Jared Backus Named Defensive Coordinator at Bucknell
July 25, 2005
LEWISBURG, Pa. - The Bucknell football coaching staff will have several new faces in 2005, while one veteran member of Tim Landis' staff, Jared Backus, has been promoted to defensive coordinator. Backus, who will be in his fourth year with the Bison this fall, had been special teams coordinator and defensive line coach before being elevated to direct Bucknell's defensive unit.
Landis also announced the addition of five new members of his staff for the 2005 season, including three veteran coaches with more than 75 years of combined experience and two who were recent standout players under Landis.
Most notable among the newcomers is Jim Reid, former head coach at Massachusetts and Richmond who served as defensive line coach at Syracuse last season. Reid will be special teams coordinator and defensive line coach at Bucknell. Additionally, Dick Cassels will aid offensive coordinator Tim Camp in coaching the offensive linemen, former Davidson star Ryan Crawford will coach the team's cornerbacks, graduate assistant Travis Burkett, a former St. Mary's starter, will work with the outside linebackers, and Steve Hayes will serve as a volunteer offensive assistant coach after spending the last 15 years at Juniata.
Backus, who takes over the defensive coordinator duties from new Davidson head coach Tripp Merritt, will have a deep, veteran group of defensive players to work with in 2005, headlined by All-American Sean Conover at defensive end. As defensive line coach, Backus' group combined for 20 sacks last season, including 10.5 from Conover. Backus also oversaw the special teams units and mentored the first-ever Patriot League Special Teams Player of the Year in Ross, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game at Georgetown last year.
"I am excited for Jared because I know he has worked hard to prepare for this responsibility, and I am confident that he is ready for it," said Landis. "The players have great respect for the leadership and enthusiasm that he brings to the program. Jared is an outstanding defensive planner and is incredibly passionate about the sport of football and the student-athletes that he motivates every day."
In 2002, Backus coached Bucknell's vaunted outside linebacker unit and coordinated the special teams. His special teams units blocked a school-record 10 kicks, and he helped senior OLB Joe Massey earn First Team All-Patriot League honors for the second time. Backus came to Bucknell from the University of Maine, where he served as the Black Bears' defensive line coach and special teams coordinator from 1999-2001. He helped guide Maine to the 2001 Atlantic 10 title and the quarterfinals of the I-AA playoffs. A 1993 graduate of Springfield College, Backus was a two-year football letterman as an inside linebacker.
Reid brings more than 30 years of collegiate coaching experience to Bucknell, including 15 as a head coach at Massachusetts and Richmond. Reid will serve as the Bison's special teams coordinator and defensive line coach. He served as defensive line coach at Syracuse last year after spending nine seasons as head coach at Richmond, leading the Spiders to 48 victories over that span (48-53-1). He ranks third on the school's all-time wins list as his teams posted three of the top 12 victory totals in program history. He guided Richmond to Atlantic 10 championships and I-AA playoff berths in 1998 and 2000, earning him league coach of the year honors both times. In 2000, the Spiders won a school-record 10 games, including a victory over Youngstown State in the first round of the I-AA playoffs.
"Our program will benefit from adding such an experienced coach as Jim Reid," said Landis. "He has 15 years of head coaching experience at the I-AA level and has taken his teams to levels that we aspire to get to at Bucknell. Jim is a great coach of the fundamentals and techniques of the game, and he is respected for his ability to motivate young men and get the most out of the student-athletes. I am excited that he will be working with our defensive line, because we have some extremely talented players there, including an All-American in Sean Conover."
A 1973 graduate of the University of Maine, where he was a three-year football starter, Reid began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at UMass in 1973 under coach Dick MacPherson. Reid was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1978, a position he held until being named head coach in 1986. He then logged a 36-29-2 record in six seasons as head coach of the Minutemen and was the Yankee Conference Coach of the Year in 1988 and 1990. He led UMass to three conference titles. Reid moved on to Richmond as defensive coordinator in 1992, then served in the same role at Boston College in 1994 before moving back to Richmond as head coach.
