BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Headlined by West Seneca West quarterback Matt Myers, UB football coach Lance Leipold announced the 2018 14-member signing class.
After transferring from Bishop Timon to West Seneca West, Myers powered the Indians to the Class A Championship and also claimed the Connolly Cup, which is awarded annually to the best football player in Western New York.
“Matt Myers — what an exciting young man,” Leipold said. “To have the season he had and leading his team to a state championship is everything and then some of what we thought we’d get.”
In the first early signing period for college football, Myers is one of three players from WNY to sign with the Bulls, who is joined by Sweet Home’s Dylan McDuffie (running back) and Canisius’ Cole Burniston (tight end).
“(Dylan) is a very talented running back — gives us a bit of a bigger back to add to that running back corps. His skills as a running back are something that’s going to add to our program,” Leipold said.
Victor offensive lineman Mike Novitsky and Brockport defensive back Cory Gross, Jr. are also notable signees from the area.
“I think it helps in so many different way for those players to get here. To come to our games, spring practice and their teammates are going to have an interest in our program, their communities will have an interest in our program,” Leipold added. “You have to build relationships. We’ve continue to build solid relationships with high school coaches and that are feeling more and more comfortable in seeing what we’re doing. If this roster can be filled with guys from this state we could be nothing more than excited about that.”
Of the 14-member class, Atunaisa Vainikolo will have the furthest to travel. The incoming defensive tackle, who is from Hawaii, will be making the near 5,000 trip to join the Bulls.
“Interesting thing is, he was messaging us a little after 7 am here this morning. So, you know what time it was out there. He said he couldn’t sleep he was so excited. He has a great work ethic, and an outstanding family and maybe the only bad thing about it was I didn’t get a chance to make a home visit out there. We’re excited to get him out here in January.”
UB FOOTBALL 2018 CLASS
A native of Grimsby, Ontario, he played two seasons at Canisius High School in Buffalo as a running back. In his two seasons with the Crusaders he rushed for 1,390 yards and 15 touchdowns. Rushed for 924 yards on 120 carries (7.7 ypc) and 10 touchdowns as a junior. Rushed for 466 yards on 60 carries (7.8 ypc) and five touchdowns as a senior. Named first team All-State, All-Western New York and All-Catholic. His interception with 1:36 left in the 2016 state championship set up the Crusader’s game-winning score.
Columbia, MS/East Marion/Jones County JC
Defensive lineman who transferred from Jones County Junior College and will have two years of eligibility remaining. Played two seasons for the Bobcats and totaled 19 tackles, four tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. Played his high school ball at East Marion High School where he was named to the Hattiesburg American All-Area Team.
Linebacker from Elizabeth High School in New Jersey. Had 19 tackles and 11 sacks as junior. Had 34 tackles, 14 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery his senior season. Had four separate three-sack games his senior year. Named Star-Ledger All-Group 5 First Team and All-District First Team as a senior. Named Star-Ledger All-Group 5 Third Team as a junior. Also a standout track performer. Conference champion in the high jump and long jump.
Glendale, MD/St. Vincent Pallotti
Linebacker who played at St. Vincent Pallotti High School in Maryland. Had 180 tackles, eight sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery as a senior. Named first-team All-MIAA. A three-time All-Conference selection. Twin brother of fellow signee Jaret Patterson.
Glendale, MD/St. Vincent Pallotti
Running back from St. Vincent Pallotti High School where he was named the team’s Player of the Year. Rushed for 2,045 yards and 23 touchdowns his senior season. Also tallied 113 receiving yards. In a game vs. Riverside Baptist he accounted for 558 all-purpose yards (282 rushing, 54 receiving, 124 KOR, 98 INT return). Named All-State Honorable Mention. Four-time All-Conference selection. Twin brother of fellow signee James Patterson.
Kihei, HI/Maui/Mt. San Antonio College
Defensive tackle who is transferring from Mt. San Antonio College after playing two seasons with the Mounties. He had 19 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble his sophomore season. Was named Region III All-California First-Team Defense. He had 14 tackles, three tackles for loss and a pair of sacks his freshman season. Played his high school ball at Maui High School in Hawaii.
