Before boarding the bus to Detroit for Friday night’s Mid-American Conference championship game, the unbeaten and nationally-ranked Buffalo football team built upon its recent success Wednesday by signing the highest-rated recruiting class in program history.
“We’re really excited about this class,” UB coach Lance Leipold said in a news release announcing 16 players representing nine states signed letters of intent to join the Bulls on the opening day of the NCAA’s early signing period for football.
“Even during these difficult times, we felt we were able to connect early and establish strong relationships from afar. We were able to showcase facilities in unique ways and it helped them get a good understanding of our program and university."
Harvesting a new crop of prospects during a pandemic that restricted scouting trips, evaluation camps and campus visits, UB inked its list of recruits during a short week of preparation to play Ball State, a MAC foe the Bulls have not faced in three seasons, and while players are finishing up final exams.
In a video conference with reporters, Leipold said Wednesday was “one of the more hectic days in a long time, that’s for sure.”
Of the 16 players UB signed Wednesday, 15 received three-star distinction in the composite ratings tracked by 247Sports.com. That is the most the Bulls have ever boasted in a single recruiting class, and UB’s class ranked second among its MAC peers and 77th nationally.
Those figures compare favorably against all five of the recruiting classes that made up UB’s current roster. According to the 247Sports.com database, Leipold and his staff recruited 32 players with three-star ratings since 2016. Each class ranked in the bottom half of the MAC (ninth, ninth, 12th, seventh, 12th). UB’s recruiting ranked among the bottom 25 nationally during a period when it was building the team that is current ranked No. 23 in the AP poll.
UB led the MAC with 12 all-conference selections for the second consecutive season, and only one of those players, defensive tackle Eddie Wilson, was a three-star recruit. None of the seven UB players on the first or second All-MAC teams, including league MVP and All-America candidate Jaret Patterson, had three-star ratings.
“I repeat having stars don’t mean anything!!!” Patterson tweeted last month with an image his two-star recruiting profile.
Leipold discussed star ratings and his recruiting philosophy during a recent interview on the Tim Graham and Friends podcast.
“We do feel we are recruiting better, we are getting in on players, we think there are a lot of reasons are for that,” Leipold said.
“What we have tried to do — and one is, we are not going to get overly hung up on star ratings and that — we want to find somebody who fits our system and is going to fit in here. But also someone that has a high ceiling in development. And there is different ways that works. I think our staff has evaluated well, not always perfect, and we have really developed the players that we’ve had to reach the potential that they have.”
UB Football's Class of 2021
Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown/Previous School
Demarco Cuffey* CB 6-1 180 Waldorf, MD/IMG Academy
Janik Ogunlade* OL 6-5 275 Waldorf, MD/North Point HS
Jibrahn Claude S 6-0 185 Loganville, GA/Grayson HS
Floyd Dozier DT 6-2 285 Tampa, FL/Palmetto HS
Ali Fisher WR 6-1 190 Belleville, MI/Pioneer HS
Al-Jay Henderson RB 6-0 195 South Orange, NJ/Irvington HS
Jaillen Howze LB 6-1 220 East Point, MI/Chippewa Valley HS
Quillen Howze CB 6-0 180 Sterling Heights, MI/Chippewa Valley HS
Nolan Gorczyca OL 6-6 275 Omaha, NE/Roncalli Catholic HS
Chris King DE 6-3 235 Queens, NY/Paramus Catholic HS
Rowan McGwin OL 6-6 280 Rochester, NY/Irondequoit
Matt Pajuste OL 6-4 280 Philadelphia, PA/Martin Luther King HS
Brian Plummer QB 6-4 205 Gaithersburg, MD/Quince Orchard HS
Anton Ricumstrict DE 6-5 225 Mount Pleasant, MI/Mount Pleasant Senior HS
Mike Washington RB 6-2 205 Clay, NY/Cicero-North Syracuse HS
Carson Williams TE 6-5 230 Marshalltown, IA/Marshalltown HS
*Will enroll in January 2021