Jim Hofher's first University at Buffalo football recruiting class will include Western New York's reigning player of the year.
Aaron Leeper, the record-setting running back from Jamestown who was named The News Player of the Year, state Class AA Player of the Year and won the Connolly Cup, verbally committed to UB and will sign a national letter of intent Wednesday.
"It's close to home and it's a great opportunity to go in there and start and make a difference on a struggling team," said Leeper, who had a state-record 47 touchdowns and a Western New York-record 2,276 yards to help lead Jamestown to the Class AA state championship. "There's nowhere to go but up. I think with the new recruits we can make a difference to make UB a top contender in the MAC (Mid-American Conference)."
Leeper was impressed with Hofher, who was hired Nov. 30. Hofher replaced Craig Cirbus, whose contract was not renewed after going 19-47 over six seasons.
"I like coach Hofher, he's a straight-up coach and he won't lie to you," said the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Leeper. "I got the impression there'll be a lot of discipline from the sternness in his voice, and I like that. He said I'd be good for UB, and hopefully bring in more of a crowd and make the atmosphere a little more exciting."
Leeper chose UB over runner-up Rhode Island, West Virginia and New Hampshire.
While Leeper starred at running back, he also had five interceptions as a defensive back. He said he didn't mind where he ended up on the field. "It's not what's best for myself," he said, "it's what's best for the team."
Leeper will be joined by Jamestown kicker Mike Baker, who also verbally committed to UB. Baker had 47 touchbacks in 89 kickoffs as well as four field goals for the Red Raiders this past season.
"I think Aaron Leeper is a real steal, and Mike Baker kicked it 47 times in the end zone," said 18-year Jamestown coach Wally Huckno. "I think it's terrific for those of us in Western New York and those of us who'd like to see a college powerhouse at the University at Buffalo. Here in the Southern Tier, we're happy to stock it with quality athletes."
Leeper isn't the first state player of the year from Jamestown to head to UB. David Hinson -- another Connolly Cup winner as Western New York's top player -- picked UB after helping the Red Raiders to the 1994 state title. Hinson did not see much action in four years on UB's roster.
UB and most other Division I schools will announce their recruiting classes Wednesday, the national signing day.