Jersey City, NJ/Hoboken/Milford Academy
Defensive tackle who prepped at Milford Academy. Had 29 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in his season at Milford. At Hoboken High School, he helped lead the Redwings to three state championships. Was a first-team All-State and first-team All-District defensive tackle. Was named the Hudson City Lineman of the Year. Had 76 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 14 sacks and three fumble recoveries his senior year. Was selected to play in the 2017 Phil Simms North-South All-Star Football Classic where he had 1.5 sacks.
Offensive lineman with great footwork that also played tight end at Elmira High School. Helped lead the way for an Express offense that ran for more than 3,900 yards en route to the Section 4 Class AA title in 2017. Named a first-team Section 4 All-Star as a sophomore, junior and senior. Named All-State Second Team as a junior. Named the 2017 Kiwanis Male Athlete of the Fall. Was the 2017-18 Ernie Davis Award Winner – given to the top high school football player in Chemung County. Member of the National Honor Society. Also plays basketball at Elmira.
Cory Gross, Jr.
A three-time All-State selection who played both running back and defensive back at Brockport High School. A three-time All-County choice. Was a two-time Democrat and Chronical All-Greater Rochester Team selection. Had 45 tackles and eight tackles for loss his junior season. Also averaged 9.5 yards per carry as a running back for the Blue Devils. Was the District 4 Player of the Year and helped lead Brockport to the Section V Sectional Championship.
Mentor, OH/Gilmour Academy
A powerful blocker who was a four-year letterwinner and a team captain as a senior at Gilmour Academy in Ohio. A three-time All-District selection. Named to the 2017 News Herald All-Star Second Team. Named to the OPSWA Division V All-Ohio Second Team. All-Ohio Special Mention as a sophomore and junior. Helped lead the Lancers to the 2017 Division V, Region 17 Tournament. Won the 2017 Art Teynor Award – given to a player with high-character value, academic success and community service.
Amherst, NY/Sweet Home
Local product who played at both St. Francis and Sweet Home High Schools over his career. As a junior in 2016, he rushed for 1,255 yards and 14 touchdowns en route to being named All-WNY Second Team. Played his senior season at Sweet Home High School and earned All-WNY Honorable Mention honors after rushing for 840 yards (14.4 ypc) and 11 touchdowns over six games. Rushed for 4,261 yards and 54 touchdowns over his four-year career. Career accolades include Catholic League MVP, first-team All-Catholic, WGRZ Offensive Player of the year, Ray Kearney Offensive MVP and Connolly Cup Finalist.
West Seneca, NY/West Seneca West
Dual-threat quarterback who, after playing his first three seasons at Bishop Timon-St. Jude, played his senior year at West Seneca West High School. Led West Seneca West to an undefeated season and its first ever state championship in 2017 and was named the game MVP. Named the 2017 Buffalo News Western New York Player of the Year and was a two-time All-WNY First Team choice. The 2017 Connolly Cup recipient, he threw for 2,397 yards and rushed for 1,037 yards his senior year to become just the third quarterback in WNY history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. Had 24 passing touchdowns, only two interceptions and 22 rushing touchdowns on the year.
Athletic offensive lineman who was also a highly-recruited lacrosse player out of Victor High School. Played defensive end and tight end for the Blue Devils. Named All-State Honorable Mention as a junior after having 53 tackles and three interceptions as well as averaged 16.2 yards per catch and scored two touchdowns. Named a Monroe County All-Star. As a senior, he was the Monroe County Division Player of the Year and the Daily Messenger Player of the Year. Also a two-time state champion in lacrosse.
LeMaro Smith, Jr.
Cleveland, OH/Cleveland Heights
Versatile wide receiver who played safety, cornerback and some wildcat quarterback. Started his career at Shaw High School before transferring to Cleveland Heights for his senior year. Won the 2016 Coaches Award at Shaw and won multiple scholar athlete awards. Had three interceptions in a victory over Lake Catholic while at Cleveland Heights. Also plays basketball at Cleveland Heights. Honor roll student.