LEWISBURG, Pa. – Joey DeFloria may have entered camp as Bucknell's featured running back, but he's not changing his approach from a year ago, back when he was competing for the job.
"I have a saying: train like you're number two and compete like you're number one," DeFloria said. "It starts with practice, especially during camp. It's the little things. We go through individual periods to make sure our footwork is right, and then we go into the team period to make sure we compete. That's big for us, and we have the chance to have a really solid year."
Entering the 2016 season, Joe Susan felt the Bison needed to be better at running the ball after averaging just 100.1 rushing yards per game in 2015, the second-lowest total in his tenure as head coach. While Susan expected to utilize a running back by committee approach, DeFloria quickly emerged as the go-to threat on the ground.
In the season opener at Marist, DeFloria enjoyed the first 100-yard game of his career, running for 145. He went on to exceed 100 rushing yards in five more games, topping out at 154 against Cornell, and earned a spot on the All-Patriot League Second Team.
Despite missing the last game, DeFloria finished the campaign with 1,070 rushing yards on 230 carries. He not only placed 12th in the FCS ranks with an average of 107.0 per game, he also became just the 10th Bison running back to surpass 1,000 rushing yards in a single season.
“Joey has very good speed and quickness,” Susan said. “For a person who isn’t the biggest guy in the world, he’s strong. He’s good in and out of his holes and reads defenses well.”
DeFloria is far from Bucknell’s only threat on the ground. As a freshman, Chad Freshnock ran the ball 151 times for 604 yards, including a season-best 161 against VMI. Now that he is fully healthy, Susan is excited to see what he will accomplish in 2017.
“Chad has made his living as a power back,” Susan said. “Last year, he had to play with a knee brace, which hampered him a bit. When he took the knee brace off in the spring, he showed the speed he had in high school. He’s faster than people think, and he’s also a 220 pounder who can run through people.”
Freshnock said being able to learn from DeFloria helped him make an impact as a freshman.
"He knows a lot about the game," he said. "He's like a second coach out there. A lot of times, I'll make a run, and he'll critique me. We talk a lot on and off the field, and that's made both of us better."
In 2016, DeFloria and Freshnock accounted for 21 of Bucknell’s 32 touchdowns. Each ran for 10, and DeFloria also caught a touchdown pass at Duquesne.
“Having Joey and Chad will make us hard to defend,” Susan said. “We can count on them in protection and can also use them as pass receivers.”
Added DeFloria: "Our biggest thing is we complement each other. I like to think I'm more of the shifty type, and he's more of the power type, although he's pretty sneaky with speed."
Bucknell has depth behind DeFloria and Freshnock. Stefone Moore-Green, a converted wide receiver, will provide quickness and elusiveness. Omar Garcia, who struggled with injuries in 2016, has impressed in the past with his speed. Susan also believes Marquis Carter could contribute as a freshman, like Freshnock did a year ago.
"Back when I was getting recruited, Coach Susan talked about how important the run game is to our team," Freshnock said. "It's a big part of our game plan, and it's a good tradition here. All the backs support each other, and we have a bright future ahead."
NOTES: Bucknell has five running backs on the roster: one senior, one junior, two sophomores and one freshman ... First-year assistant coach Jake Flaherty, a 2014 Bucknell graduate and former Bison wide receiver, will work with the running backs ... Carter showed explosiveness during team drills and broke a few tackles to run for extra yards ... DeFloria, who posted 216 receiving yards a year ago, was utilized as a receiver in a few packages ... Before DeFloria, the last Bison to rush for at least 1,000 yards in a single campaign was quarterback Daris Wilson in 2004 (1,149 yards) ... Since 2000, only DeFloria, Wilson and Jabu Powell (1,102 yards in 2000) have reached this plateau ... Last season, Freshnock was one of only two freshmen to appear in all 11 games, joining tight end John Reedy ... Freshnock was also one of only four freshmen to earn a start ... Moore-Green is the shortest (5-8) and lightest (150) player on the 2017 roster ... Whenever Moore-Green found a hole, he consistently used his quickness to pick up additional yardage ... DeFloria mentioned he was impressed with how the young offensive line looks so far: "We have a young offensive line, but they're doing a very good job right now. And, the more they come a long, the more we're going to come a long as a running back unit."
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