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UB football’s building project gets instant jump-start

University at Buffalo football coach Lance Leipold has given his building project an extra push by bringing in seven transfer players with previous college experience this offseason.

Five of them came at the end of the first semester and already are enrolled at UB. Two more junior college players joined UB on college football’s National Signing Day on Wednesday.

It’s an acknowledgement that the Bulls need more talent to improve on last year’s 5-7 finish, and Leipold doesn’t want to wait until 2019 for his first full recruiting class to blossom.

“I don’t believe in quick fixes,” Leipold said. “I think when you build a program, you’re going to build it for the long run, and that is always our goal. That said, from the first team meeting we’ve ever had, we said it’s also important to win for that senior class last year. And we’ll continue to strive to do so. In today’s college football world, everything has been sped up, from recruiting to the time you get to build programs. So we want to make sure we’re doing that.”

The Bulls added 15 recruits Wednesday, seven on offense, seven on defense and one punter. Counting the seven added in late December, there are 22 new Bulls recruits. Another one or two may yet arrive.

The top need positions for Leipold were: linebackers, offensive playmakers and offensive line. The top athletic trait sought was “length.” UB added more tall, long-armed athletes across the board. One of those is UB’s lone Western New York scholarship player, Williamsville South’s Jake Fuzak, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive tackle who won the Trench Trophy as the area’s top lineman.

Leipold aimed high. UB lost four verbal commits to Power Five conference teams in the past week. They included New Jersey linebacker Tyreek Williams, who was plucked away by his hometown team, Rutgers; and Indiana QB Max Bortenschlager, who flipped to Maryland. Bortenschlager’s switch shouldn’t hurt much, since UB has two young QBs it’s high on in sophomore-to-be Chris Merchant and 6-5 red-shirt freshman Tyree Jackson, widely viewed as the heir apparent to Joe Licata.

Conversely, UB benefited from some late switches. New Jersey cornerback Tyrone Hill had committed to Maryland in June. But Maryland changed coaching staffs and pulled its offer. UB snatched up Hill, which looks like a coup. The Bulls signed Indiana linebacker Matt Otwinowski, who switched after committing to Kent State.

Judging recruiting classes of mid-major schools by the rankings of scouting services is largely fruitless. The scouting websites simply do not have the resources to watch and compare all the mid-major prospects. Judging players by the other schools that recruited them is more instructive, but not always. Khalil Mack’s only other scholarship offer besides UB was Liberty.

Highlights of UB’s class:

• Tyrone Hill, CB, Saddlebrook, N.J. He originally chose Maryland over Pitt and had offers from Army and Navy. Helped Don Bosco Prep to a state sectional title. At 6-2, 192, he gives UB needed size on the edge.

Said Leipold: “I think he’s a guy who’s physically further ahead of other guys who have come in as freshmen in the defensive backfield.”

• Kameron Pickett, RB, Suwanee, Ga. A 6-foot, 220-pounder from North Gwinett High School. He picked UB over New Mexico, which he visited last weekend. Leipold visited his house last Thursday. He’s the second highly rated Atlanta-area back UB has signed in two years, joining Johnathan Hawkins. Those two figure to carry the UB running load for the future.

Said Pickett’s RB coach, Tony Hobbs: “The guy you had up there with the Packers, James Starks, he’s a smaller version of him but he runs with great power likes Starks does.”

Said Leipold: “We feel we’ve got a guy who’s going to be able to hit some big runs for us but also I think he’s going to be excellent inside the tackles as well.”

• Roy Baker, CB, Hialeah, Fla. He held an offer from North Carolina State at one time and like Hill was a three-star recruit (most MAC players are two stars or fewer). He’s 6-2, 175.

• Jordan Overton, WR, Lyndhurst, Ohio. Overton, 5-10 and 180, is a home-run hitter the UB offense needs. His primary position as a senior for Brush High was cornerback, but he still caught 25 passes for 539 yards (a 21.6-yard average) in nine games. His offers included: Bowling Green, Akron, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Ohio, Toledo and Western Michigan. He also had an offer from Kentucky at one point, as well as Air Force and Navy.

Said Rob Ianello, UB’s recruiting coordinator as WR coach: “He’s really electric with the ball in his hands, as a returner, in the slot or outside. We need to create more explosive plays and not the 14, 15-play drives, and we’re hopeful he can help in that regard.”

• Kayode Awosika, OT, Plymouth, Minn. Picked UB over Wyoming, Nevada, Iowa State and Hawaii. He’s a 6-5, 290-pounder.

• Jake Fuzak, DT, Williamsville South: Committed last summer to UB over Connecticut and Old Dominion. He projects as a 3-technique defensive tackle and has the frame to hold 300 or 310 pounds easily.

The other offensive signees: Kamathi Holsey, a 6-4 WR from Independence (Kan.) CC. Dominic Johnson, a 6-6 QB from Windsor, Ont.; Zac Lefebvre, a 6-5 TE from Victor; and Antonio Nunn, a 6-foot WR from Tampa, Fla. … Holsey brings needed height because UB graduated top WR Ron Willoughby. Holsey caught 39 passes for 602 yards last season. He will have two years of eligibility. … Leipold likes Lefebvre’s ability to both block and catch. … Johnson could have stayed in the Canadian high school system another year. He’s a dual-threat athlete.

The other defensive signees: Caleb Wilson, a 6-2 LB from West Hills (Calif.) College; Justin Mulbah, a 6-0 LB from Laurel, Md.; Kadofi Wright, a 6-3 LB from Richmond, Va.; and punter Taylor Sheets of Tega Cay, S.C. … Wilson is a 235-pounder who gives UB needed beef at linebacker. … Wright and Mulbah are more rangy, coverage-type linebackers. Mulbah was a hybrid safety who also had offers from Kent State, Eastern Michigan, Army and Navy.