LEWISBURG, Pa. – It's safe to say Joe Lauro spent the first two weeks of camp looking forward to being able to tackle. If you stand on the Bucknell sidelines long enough, inevitably you'll hear someone chirp "Kamikaze" at him.
“Coach [Eric] Wicks gave me that name my freshman year because I'd run down on special teams and blow some people up," Lauro said with a chuckle. “It's kind of spread from there, and it's my name.”
Lauro is expected to lead a relatively young group of Bison safeties. But it would be a mistake to view their youth as inexperience. The three starters going into the preseason—Lauro, Aaron Brown and Brice Sydnor—have played in a combined 40 games, with 13 starts.
“We’re relatively young, but we have good experience,” said head coach Joe Susan.
Lauro boasts the most experience and could play strong or free safety. A year ago, he placed third on the team with 62 tackles (39 solo), bolstered by three double-figure tackle games.
“Joe has great range and tackling ability,” Susan said. “He battled some injuries last year, and it’s going to be good to have him back at 100 percent.”
In 2016, Brown and Sydnor saw time in a reserve capacity. Susan said both had an “outstanding” spring and have the ability to start if they continue to develop.
Connor Golden, the lone senior safety on the roster, is not expected to play in 2017 due to injury. In 26 career games, he posted 120 tackles (76 solo), 12 passes defended and six interceptions. The Bison will also need to replace Bret Berg, who finished first on the team in interceptions (4) and second in tackles (75) a year ago; for his efforts, Berg received All-Patriot League First Team honors and the Bison Gridiron Club Award as team MVP.
“Those are huge players to replace because they were amazing for us,” Lauro said. “Coming into camp, we knew we lost two great players, but the young guys are really stepping up, watching film and doing everything they can to replace them. We're doing a great job with the install, and I think we're going to have a strong season.”
NOTES: Bucknell has 11 safeties on the roster: one senior, four juniors, two sophomores and four freshmen ... Wicks, who previously coached the cornerbacks, will guide the safeties and also work with the entire defensive secondary ... The Bison safeties excelled during August 17's practice, with Brown and Conner Romango each hauling in an interception during the final team period ... Lauro also had an acrobatic interception along the sideline during defensive drills ... If they start the season opener against Marist, Lauro and wide receiver Alan Butler will become the 10th and 11th players on the 2017 roster to reach the double digits in career starts ... Lauro (Sept. 24 vs. VMI) and Sydnor (Nov. 19 vs. Fordham) tied for the 2016 high with 14-tackle outings ... Fox is currently listed as Bucknell's primary long snapper ... Newcomb, one of 26 Pennsylvania natives on the roster, is the lone player from Lewisburg ... Chanse Riley is transitioning from cornerback to safety and has looked strong at his new position in training camp ... Being one of the most experienced players at safety, Lauro said he's taking on more of a leadership role: “I try to help them out as much as I can with the new formations. Coming into college from high school is completely different. I tell them, if they have any questions, they can come up to me and ask. And, after practice, if they need something, I'm very open for helping them work on things."
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