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Offensive line takes the lead for UB football team

Paul Nosworthy has made it a priority to foster a family-like atmosphere within his position group.

Nosworthy, a senior and an offensive lineman on the University at Buffalo football team, isn’t just strengthening friendly ties. He’s also fostering a level of accountability within one of the Bulls’ oldest and most experienced units.

“We’re all-tight knit,” Nosworthy said Tuesday, during UB’s football media day. “When the freshmen come in, they know what to do and what not to, and we set an expectation for them. But we have a buddy system where we get to know the next freshmen, and that really helps us.”

The returning offensive linemen are taking leadership roles, whether it’s through reminding a younger player to be on time for meetings or for team events. It’s a way for the older linemen to get to know the younger linemen, including UB’s five freshmen.

It’s also a way the offensive line continues to fortify the foundation of a position group that is nearly intact from 2018.

The Bulls open the season at 7 p.m Aug. 29 against Robert Morris at UB Stadium. UB lost 26 players to graduation, transfers or to the NFL, but returns the bulk of its offensive linemen, including five who made starts in 2018: Nosworthy, Evan Ksiezarczyk, Tomas Jack-Kurdyla, Jacob Gall and Kayode Awosika. The Bulls have also added Dan Clifford, a graduate transfer who was a three-year starter at Wagner, an FCS program.

“A lot of us spend time talking about the people that are scoring touchdowns and getting statistics, but many times, if you’re going to win championships or compete for them, you’ve got to be able to be successful up front, on both sides of the ball,” UB coach Lance Leipold said. “I’m happy and pleased with where we’re at, but we’ve got to stay healthy and keep developing. We have some guys in the two-deep, especially on the defensive side of the football, who don’t have a lot of experience but have worked hard to put themselves in a position to help us.”

James O’Hagan was UB’s only departure on the offensive line; O’Hagan graduated and is in training camp with the New York Giants. UB, however, has options at one of the most vital and maybe most overlooked positions on the field; Leipold said Clifford, Gall, and Mike Novitsky have been working at center during training camp.

“We took the mentality that this is going to be our job, that this is what we have to do,” said Novitsky, a redshirt freshman who was a tight end at Victor. “We’re going to go as far as we allow ourselves to go.

And, he added of the offensive line, “we’re the backbone of this team.”

Jack-Kurdyla has started 29 games at right guard in three seasons at UB, including nine starts in 2018. He sees the offensive line’s value to the defense.

“We need to give our quarterbacks time and find our young running back holes and open seams for them to run, and we have to stay on the field,” said Jack-Kurdyla, a senior. “As long as the run game stays on the field, the longer the defense gets a break. With a younger defense, they need to be able to rest after going against long-distance drives themselves.”

The leadership of the offensive line, Nosworthy said, will be pivotal for a young team.

“We have a lot of young guys, freshman that are going to play,” Nosworthy said. “They’re coming from high school and they may not understand what it’s like to be in a college game, especially important games. They have to look at us for that, and we need to make sure they’re doing what they’ve got to do, for us to have another successful season.”

• • •

UB officially opened the Murchie Family Fieldhouse with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday. Brittany Murchie spoke on behalf of her father, Tunney Murchie, and asked people in attendance for the fieldhouse opening and in the UB community to donate to UB’s next project, a fitness and health/athletic performance center she dubs “The Factory.”

“We need support from our community, as well, for this,” said Brittany Murchie, whose family donated $3 million to the $18 million fieldhouse, which opened in April.

UB athletic director Mark Alnutt told the News earlier this month that UB is in the process of a feasibility study for a new wellness center that will have a recreation center component. That center would replace the 6,900-square foot fitness center in Alumni Arena that is used by students, and would allow for parts of Alumni Arena to be repurposed for practice facilities for UB’s basketball and volleyball teams.

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