LEWISBURG, Pa. – During preseason practices, Alex Pechin almost always had a smile on his face. After missing the majority of the 2016 campaign due to injury, he was just happy to be out on the field with his Bucknell teammates, regardless of whether he was nailing long punts or working on the chain crew during 7-on-7 drills.
“It's definitely been too long,” he said. “It was a long road and a lot of work, but I had great support from my teammates, coaches and athletic trainers. To be honest, I'm just really excited to get back out here.”
And the Bison are excited to have Pechin back. As a freshman in 2015, he was voted to the All-Patriot League First Team after leading the league with an average of 42.1 yards per punt. His punting average was the highest in Bucknell history, and he was expected to take on all kicking duties during his sophomore campaign.
But Pechin suffered an injury at Duquesne, leaving first quarterback Matt Muh and then safety Bret Berg to punt and John Burdick and Jack Chambers to kick for the final 10 games of the season. Now that Pechin is 100-percent healthy, head coach Joe Susan believes he will pick up where he left off.
“We feel Alex is one of the best punters in this league,” Susan said. “He has an incredibly strong leg, and he’s consistent. Coming out of the spring, he was our best placement kicker so he will also take that on.”
“I have great faith in them, and I know the whole team does,” Pechin said of his backups. “One guy may go down, and then it's all about the next guy up. Bret, our third-string punter, did a great job last year and is in the Bucknell record books [with the fourth-best single-season punting average]. I'm sure the next person in line will answer the call like he did.”
Bucknell’s starting cornerbacks, Bryan Marine and Colin Jonov, are projected to handle returns. Marine made the most of his kick returns in 2016, totaling 104 yards on just four attempts. Jonov, who enters camp as the primary punt returner, has not made any returns in college but has the straight-line speed needed to excel. Wide receiver Alan Butler and running backs Stefone Moore-Green and Joey DeFloria may also take returns during the season.
NOTES: Steven King is Bucknell's new special teams coordinator and spent camp installing new packages ... Kicker - Bucknell has four kickers on the roster: one senior, two juniors and one freshman ... Burdick has consistently hit his field goals during camp ... In the spring, Jack Chambers was named the Most Improved Special Teams Player ... Muh gives Bucknell an additional option at punter and averaged 36.6 yards per punt in 2016 ... Pechin, a three-sport athlete in high school, was often the first specialist to cross the line during shuttle runs and sprints ... Torres had a number of long punts during camp, including one Pechin estimated traveled 60 yards before it touched the ground ... Torres was not listed on the preseason depth chart at either punter or place kicker ... Pechin had high praise for Torres: “Ethan has a strong leg. He could be something special, and he's had some unbelievable punts so far.” Returner - Marine looked dynamic as both a kick and punt returner ... Moore-Green displayed elusiveness on kickoff returns while Butler flashed explosiveness on punt returns ... While not listed on the preseason depth chart as returners, wide receivers Justin Bethea and Mike Balzofiore also took return reps during camp ... Long Snapper - Susan said Adams "worked his tail off to be a better long snapper" and has looked strong on short snaps for extra points and field goals.
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