|« Drake veteran players trying to reach one final goal||Eachus among nation’s best »|
Bucknell ahead of the game in year two
Bucknell’s second preseason under head coach Joe Susan kicked off Sunday afternoon and thanks to continuity across the board, the Bison are already miles ahead of where they were at this point a year ago. All but one coach returns from last year’s staff and Bucknell has a roster featuring 22 players with at least one career start and five players with at least 25 collegiate starts.
But, perhaps most important, the players and coaches are familiar with the offensive and defensive schemes and the pieces fit a bit better than they did a year ago when the Bison went 1-10 in Susan’s first season.
“The hardest thing was the change from a scheme standpoint and more offensively, less defensively,” Susan said. “It was a paradigm shift from a double-slot option team to what we’re doing now: Trying to run the football and complement it with the passing game.”
Because the majority of the squad have a year under their belt in the system and the 29-player freshman class were recruited based on that system, Susan and his coaching staff can start a little farther ahead than they did a year ago. All the coaches had to go on last year was what they saw in spring ball in 2010 and they had no grasp of how their players matched up across the Patriot League.
They learned that on the fly last fall, but they also learned they needed to get bigger and stronger. The veterans did that, with another large number staying on campus this summer. The staff also brought in five offensive line recruits and four more on the defensive front.
“There were times (last year) where we were physically mismatched,” Susan said. “We have to be better physically this year and we will be.”
Susan is hoping a more physical offense is more productive. A year ago Bucknell ranked 113th out of 117 FCS schools in scoring offense, averaging less than 14 points a game, and 111th in total offense.
“That math doesn’t work for us,” Susan said.
Experience should help on that side of the ball. Three freshmen played key roles by the of the season on offense, including Brandon Wesley at quarterback — the Patriot League Rookie of the Year — Travis Friend at fullback and Victor Walker at receiver. That trio return along with three veterans at tailback (Tyler Smith, Charles Thompson and Jeremiah Young) and they will get a chance to work behind and offensive front that features five seniors, including four-year starters Ian Dal Bello and Anthony Carter.
But Susan wants to use camp to develop some playmakers. Walker averaged better than 23 yards on his 19 grabs a year ago, but of Bucknell’s 14 offensive TDs in 11 games last fall, only three of them were for more than 14 yards and nine of them were from inside the 10-yard line.
“You need to have some playmakers on your roster,” said Susan. “If you are in an offense where you are going to grind it, somewhere in a 15-play drive your going to end up in an unmanageable third down. We need to realize it’s perfectly okay to score in two plays because you can’t drive 80 yards all day.”
Sunday’s workout was the first of 20 workouts for the Bison over the next 16 days. There are also a pair of scrimmages before the season opener Sept. 3 against Duquesne.
By William Bowman The Daily Item