#42 Bucknell FCS Football 2015 Preview

George Hammond

Bucknell Bison

Overall Rank: #42
#2 Patriot

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As Bucknell begins preparations for the 2015 season, there’s an upbeat attitude surrounding the program and why not? Bucknell has 15 players who started at least four games a year ago on its roster. The Bison are coming off an eight-win season (their highest total since 1997) and they won that many games for only the fifth time in school history. Plus, Bucknell will aim for its first stretch of three consecutive above .500 seasons since posting seven in a row from 1995 to 2001. The program’s architect, Joe Susan, was even given a contract extension through 2019. Last year was memorable as the Bison played three consecutive overtime contests (tying a FCS record) and won four games by seven points or less. And with defending league champion Fordham losing several players to graduation, Bucknell might be poised to battle for a league crown and possibly a playoff berth in 2015.

2014 Record: 8-3, 4-2
2014 Postseason: None
Coach: Joe Susan (24-31 at Bucknell, 34-31 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike O’Connor
Defensive Coordinator: Matt Borich

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: C.J. Williams, RB, 901 yards
Passing: R.J. Nitti, QB, 1,553 yards
Receiving: Will Carter, WR, 959 yards
Tackles: Louis Taglianetti, S, 62
Sacks: Clayton Ewell, S, 4.5
Interceptions: Clayton Ewell, S, 4

Other Key Returnees: OL Julie’n Davenport, RB Joey DeFloria, DL Abdfullah Anderson, RB Matt DelMauro, WR Bobby Kaslander, S Connor Golden, OL Ramy Kased

Key Losses: LB Evan Byers, LB Lee Marvel, QB Trey Lauletta, OL Lonnie Rawles, K Derek Mauer, DL Demetrius Baldwin-Youngblood, WR Jake Hartman

The presence of quarterback R.J. Nitti, running back C.J. Williams and wide receiver Will Carter is a good place to start. Last year Nitti played in seven games before getting injured, but he still threw for 1,553 yards and 13 touchdowns. He averaged 221 yards passing a game and coupled with since departed Trey Lauletta, the pair gave Bucknell two 1,000-yard passers for the first time in school history. With first-team all Patriot League wide receiver Carter in the fold, the Bison could still have a strong passing attack. Carter had 53 receptions last year to go along with his 959 yards. Williams, meanwhile, is on pace to be the school’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004. He was on track to do that last season, but he missed the last few games because of injury. Although there are questions on defense, the secondary shouldn’t be one of them with the return of second-team all-league safety Clayton Ewell and two-year starter Louis Taglianetti. The pair will help lead a defense that was tops in the league in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and sacks in 2014. In addition, second-team all-conference pick Abdullah Anderson returns on the defensive front.

But part of that outstanding defense is gone – a big part. Bucknell will have a tough time filling the shoes of linebackers Evan Byers and Lee Marvel. Byers was the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and finished his career with 382 tackles – best in school history. Marvel also was a first-team all-conference selection as was defensive lineman Demetrius Baldwin-Youngblood. Those three accounted for a lot of tackles. Although Julie’N Davenport (6-7, 315) returns to anchor the offensive line, Bucknell must replace three interior linemen as well as find a replacement for kicker Derek Maurer. Maurer handled all the Bison kicking duties last year.

The Bottom Line:
Don’t expect a drop-off for the Bison. In fact, the folks in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, believe they have the ingredients to perhaps wrestle away the Patriot League title from Fordham. But it won’t be easy. The word heard most concerning the Patriot League this season is “parity.” Although Fordham was hurt by several graduations, Colgate, Lehigh and Lafayette figure to be better so every conference game could be a dogfight. And Bucknell’s nonconference schedule isn’t easy. The Bison visit Army West Point on October 17th for the school’s first game against an FBS opponent since 2001. Last year, Bucknell won a lot of close games. It will need to do the same in 2015 if it wants a chance at a league title and a possible FCS playoff berth.

Projected Postseason: None

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 137.5 (90th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 234.5 (39, 2)
Total Offense: 371.9 (70, 3)
Scoring Offense: 26.6 (61, 2)  
Rushing Defense: 107.8 (11, 1)
Pass Defense: 194.5 (36, 4)
Total Defense: 302.4 (10, 1)
Scoring Defense: 21.7 (27, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.09 (53, 4)
Sacks: 3.45 (5, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 2.64 (94, 5)

Madness 2015 Recruit Rankings:
#52 Cinjun Erskine


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