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HOFHER'S FIRST RECRUITING CLASS BUILT FOR LONG TERM

Years will pass before anyone can tell how much impact it will have, but this is a milestone group in at least one way.

New University at Buffalo football coach Jim Hofher on Thursday unveiled his first recruiting class, an infusion of 26 players predominantly comprised of high schoolers.

Hofher wasn't about to place any labels or expectations on his first class.

"I'm not going to stand here and say these freshmen are going to play next year," Hofher said. "These guys have never been in a college uniform, never taken part in a college practice, never played in a college game.

"But certainly it can be done."

This year's class -- spanning seven states and Canada -- consists of only three junior college transfers.

"We're on the front end of a developing program," said Hofher, who in November replaced six-year coach Craig Cirbus. "Philosophically, I think you have a better chance at developing a guy who's around for a longer period of time than a shorter period of time.

"We have to consciously think about building with players who will be here for the long term."

A lack of juco players, Hofher countered, doesn't equate to an inexperienced class. He was quick to note nine of his incoming freshmen come from state championship programs.

"In some cases, a great high school program can give you a more advanced player" than a juco can, Hofher said.

The most recognizable name on UB's recruit list is Western New York player of the year Aaron Leeper, who led Jamestown High to the Class AA state title. Leeper rushed for 2,276 yards and a state-record 47 touchdowns as a senior.

The Bulls also landed one of Leeper's teammates: kicker Michael Baker. He made 58 of 63 extra-point attempts and converted four of five field-goal tries. But what best illustrated Baker's booming leg, Hofher said, was last year "over half of his kickoffs went into or out of the end zone."

Another of Hofher's state championship players is 6-foot-4, 270-pound offensive lineman Mike Schifano from 1999 Class AA champ Webster. The rest come from out of state.

Running back Gemara Williams (5-9, 170) and defensive end Philip Jacques (6-3, 227) are from Brother Rice in Michigan. Defensive lineman Bill Meholif (6-2, 250) is from St. Ignatius in Parma, Ohio. The remaining three hail from Pennsylvania: running back/receiver Tim Dance (5-11, 185) from Erie Cathedral Prep, running back Jesse Jones (5-10, 190) from Tyrone and offensive lineman Zachary Love (6-5, 285) from Strath Haven.

Meholif comes from the same program that produced one of UB's greatest players, Indianapolis Colts receiver Drew Haddad. St. Ignatius consistently is rated among the nation's top handful of teams. Last year Meholich had 16 sacks and 65 solo tackles for a squad that went 24-3 his final two seasons.

"These are guys who played on teams that went to the playoffs frequently," Hofher said. "You add up how many playoff games guys like that have played in and that's close to an extra season. You almost get an older player."

Besides Schifano, the Bulls landed a pair of Rochester-area recruits. Kevin Concepcion (6-0, 180) played quarterback at Rochester East, but will concentrate on defensive back. Rob Schroeder (6-4, 250) played offensive and defensive line for East Rochester.

"There's absolutely no doubt that recruiting for us had to start at ground zero," Hofher said of the local campaign. "We want to be grossly selfish in that regard. We want to get as many players from Western New York to help this program grow."

Two freshmen with the potential to make their presence felt quickly are a pair of out-of-state receivers, even though that position might be one of UB's deepest.

Matt Knueven (6-2, 200) caught 48 passes for 730 yards and 11 TDs last year at Cincinnati LaSalle. Gabriel McClover (6-2, 210) is a versatile speedster who also saw time at running back at Coconut Creek in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Hofher also signed a pair of quarterbacks with different styles. P.J. Piskorik (6-1, 205) ran the option at Wyoming Valley West in Pennsylvania, passing for 1,473 yards and rushing for 1,343 yards last year. Jeff Powell (6-3, 215) operated a more traditional system at Wyandotte Roosevelt in Michigan. Powell threw for 1,433 yards and 15 TDs with no interceptions.

Linebacker Anthony Andriano (6-2, 230) will get a head start on his fellow freshmen. Andriano already is enrolled at UB and will take part in spring drills, which begin March 17. He spent the fall at prep school Milford Academy after playing high school ball at Christ the King in New York City.

Also on campus is one of UB's juco products. Running back Maurice Bradford (5-11, 185), a Binghamton native, was signed last year by Cirbus, but needed to return to SUNY-Morrisville to complete academic requirements.

The other two-year transfers are offensive lineman Alex Alvarez (6-5, 290) from Glendale (Calif.) College, and linebacker/defensive end Obadiah Harris (6-3, 230) from Valley Forge (Pa.) College.

Harris was a top 100 national prospect at Cillicothe High in Ohio, according to recruiting guru Tom Lemming. Harris originally committed to play at Illinois before attending Valley Forge.

Hofher also introduced to the media his completed coaching staff, including two assistants who were hired earlier this week: linebackers coach Antonio Goss, who won two Super Bowl rings with the San Francisco 49ers and most recently coached at North Carolina Central, and strength and conditioning coach Jim Peal, who handled the same duties at The Citadel for 12 years.

The rest of the staff consists of Thurmond Moore (defensive coordinator), Bill Lazor (quarterbacks), Brian Polian (running backs), Doug Socha (receivers), Roy Istvan (offensive line), Andrew Dees (tight ends) and Clayton Carlin and Tom Jones (defensive backs).

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