LEWISBURG — The countdown is mere weeks away from the start of Bucknell's 2019 football season, and the Bison got things into gear Sunday afternoon at sun-splashed Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium with an intra-squad scrimmage.
"We're looking to get between 50 to 60 live snaps of work," first-year coach Dave Cecchini said. "We've had the first two days of camp without much tackling, and only about a dozen or so live snaps."
The scrimmage also gave a chance for extended work for quarterbacks Logan Bitikofer, Tarrin Earle and John Chiarolanzio, as well as freshman newcomer Keyshawn Copeland.
"There isn't a number one guy right now," Cecchini said of Bucknell's quarterback situation. "All three of our upper-class quarterbacks will get snaps. The goal is to reward first downs and engineer drives."
Bitikofer and Chiarolanzio each threw a touchdown pass in the scrimmage, with Chiarolanzio's coming at the conclusion of the final drill, which simulated overtime. Between working the offense out of the shadow of its own end zone and overtime drills, Chiarolanzio completed four passes for 55 yards. In live drills, Bitikofer threw for 57 yards and a touchdown, while Earle threw for 43 yards. Copeland saw one series, throwing six passes and completing three.
Sophomore slot receiver Brandon Sanders, who led Bucknell with 44 receptions and 516 yards as a freshman, was excited for whoever took the snaps from center.
"I really trust each quarterback on the field," said Sanders. "Each has the ability to lead and they have great ability to shine in their own way."
Running backs Marquis Carter and Alex Barnard saw the bulk of the action at running back during the scrimmage. Sanders, Marcus Ademilola and Dominic Lyles each made big catches on offense. Sanders' grab came on a 37-yard touchdown reception.
"I'm very excited and want to be the best leader I can be," Sanders said. "Our offense has a lot of juice this year and a lot of playmakers."
Defensively, Bucknell forced a turnover on downs and consecutive three-and-outs in the first 10 live snaps of the scrimmage. Jonathan Searcy nearly came up with an interception on the third series of live snaps, and the defense also recorded a couple of sacks.
Cecchini had high praise for the Bison defense, which is switching to the 4-3 instead of the 4-2-5 look it employed a season ago.
"I've been most impressed with the high level of intensity they've brought," Cecchini said. "That isn't easy in the doldrums of camp and in August when its 80 degrees and humid, because you can get into ruts. They haven't done that."
Junior linebacker Simeon Page, a preseason all-Patriot League selection, is especially ready to get going. The struggles the Bison defense endured last season didn't sit well with him, especially as he missed a portion of the season with an injury.
"It wasn't easy knowing that I couldn't help the team when I was hurt," Page said. "But helped me learn more about the game and the mental part of the game. This linebacking corps is hard working and communicating very well."
Bucknell opens its season August 31 at Temple.