By Paul Peck, Buffalo Sports Page
The UB Bulls are coming off a record-setting ten win season. That happened because they had high-level players.
This weekend, those high-level players will be rewarded with opportunities to play in the NFL. Five Bulls have a possibility to be drafted, with six others hoping to get the chance to sign as undrafted free agents.
Only once has the program had multiple players drafted in the same year. In 2008, Trevor Scott was a 6th round pick, Jamey Richard went in the 7th round.
This year should change that. Tyree Jackson and Anthony Johnson are locks to be selected. Khalil Hodge, Chuck Harris and James O’Hagan have good chances to be taken on Day 3.
So with a new focus for Bulls fans on the NFL, and for NFL fans on Buffalo, here’s a look at those players who could be reaching their dreams this weekend.
The six-foot-seven, 249 pound signalcaller has been one of the most intriguing quarterback prospects in this year’s Draft. After winning team MVP honors at the Senior Bowl, dazzling at the Combine and being highlighted on ESPN’s Draft Academy series, Jackson has generated some buzz. Bulls fans know all about his mobility, strong arm and deep ball prowess. The NFL has learned. In a sport that still drafts on size & speed & potential, some team will see Jackson’s unlimited potential and look past some of his rawness. As I pointed out earlier this year, where he’ll be picked has more to do with how the NFL drafts quarterbacks than it does Jackson himself. But my sense is some team, looking to groom their next starter, will pick Jackson and let him develop. It wouldn’t surprise me if that happens in the third round.
In a draft said to be strong with wide receivers rated in the 2nd & 3rd rounds, Johnson fits in right there. The six-foot-two, 210 pounder has good length, power and speed. He may not be the best prospect in any one of those categories, but he’s very good in all of them. His production at UB (25 TD in 2 seasons) made him a dominant player in the MAC. He fits what a lot of teams are looking for at receiver: A player who dominates the slant, curl and out routes. He also has good bloodlines, as a cousin of NFL standouts Jadeveon Clowney & Johnathan Joseph. Anthony could go as high as the second round, and not likely last past the third.
With 421 tackles in three seasons at UB, Hodge was an incredibly productive linebacker who was always around the ball. He’s smart, and a leader. The challenge for Khalil is he plays a position that has become devalued at bit. Linebackers who stuff the run and play in the middle are not always drafted highly. Hodge is not physically imposing, and his speed will not make headlines. But you can’t ignore the production and football skills. A team playing a 3-4 defense may look at what he does very well, and not focus on what he doesn’t do well. The production is too good not to be worth some team’s Day 3 pick.
He could be the surprise Bulls player drafted higher than anyone expected. Harris (6-3, 253) has the right size for an NFL defensive end or outside linebacker. Pass rushers always get heavy consideration. His domination of better competition at Rutgers and Temple will open some eyes. A midseason shoulder injury limited his production, but those early games will dictate his fate (6 sacks in first 5 games). Teams will have to decide if he’s a defensive end or outside linebacker. But there’s enough pass rush skills to make Harris be considered for a Day 3 draft pick.
He started at center for four years, was a team captain for two years, and allowed only one sack. That came his freshman year. O’Hagan is a classic offensive lineman and leader. He also has worked with, and has the seal of approval from legendary NFL offensive line coach Jim McNally. James’ challenges are size and position. He’s six-foot-one, 305 pounds which is a bit small for an NFL center. He’ll also have to show he can play guard, because an NFL team will want him to have position flexibility as a backup early in his career. But he’s the kind of guy and player who will give 100% effort and force a team to keep him. That’s why he has a chance to be a late draft pick.
Bunch Of Bulls
These Bulls seniors all have a good chance to get into an NFL rookie camp or training camp. As former Bulls star Brandon Oliver showed, that can be a successful path to a nice NFL career.
CB Cam Lewis
CB Tatum Slack
DB Brandon Williams
WR George Rushing
LB Jordan Collier
ALl were very productive players on a division champion and bowl team. That’s what the NFL looks for, and should give all of these guys a chance to continue their careers.