rushed three 6 percent, according to News statistics.

Quotable: UB defensive line coach Tim Edwards on his unit’s depth: “I want to have a problem figuring out how to get them in as opposed to worrying how I can get them a rest. I told them to make my job hard. I don’t want it to be easy. I’d like to play 10 and not have any drop off. I think we have the opportunity to do that.”

Solo: UB has dedicated its season to defensive end Solomon Jackson, who died in February after collapsing during an offseason team conditioning workout. The UB helmets will include an emblem with Jackson’s No. 41 on it, and everyone on the team wears “All 41” T-shirts.

University at Buffalo football player Demone Harris during practice on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

Demone Harris. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

Did you know? Junior Demone Harris is a Timon-St. Jude product who never once put on football pads until his junior year of high school. He started just eight games for Timon as a 225-pounder, but he worked his way from walk-on to scholarship player in just a year at UB. Now he’s 275. He played 43 snaps a game last year, most on the D-line.

Looking ahead: With so much depth, Lance Leipold brought in only one D-line recruit, Williamsville South product Jake Fuzak. He’s expected to red-shirt.

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