Bucknell Football Spring Practice Update
March 30, 2012
LEWISBURG, Pa. - The first week of spring practice has been especially busy for the Bucknell football team. The Bison held their fifth practice in seven days Thursday evening at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium. The session began under mostly clear skies that gave way to darkness and late-fall-like temperatures.
Bucknell will have nine more practice sessions leading up to the April 21 spring game, which will be held inside Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium at 8 p.m.
Just one week into spring practice, Bison third-year head coach Joe Susan has been impressed with the team's attitude.
"This team is excited," commented Susan. "They understand a lot of people patted them on the back for being 6-5 (in 2011) and they didn't want to be patted on the back for being 6-5, and neither did the coaching staff. We made that known the day after the Colgate game."
Thursday's spirited and fast-moving practice session featured plenty of individual group work as well as focus on third downs.
"Our awareness of third down has really improved," said Susan. "In the past, after a play I would cover a receiver's eyes and he would have no idea what down it was. As a team, we are so much more aware. We keep telling our defense that if you convert on third down, it is like causing a turnover. Offensively, it is a chance to continue a drive.
"We do our best to make it competitive. Tuesday night on third down, the offense prevailed. Last night, it wasn't even close (with the defense winning)."
"In terms of leadership by play, Tyler Smith has been good," praised Susan. "He is not going to say a word, and I'm OK with that. I have always felt the best leaders are the guys that let their work do the talking. Sean Sellers is the same way on defense. He is not going to say a word, but he has a motor that won't quit. Beau Traber is just the opposite. He will play well and he's going to say a lot.
"Offensively, we need our quarterbacks to be better leaders. We challenged them these first five practices with a lot of install. Because a lot of what we do is communicated at the line of scrimmage, they have to understand and decide. The best offenses I have been around have had leaders emerge on the offensive line. I'm hoping (returning starter) Lonnie Rawles can make that jump, but he is still a youngster."
Rawles is a member of one of the most important position groups on the team this spring. Four starting offensive linemen will graduate in May, leaving Bucknell with just seven healthy offensive linemen on its spring roster. The positives are the returning players will receive plenty of reps and chances to work on fundamentals this spring, but Susan notes that it presents certain challenges in scrimmage situations. Susan does expect to have approximately 15 offensive linemen on the team come the fall.
A position group that has impressed Susan one-third of the way through spring practice has been the tight ends. Nick Gatto is the returning starter at the position, although Patrick Kelly and Josh Lebo also saw significant playing time.
"The tight ends are really showing a lot of progress," commented Susan. "They are so important to what we do offensively. Having a two tight end approach in certain personnel groups really challenges the defense because it can take a defense that wants to be unbalanced and balance them up. Or, it can take a three-down defense and force a guy that doesn't want to be on the line of scrimmage onto the line of scrimmage."
Susan also has plenty of praise for cornerbacks Derrick Palmer, Joseph Francis, Donald Quarles and Jaylen Amaker as the Bison try to replace All-American Bryce Robertson, who led all of college football with 13 interceptions last fall.
Additionally, Susan noted that two-year starter Brandon Wesley and Trey Lauletta, who received playing time in each of last year's final three contests, including a 22-for-35 passing performance for 166 yards in the season finale at Colgate, have both been receiving time under center.
Bucknell's next practice session is Saturday, March 31, at 11 a.m. at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium.
Bucknell Football Spring Practice Schedule (all sessions at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium)
In the Herd: Spring Practice Update