Patriot League Preview - 2011 Bucknell Bison
After a tough first season under Head Coach Joe Susan, Bucknell will look to bounce back in 2011 with a slew of returning players. The Bison return 36 letterwinners and 15 starters, including nine on offense, from last year's squad.
Offense (9 starters returning/2 lost)
After starting multiple freshman and sophomores last season, the Bison will still be young but somewhat more experienced on offense in 2011. Brandon Wesley earned the starting job at quarterback in his freshman season and threw for 1699 yards and six touchdowns while also rushing for 197 yards. His classmate, Victor Walker, emerged as the Bison's top wideout with 19 receptions for 443 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Junior running back Tyler Smith (426 yards, 3 TD/35 rec., 261 yards) and sophomore fullback Travis Friend man the backfield, with junior Nick Gatto (14 rec., 112 yards) back at tight end. The young skill position players will get the opportunity to work behind a very veteran offensive line with four senior starters returning.
Defense (6 starters returning/5 lost)
The Bison defensive line looks like the strong point for the 2011 season, with first-team All-Patriot League pick Josh Eden (54 TT, 10.5 TFL, 4 sacks) and second-team selection Robert De La Rosa (39 TT, 9 TFL, 4 sacks) each returning up front. They will have to pick up for the departure of Tyler Anderson (50 TT, 2.5 sacks). A pair of starting linebackers are back in Sean Rafferty (51 TT, 6 TFL, 2.5 sacks) and Tim Bolte (57 TT), though leading tackler Travis Nissley (63 TT) has graduated. Derrick Palmer (33 TT) and Bryce Robertson (32 TT) each return in the defensive backfield, though Rob Gerlach (46 TT) departs after starting all 11 games last season.
Specialists (2 returning)
Special teams could be very helpful to Bucknell's quest to move up the Patriot League standings with Drew Orth back at placekicker, Ryan Gutowski at punter and Smith in the return game. Orth made 7-of-10 field goals last season, Gutowski punted to a 36.2 average and Smith averaged 28.6 yards and scored a touchdown as Bucknell's primary kickoff returner.
Bucknell has managable non-League games to open the season in September, as the Bison welcome Duquesne (Sept. 3) and Marist (Sept. 10) before making trips to Ivy League opponents Cornell (Sept. 17) and Princeton (Sept. 24). The Bison play their next two games at home against Patriot League opponents Georgetown (Oct. 1) and Lehigh (Oct. 8), and after a trip to Harvard the next week Bucknell concludes its home schedule early when it takes on Holy Cross on Oct. 22. The Bison wrap up the season with Patriot League road games at Lafayette (Oct. 29), Fordham (Nov. 12) and Colgate (Nov. 19).
For more on the 2011 Bucknell Bison, read the team's pages from the Patriot League Football Media Guide and watch interviews with Susan, Eden and De La Rosa from Patriot League Media Day below.