West Seneca East graduate Evin Ksiezarczyk is one of the emerging young players on the University at Buffalo football team.
Ksiezarczyk, a redshirt sophomore from West Seneca East, is holding down the starting left-tackle job after an intense training camp battle with Jacquis Webb, a junior transfer from Rutgers.
Webb, 6-foot-6 and 340 pounds, started at left tackle in spring workouts. But UB coaches liked the development of the 6-6, 315-pound Ksiezarczyk, and he opened summer training camp with the first unit. Ksiezarczyk – prounounced Ki-zar-zak - took all the snaps with the first team in UB's final training camp scrimmage Thursday night at UB Stadium.
"Evin has had a nice camp," said UB coach Lance Leipold. "He continues to do well as far as working on the finer points of his game. Him and Jacquis have split a lot of time, they've alternated at different times. But Evin is going to play a lot of football and right now appears to be the guy who's going to take that first snap."
Ksiezarczyk said two years of conditioning with strength coaches Ryan Cidzik and Donald Day have given him a lot more confidence. He has dropped his body-fat percentage from 31 to 26.
"I've definitely gotten a lot bigger, stronger," Ksiezarczyk said. "I feel more confident with my body. I can take on defenders better."
Ksiezarczyk was a "good get" for UB. He had offers from Texas-El Paso and Nevada but wanted to stay home.
"At the end of the day one thing we loved when we recruited him is this is his home," said line coach Daryl Agpalsa. "No one will care more about this program than people from Western New York. I can see that pride for UB in him. He works so hard with the older guys because this is really important to him."
Opener: UB opens its season in a week at the University of Minnesota. The 7 p.m. game on Aug. 31 will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
RB's healthy: UB's starting running back Johnathan Hawkins was cleared for full contact a week ago and looked in good form at Thursday's scrimmage. Hawkins had offseason shoulder surgery, then suffered a wrist injury. He had been participating in all non-tackling work during training camp. Hawkins had positive gains on each of his first six carries in the scrimmage, including a 14-yard run up the middle in red-zone work.
"My body feels the best it ever has," Hawkins said. "I'm definitely going to be full go. Especially not taking as many hits on my body, I feel fresh right now. And the competition in our group has allowed me to raise my game."
Starting offense: The first-teamers for the scrimmage were: QB Tyree Jackson, RB Emmanuel Reed, TE Tyler Mabry, WR Anthony Johnson, WR Jamarl Eiland, WR Kamathi Holsey, LT Evin Ksiezarczyk, LG Brandon Manosalvas, C James O'Hagan, RG Tomas Jack-Kurdyla, RT David Goldsby.
Starting defense: DE Demone Harris, DT Chris Ford, DT Justin Brandon, DE Charles Harris, OLB Jarrett Franklin, MLB Khalil Hodge, OLB Jordan Collier, CB Cameron Lewis, S Tim Roberts, S Ryan Williamson, CB Tatum Slack. Slack, Brandon Williams and Devon Russell all are in tight competition.
"You could see any of those three guys starting opposite Cam Lewis," Leipold said.
TD strike: The prettiest scoring play of the scrimmage was a 24-yard touchdown pass from No. 2 QB Drew Anderson to Johnson. The final summer tune-up involved a lot of situational down-and-distance plays. The ball was re-spotted at a specific line of scrimmage, regardless of the outcome of a play. The first-team offense worked vs. the third-team defense and vice-versa.
Punting: Senior Kyle DeWeen (Niagara Falls) returns as the starting punter for a second season. DeWeen had a solid season as a walk-on last year. Last year's backup, sophomore Taylor Sheets, has left the program to move closer to his South Carolina home. With Sheets' departure, UB added freshman punter-kicker Evan Finegan on scholarship. Finnegan, from Detroit, was planning to join the program in January, but Leipold moved up his timeline.
Roster notes: UB has added a graduate transfer defensive end from the University of California. He is Kennedy Emesibe, a 6-3, 255-pounder from Hesperia, Calif. His only action for Cal was spot duty in two games in 2015. Nik Ricks, an Ohio native who transferred to UB from an Iowa junior college, left the team. Meanwhile, freshman safety Dawun Hilton, sophomore linebacker Justin Mulbah and freshman defensive end Frendy Darelus all are out likely for the season with knee injuries. Senior reserve tight end Glynn Molinich has a broken arm.