On the night of May 8, millions of Americans watched on TV as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stepped up to the podium in Radio City Music Hall and said, “With the fifth pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders select Khalil Mack, linebacker, Buffalo.” Just like that, UB football entered the national spotlight.
Now, the next Bulls in are poised to keep that momentum going as Buffalo comes off one of its most successful seasons ever, one in which the Bulls finished 8-5 en route to earning a bid to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Below, we shine our own little light on four key players who we think will keep Buffalo football front and center this season.
Hometown: Williamsville, N.Y.
High School: Williamsville South
The Scoop: The Touchdown Club of Columbus named Licata a Mid-American Conference player-to-watch in 2014. Last year, in Licata’s first full season as starter, he passed for 2,824 yards and 24 touchdowns—one TD shy of the school record. He appears ready to go after having offseason hip surgery.
Fun Fact: Wears number 16 because it’s his dad’s favorite number. His dad wore #16 while playing basketball at Medaille College in Buffalo. Joe was born on Nov. 16.
Hometown: Amherst, N.Y.
High School: St. Francis
The Scoop: Redden recorded a game-high 17 tackles in UB’s marathon overtime win last year over Stony Brook. The third-team All-MAC honoree finished the season with 65 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
Fun Fact: Redden was originally recruited as a wide receiver before making the move to the defensive side of the ball during his redshirt-freshman season.
Position: Defensive line
Hometown: Bloomfield, N.J.
High School: Bloomfield
The Scoop: Sokoli bulked up to 300 pounds at UB after weighing a mere 220 in high school. An athletic lineman for his size, Sokoli is a solid pass rusher who finished second behind Khalil Mack with five quarterback hurries last season.
Fun Fact: Sokoli was born in Albania and immigrated to the U.S. when he was 9 years old.
Hometown: Dayton, Ohio
High School: Fairborn
The Scoop: Skinner will try to fill Mack’s shoes as defensive leader. His 79 tackles last season were second to Mack’s 100. He also brings experience, having started all 37 games of his career.
Fun Fact: Head coach Jeff Quinn first spotted Skinner at a wrestling tournament in Ohio, where Quinn was watching his son compete. Quinn learned Skinner also played football, and the rest is history.