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March 29, 2012
Senior wide receiver Dan Buckner insists that he is still the same person.
But Arizona's 6-4 target is finding it a little harder to tell jokes while he's breathing so hard and can barely utter a few words.
"I'm too busy trying to catch my breath and working to tell any jokes or be too personable right now," Buckner said.
Ah, there's the Dan Buckner of old. And he said that he would "forever keep things loose."
But the Allen, Texas, native knows that there is a time and a place for his personality to come through, and he is just trying to fit in with head coach Rich Rodriguez's no-nonsense approach when it comes time to perform.
"Coach [Rodriguez], he likes players that work," Buckner said. "That's all he wants to do is he wants to work. And if you're working, you're not going to goof around and disrupt anything. But, I mean, it's a game of enthusiasm. He wants enthusiasm to keep the team up, so he likes personalities - but he likes to work more than anything.
"What you put on the field, that's your r?m?
And while Rodriguez appreciates a strong work ethic, he said that outgoing personalities don't necessarily bother him "as long as they do their work and are coachable."
"We have some other guys like that," Rodriguez added. "I'll let them be who they are, but at the same time I don't want guys to be big talkers if they're not big doers.
"But Dan's hasn't been talking a whole lot on the field. I think everybody's just been trying to catch their breath. I wish they would be able to talk more often."
The first-year Wildcats head coach said that while Buckner is "a rookie" in his spread-option system, "he's got to have a big year for us."
"Dan, he's been working hard," Rodriguez said. "He's a senior and we're expecting an awful lot of him. So we're going to push Dan as hard or harder than any of the receivers because we expect so much out of him."
Last season, Buckner, who made his debut in Tucson after transferring from Texas, ranked fourth on the team with 42 receptions for 606 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The 214-pound wideout started the season as the No. 2 receiver opposite of record-setting teammate Juron Criner, but he eventually slid down the depth chart and did not produce gaudy numbers despite a pass-heavy system.
Now, with a more run-oriented attack, Buckner said he isn't too sure how he quite fits.
But he's not worried about his statistics, either.
"I'm just fitting in the system, just trying to be a senior leader," Buckner said. "Run the plays and just give a positive attitude to the whole team.
"It's a team game, ultimate team game. I just want to be there to support the team."
Thus far, like most players, Buckner said that some of the bigger adjustments to the new scheme have been the terminology and pace of the no-huddle offense. And it's not so much the physical toll, Buckner said, as it is the mental aspect of being tired.
But he couldn't hide his feelings about how his legs have been in seemingly non-stop motion.
"Running all day the whole time," Buckner said, smiling. "That's pretty much the hardest part. Just keeping your conditioning.
"We're just trying to push ourselves through every drill. Every day it gets a little easier."
With a more subdued Buckner comes a new jersey number.
Well, kind of.
After wearing No. 15 last season, Buckner said that he switched back to No. 4, which he wore while playing for the Longhorns.
The change was in honor of his grandfather, who suffered a heart attack and was on dialysis. His kidney has since started to function again, Buckner said, and after a few talks he decided to return to his old number.
"I told him I was going to wear it again this year," said Buckner, whose grandmother also died last year. "I wanted my old number back and he wanted me to wear it so I'm wearing it."
Buckner said that his grandfather wore No. 44 as a high school basketball player in Mississippi, but he did not want to wear the exact number playing football.
"He was pretty good, back in the day," Buckner said, beaming.
But what else would you expect from him?
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor
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