A cornerback who started his career at Eastern Michigan and a former Syracuse recruit were among three new additions to the University at Buffalo roster on the first day of football training camp Tuesday.
The cornerback is Devon Russell, and he has a chance to get on the field this season for the Bulls. Russell, 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, played 10 games as a true freshman for Eastern Michigan in 2015. He started two games and had one interception.
A native of Maryland, Russell played for Ellsworth Community College in Iowa last season. UB has two other players, starting tackle David Goldsby and linebacker Nik Ricks, from Ellsworth.
“He played in some nickel positions, he can play corner and he’s physical,” UB coach Lance Leipold said. “He had a good summer working out here. He was our second or third strongest player pound-for-pound in the summer. He might be able to fill a lot of roles for us. It gives us a little more experience that we need in that corner and nickel position.”
Also transferring to UB is edge rusher Taylor Riggins, who played for Rochester powerhouse Aquinas Institute and originally signed with Syracuse. After coach Scott Shafer was fired and replaced by Dino Babers, Syracuse’s interest faded. Riggins, 6-2 and 242, spent last season as a red-shirt at Massachusetts. He left UMass for UB after spring practice.
“We had recruited him before he committed to Syracuse,” Leipold said. “He got his release from UMass and contacted us. He was a running back, H-back in high school. At first he was recruited as a linebacker. He has played some defensive end. We’re excited about him athletically, plus he’s another local guy.”
The other new addition is true freshman Aapri Washington, a 5-9 cornerback from Charlotte, N.C., who signed in April. Washington, 5-9 and 170, made Associated Press first-team all-state in North Carolina as junior at the athlete position and as a senior at cornerback. He had eight interceptions as a junior and a state-best 12 as a senior. He also rushed 104 times for 1,603 yards and scored 21 TDs as a senior. He drew a lot of attention from Power 5 Conference schools early in his high school career but offers from those schools did not materialize after last season.
“Najja Johnson, our graduate assistant and former player, got a call from a friend who’s a coach in North Carolina about him,” Leipold said. “He has a lot of quickness and athleticism.”
STRENGTH COACH LEAVES: UB is searching for a new strength and conditioning coach. Ryan Cidzik, who held the position since January 2016, has left to take a position with the U.S. Army, helping to train U.S. Army Special Forces (also known as Green Berets).
“It’s a phenomenal opportunity, and there’s only nine of them in the country,” Leipold said of Cidzik’s new job. “It’s a permanent employment job. It shows how highly he’s regarded.”
Cidzik came to UB from Stanford, where he was one of the football sports performance coaches. Leipold was thrilled with his contribution to UB.
“In 2015 we had 11 guys who could vertical jump over 30 inches; we have 43 now,” he said. “Does that equate to wins? I don’t know, but I know we’re more athletic and explosive than we’ve been.”
He said the timing of the move is somewhat beneficial in that the critical offseason conditioning work is over. Assistant Donald Day is now the interim head strength coach.
“Other than the semester break, if there’s a time for it to happen, it’s now,” Leipold said. “We have some things in motion. Don Day is going to be the interim.”
LEFT TACKLE UPDATE: Evan Ksiezarczyk, a sophomore from West Seneca East, took the snaps as the first-team left tackle on the opening day of practice. Ksiezarczyk made a good impression on coaches in limited duty as a true freshman last season. Then he had a strong spring. He's a 6-6, 315-pounder. His emergence is a sign of how well he has developed in a short time because UB has a strong candidate for the job in junior Jacquis Webb, a transfer from Rutgers who sat out last season. Webb, 6-6 and 340, worked with the second team on Day One.
CAMP SCHEDULE: College teams are allowed 29 practices before the season opener. The first two days players wear helmets, no pads. The next two are with helmets and shoulder pads.
“The fifth day can be full,” Leipold said. “There’s also a percentage of tackling that goes with that as well. We never go through the whole percentage of live tackling. So you get five days to ease them into it a little bit and get used to the hitting, then we start going into scrimmage mode. . . . There’s no more two-a-days. You can do walk-throughs. It’s much like the schedule the NFL went to.”