Player Spotlight - Shane Bucenell
CHARLESTON, S.C. – Shane Bucenell knows firsthand the importance of fall camp. A year ago, as a redshirt freshman, the former walk-on entered the preseason as Charleston Southern's fourth-string quarterback. He ended it as the backup and ended up featuring prominently in CSU's run to a second straight Big South Conference championship, going 6-2 as the starter after Kyle Copeland was lost to a season-ending knee injury in week two.
"Definitely my work ethic was the biggest thing that allowed me to be successful," Bucenell reflected. "I spent a lot of time in the weight room, a lot of time watching extra film, getting routes down with my receivers and being the leader that my team needs me to be."
A year later, Bucenell is the clear-cut starter as the Bucs gear up for their first season under head coach Mark Tucker. That status, though, has not changed his outlook.
"I just kind of worked my way up last year so I'm really just taking on that same mentality to continue to work like I'm in last place – continue to grind," Bucenell said.
Bucenell's grasp of the offense helped him climb the depth chart last summer. It served him well once thrust into the starting role, as the Wesley Chapel, Fla., native delivered key performances in wins over ranked Coastal Carolina, Liberty and Kennesaw State clubs. This year, Bucenell is trying to pair mastery of the system with a greater leadership role.
"This offseason, I really worked on the mental aspect of my game and being a leader," Bucenell said. "I feel like that's some of what I struggled with this spring so I've been working on my body language and stuff like that. I know I need to take charge as the starting quarterback."
CSU has rolled up 35 wins over the last four years despite having the quarterback spot in a state of fairly consistent flux. Copeland, Bucenell and London Johnson all started games last year, with Robert Mitchell seeing valuable time in a reserve role. The Bucs also had three different starters in 2013, with then freshmen Danny Croghan III and Copeland taking the reins after Malcolm Dixon (CSU's current running backs coach) suffered a season-ending knee injury at Appalachian State.
Bucenell is confident Mitchell and Johnson will be ready should their number be called.
"They've two great guys that obviously have a lot of talent," Bucenell said. "I definitely would say London's matured a lot. He's more into being in the gym first and being the last one out with me, watching extra film and doing the things he needs to do to be a successful quarterback. Robert is definitely grasping the offense a lot more, and you can tell that even from just the first practice."
The graduation of Mike Holloway, Darius Hammond and Ben Robinson at running back means Bucenell will also look to veteran offensive linemen like Frank Cirone and Jackson Williamson to help him lead the offense. Bucenell offered a gesture to make sure the offensive line knows he values their contributions greatly.
"The other day, before we came out here for the first practice, I made them all brownies," Bucenell said. "Just to let them know even though you don't get all the press, you guys are the most important aspect of this team because if you don't do enough up front, then we're not going to be able to put points on the board. They know how much I mean to them and they mean to me."