MOBILE, Ala. — The University at Buffalo football program has secured commitments from 17 players to join its freshman class in 2019.
Wednesday marked the opening of the early signing period for FBS programs, and the Bulls (10-3) took their recruiting operations on the road this year, as they prepare to face Troy in the Dollar General Bowl at 7 p.m. Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
The coaching staff received 17 National Letters of Intent by the time the Bulls stepped off the practice field in the afternoon at UMS-Wright Preparatory School in Mobile. In that group: three offensive linemen, four defensive linemen, three wide receivers and a 6-foot-5, 225-pound pro-style quarterback who was an 11th-hour addition to the class in the early signing period.
“We’re excited about the athleticism but we understand it’s a developmental process in the program, and we hope we’re at a point where we don’t have to count on a lot of young players immediately,” UB coach Lance Leipold said. “Hopefully, we give them some time to learn and prosper within our offense.”
Trevor Bycznski, a quarterback from Berea-Midpark High School in the Cleveland suburbs, is the most significant get for the Bulls. He visited UB in the spring but committed to Rice in July.
However, Bycznski said UB's coaches contacted him Tuesday to let him know that quarterback Morgan Mitchell of Oviedo, Fla., had decommitted, and offered him a spot in the class.
"Last night was a long, thoughtful night, between trying to make that decision," Bycznski said. "I talked to my parents, to my friends and to (Midpark) coach (Jon) Hunek, to figure out what was best for me and best for what I want to do. At the end of the day, Buffalo won out."
Bycznski threw for more than 3,000 yards with 26 touchdowns and five interceptions and ran for another 12 touchdowns at Midpark High. He is ranked as the No. 82 pro-style quarterback in the nation and No. 73 player overall in Ohio, according to 247Sports.
"I’m a pocket, pro-style quarterback, but if I have to run, I will run," Bycznski said. "I can make all the throws on the field, without a doubt, and I can get away from pressure and run."
Bycznski joins a UB quarterbacks group that includes redshirt junior Tyree Jackson, sophomore Kyle Vantrease, redshirt sophomore Dominic Johnson and freshmen Matt Myers, a West Seneca West graduate, and Kolston Brewster.
Among UB’s signees are Jelani Foster, a wide receiver who originally committed to UB in in April of 2017, but deferred his enrollment to January. He is a former teammate of running back Jaret Patterson and his brother, James, and linebacker Justin Mulbah at St. Vincent Pallotti in Laurel, Md.
"I've been waiting for this a long time,” Foster said. “I've been committed for over a year and I just hope to contribute in the upcoming season. I can't wait."
Foster and wide receivers Trevor Wilson of Godby High School in Tallahassee, Fla., and Javien Cuff of Vero Beach, Fla., join the Bulls.
Incoming freshmen Caelan Shepard, Bence Polgar and Anthony Laudicina will help plug future holes on the offensive line. UB will lose All-MAC center James O’Hagan and Jacquis Webb to graduation this year, and juniors Tomas Jack-Kurdyla, Evin Ksiezarczyk and Paul Nosworthy after 2019.
“We had a younger group come in last year with Gabe Wallace, Mike Novitzky, Tyler Leroux and Dan Fedor,” Leipold said. “This is two classes in a row, and that’s seven pretty young linemen in our group. Only losing two, we’ll have another group, but 2020, that’s going to be a pretty young group of linemen that has to grow in the next year and a half.”
Defensive linemen C.J. Bazile, Georell Kidd and Kyler Laing join defensive tackle Ronald McGee, a junior college transfer from Highland (Kan.) Community College. The South Carolina native had 32 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a quarterback hurry and two forced fumbles in 2018.
Some of the future Bulls expressed gratitude and relief on signing day, including Marcus Fuqua, a safety from Southfield, Mich.
“It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders knowing that I’m now locked in with my new home and I can focus on finishing my senior year up strong,” Fuqua said. “As far as becoming a Bull, it’s a blessing, knowing that all of my hard work has finally paid off. It’s a special place and it will show in due time.”
Malik Brooks, an All-Western New York wide receiver from Lockport High School, did not sign Wednesday with the Bulls. The 3-star receiver, who is the No. 4 player in New York, according to 247Sports, told the News earlier this week that he plans to sign in February, and that the Bulls remain his top choice. Tyler Doty, an offensive tackle from St. Joe's, signed Wednesday with UB, but is not listed on the Bulls' roster of early enrollees.
The early signing period closes Friday. The second signing period for Division I football programs begins February 6, 2019 and ends April 1, 2019.
“(February) won’t be busy, not based on the numbers, because we won’t have that many more slots to fill,” Leipold said. “January, we still could have some positions, because we’ll still have a few more areas that we need to try to adjust.”