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UB linebacker Khalil Hodge, seniors say goodbye at Dollar General Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. – Khalil Hodge has savored his final week with the University at Buffalo football team.

“Getting this extra week, going into this game, it almost feels like a month, since week 12 of the season,” Hodge said Friday. “To get that extra time with these guys, it’s going to mean the world.”

Hodge, a linebacker from Stockton, Calif., is one of 20 seniors or fifth-year seniors who played their final game for the Bulls on Saturday when UB faced Troy in the Dollar General Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Hodge entered the Dollar General Bowl second in the MAC with 138 tackles, and has 2.5 sacks, an interception, three pass breakups, a forced fumble and five quarterback hurries in 13 games.

Hodge had 277 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in his first two seasons at UB after he spent his freshman year at City College of San Francisco.

Walterfootball.com lists the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Hodge as the No. 20 linebacker available in this year’s NFL Draft. NFLdraftscout.com rates Hodge as the No. 6 inside linebacker out of 107 available for this year’s draft.

Hodge plans to return to Northern California for the holidays, then will go to San Diego and work out at EXOS, a high-performance fitness center that trains professional-caliber athletes, including NFL products and hopefuls.

Hodge will earn his degree in sociology after next semester.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Hodge said. “These three years, it’s been a crazy experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m just glad Coach (Lance) Leipold took a chance on me a few years ago.”

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The word gets around about UB quarterback Tyree Jackson. The word got all the way from Buffalo to Louisiana, and reached former NFL great Archie Manning.

Manning and his sons, Peyton, Eli and Cooper, run the Manning Passing Academy each June at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La., about 60 miles southwest of Archie Manning’s home in New Orleans.

The camp draws more than 1,200 quarterbacks and receivers, as well as high school and college football coaches, and invites 40 college quarterbacks to coach and work out.

Jackson was one of those invited to attend the camp in June, and was among a veritable who’s who of college quarterbacks that included Penn State’s Trace McSorley, Georgia’s Jake Fromm and Central Florida’s McKenzie Milton.

“These aren’t necessarily the 40 top quarterbacks,” Archie Manning said Friday at the Mobile Convention Center. “ We have small schools and big schools but we’ve got a pretty good alumni list. I don’t know how we got Tyree. Someone, a friend of mine up north, told me about this 6-8 quarterback at Buffalo and said, ‘You ought to invite him to camp’ and I said ‘Okay, he’s in.’

“He looks like an NBA player.”

Jackson is listed at 6-foot-7 on the Bulls’ roster.

“Tyree is a good passer, a good athlete and a great young man,” Manning said. “I texted him (Friday) morning and told him I was looking forward to seeing him. That’s fun for me and my boys to get to know those college quarterbacks and get to know them their junior and senior years.”

Jackson is a redshirt junior who has not yet announced if he will return to UB for his final season of eligibility, if he will transfer to another program or if he will enter the NFL draft.

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UB leaves Mobile with a few pre-Christmas gifts, doled out to the Bulls over the course of their time in Alabama. The Bulls received one gift a day during their stay in Mobile, including a Timely Watch Co. watch, custom-fitted Maui Jim sunglasses, a Yamaha soundbar and a Wilson game ball.

According to NCAA rules, the NCAA allows each bowl committee to provide each player with gifts totaling a combined maximum value of $550, according to Sports Business Journal.

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The MAC's bowl hopes hinged on UB on Saturday. The MAC, as a conference, entered its final bowl game 1-4, and Ohio recorded the conference's lone win, a 27-0 victory over San Diego State on Wednesday in the Frisco Bowl.

UAB beat Northern Illinois 37-13 Tuesday in the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl, Georgia Southern beat Eastern Michigan 23-21 on Nov. 15 in the Camellia Bowl, BYU beat Western Michigan 49-18 Friday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and FIU beat Toledo 35-32 Friday in the Bahamas Bowl.

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