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LeDarius Mack looks to make his own mark on UB football

University at Buffalo red-shirt LeDarius Mack usually finds some way to watch his brother, Khalil, play on Sundays. Whether that's finding the Oakland Raiders on TV or frequently updating his Twitter feed, he's following along.

This week, he'll get a much closer view. The first-year Bull is joining his family at New Era Field to watch his brother suit up against the Bills.

It's a nice perk of playing college football in an NFL city, and serves as a reminder of the goals LeDarius has set.

"I try to imitate what he does," LeDarius said. "He shows me things. I try to put them to use. That's what this year is about, trying to figure out how to do certain things, make everything click for myself."

LeDarius is a few months into his first year at the University at Buffalo, a school his family has come to know well. That doesn't mean his road to the Bulls was an expected one, especially when you consider he didn't play a down of high school football.

Two years ago, he committed to ASA College Miami to play basketball. With the head coach's permission he took to the football field for the first time since he was 13. LeDarius played two years of JUCO football, ranking fourth on the team with 24 tackles, including three for loss and one and a half sacks in his sophomore year. At 6-foot-1, he didn't fit the stud junior prospect mold, but the athleticism was there.

"He loves contact," UB coach Lance Leipold said. "There is the explosiveness you want in a player. He doesn't have the height and length his brother has, but that doesn't mean he can't be an effective football player for us."

UB didn't offer LeDarius originally, which Khalil tweeted his displeasure about in February. A month later, the Bulls changed their mind and LeDarius signed on with UB a bit over a month after National Signing Day.

Khalil Mack visited his brother LeDarius at ASA Miami last year. (Photo courtesy of ASA Miami)

Being the younger brother of arguably the greatest player to ever come out of the program comes with expected pressure. Leipold said he never brings up Khalil to use as an advantage and LeDarius has faced the expected comparisons head on. That includes wearing Khalil's No. 52.

Unfortunately for LeDarius, his familiar jersey has been contained to the practice field. Like his brother, who didn't have a Division I-A offer before UB swept in, LeDarius is a project. He's red-shirting this season to learn all the things he didn't at the JUCO level, which is pretty much everything but the basics.

"Honestly, all they told me to do was stay low and play fast," LeDarius said.

He also has to learn schemes and a pair of positions. Leipold's staff wants him to line up as an edge rusher in addition to his traditional linebacker position.

"The game, the feel, terminology, there's a lot that he admitted is new to him," Leipold said.

The flashes of potential are there, though.

"He's been scout team player of the week a couple different times," Leipold said. "He has a high motor there. Sometimes you need to motivate guys there. He gives us a hard day's work every day."

LeDarius is getting his feet under him on a reduced timeline. He has only two years of eligibility remaining after his red-shirt season. He has to learn quick, but if his attitude is telling, he's got a shot at making an impact next season.

“His game is raw right now in terms of fundamentals, but his athleticism is what will separate him," Khalil texted USA Today in March. "I will do everything in my power to see that he is better than me, and I know he will do the same. That’s why Buffalo is lucky to have him — not only a freak athlete, but a fierce competitor and a hard worker.”

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