Without any further ado, here's the first team I'm profiling (in alphabetic order): *your* Bucknell Bison.
Coaching Changes: Last year, the Bison welcomed a new defensive coordinator. This year, head coach Tim Landis will be welcoming a new offensive coordinator in Harold Nicholls. He comes from Rhode Island (where triple-option head coach Tim Stowers was run out of town) and lands at one of the few places in FCS where the triple-option is still in fashion. He replaces Ashley Ingram (who left to coach offensive linemen at Navy) and is the Bison's third offensive coordinator in the last four years (Tim Camp came before him, who is now head coach at Division II Eastern Oregon). Also hired were cornerbacks coach Bill McCord and outside linebackers coach Aaron Lewis.
The Hardest Guy To Replace: He'll be back after his two year Mormon mission, but losing sophomore DE Josh Eden after his first team all-Patriot League performance last year has got to hurt. Eden had 11 tackles for loss and 4 sacks in 2007 - which led the Bison.
Big Name in the Incoming Class: Listed as a DB, Frank DeNick excelled at Immaculata High school in New Jersey... as a quarterback. Leading the NJ state champions, he also recently played in the New Jersey North-South all-star game. Even though he's a DB now, might we see him running Bucknell's triple-option offense down the road?
Incoming Class Grade: B. Coach Landis finally got some big boys on his "O" and "D" lines -- something I've been harping about for several years. Not as many as I would have liked to have seen, but still a marked improvement. Strange that Landis only is carrying only 1 tight end on the roster and he didn't have a single one in the incoming class (does he have a plan to switch to the run and shoot that I don't know about?). Admittedly, it's hard to judge Bucknell's need areas since there are so many underclassmen on their roster. Still, this seems like a good overall class: some good names that could get playing time even in their freshman year.
Spring Game: Coach Landis didn't score this year's spring scrimmage, but the theme of the game would probably be big plays, with a 100 yard interception return from sophomore DB Jamal Briggs and a nice 25 yard run by senior RB A.J. Kizekai. Only junior QB Marcelo Trigg played in the spring game, meaning that senior QB Andrew Lair (who was studying abroad during the spring) would have to wait for preseason practice to answer the question: who will be the starting QB?
Preseason So Far: An interesting posting on Bucknell's web site details a full-squad scrimmage which coach Landis felt was necessary to determine where his extremely young team was exactly. Calling the practice "sloppy" with lots of penalties, seven QBs got snaps during the practice, although it still looks like Lair and Trigg are still vying for the #1 spot. Worthy of note is that junior LB Sam Nana-Sinkam appears to be back an healthy - his loss in last year's preseason was a huge reason why Bucknell struggled last year in my opinion.
2008 Expectations: This team - with surprisingly few seniors - looks like they will be feeling their way in their first few games of the year, especially offensively. Could these young Bison calves get things together and contend for the Patriot League title behind a strong Bucknell defense? Don't count out the supernatural ability of Bison fans to smell a winner early.