Crawford comes to Bucknell from his alma mater, Davidson College, where he had served as an assistant coach since 2003. He coached the Davidson quarterbacks in 2003 and the Wildcats' defensive backs last season. A 2001 Davidson grad with a degree in biology, Crawford earned Associated Press First Team I-AA All-America status in 1999 when he led all of I-AA in interceptions. The following year, he was the I-AA Mid-Major Defensive Back of the Year and the I-AA Independent Defensive MVP. He was Davidson's Special Teams Player of the Year in 2000, as well as the school's male athlete of the year.
Landis recruited and coached Crawford for three seasons when he was head coach at Davidson from 1993-99.
A native of Newton, N.C., Crawford played semi-pro football for the Carolina Cowboys, plus professionally with the Indiana Firebirds of the Arena Football League, and he was in camp with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League last summer. He also worked as a stuntman and a featured extra in the Sony Pictures movie "Radio" starring Cuba Gooding Jr.
"Ryan Crawford is one of the best players that I coached during my time at Davidson," said Landis. "He is a real student of the game and has been coaching ever since graduation. His experience as an All-America player will definitely serve our student-athletes well here."
Burkett is another Landis protégé, this time stemming from his days at St. Mary's College in Moraga, Calif. Burkett played middle linebacker under Landis at SMC, where he was a Second Team Academic All-District selection and the team's "Most Inspirational Player" in 2002. Last year he played for the Bergamo Lions in the National Football League of Italy. He helped lead the Lions to the Italian championship and runner-up honors in the EuroBowl.
In 2003 and 2004 Burkett served as varsity special teams coordinator, linebackers and tight ends coach at San Luis Obispo Senior High School. Last fall he helped lead the team to a 10-2 record and a berth in the state semifinals. A year earlier the team was 8-3 and fell in the second round of the playoffs.
"Travis, like Ryan Crawford, is one of the best players I've coached," Landis commented. "He was a starting middle linebacker and was like another coach on the field. He is a young, enthusiastic guy that will fit right in on our staff. Both Ryan and Travis should come right in with fresh ideas, but also know what to expect having played for me."
Cassels has been a well-known figure in the Lewisburg area since the late 1990s. From 1997-2002 he was the head football coach at nearby Hughesville High School, where he was the Central Susquehanna Conference Coach of the Year in 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2002. He was also the Mid Penn Conference and the Pennsylvania District IV Coach of the Year in 2002, when he led the Spartans to a 9-3 record.
Currently a social studies teacher at Hughesville, Cassels has coached seventh, eighth and ninth-grade football at Lewisburg Area High School for the last two seasons. He was also head coach at Mount Olive High School in New Jersey from 1995-97, but prior to that stint Cassels spent 13 years coaching at the collegiate level with stops at Northeastern, Rutgers, Maine and Ohio University. In his most recent collegiate position at Ohio U., he coached the Bobcats' tight ends and receivers and served as passing game coordinator.
Cassels graduated from Kutztown University in 1982 with a degree in secondary education. He earned a master of science degree in educational strategies from Wilkes University in 2002.
A veteran of the Pennsylvania college and high school coaching scene, Hayes joins the staff in 2005 as a volunteer assistant who will work with the Bison offense. Hayes served as assistant coach at Juniata for the last 15 years, most recently as the Eagles' offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. A 1973 graduate of Millersville State University, Hayes entered the coaching profession at Bellwood Antis High School, first as an assistant, then as head coach in 1974. A year later he moved on to Lewistown Area High School, where he served as assistant coach until being named to the head post in 1981.
In 1983 he joined the collegiate coaching ranks for a two-year assistantship at Juniata before returning to the high school level at Kishacoquillas High School (1985-87) and Indian Valley High School (1987-88). In 1990 he went back to Juniata as offensive line coach and remained with the Eagles through the 2004 campaign.
"I am very excited to have Dick and Steve with us this year," said Landis. "Both have extensive backgrounds at all levels of football. Both of them know the area and the Bucknell program very well, and they understand the college student-athlete. It is very comforting going into a season with a full staff of experienced coaches."
Bucknell's new staff members will be with the team for preseason camp when it opens on August 9, as the Bison prepare to build on last year's 7-4 record. The 2005 season begins on Sept. 3 against Georgetown at 6 p.m. at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium.