Washington State University Cougars
Vanden High School
The Cougars' defensive captain has not only emerged as one of the elite strong safeties in the college ranks, but he is one of the major reasons for the Washington State football program earning a bowl berth for only the 11th time since the Cougars began competing on the gridiron in 1894. The last appearance by the university in the postseason came vs. the Texas Longhorns at the 2003 Holiday Bowl prior to meeting the Colorado State Rams at the 2013 New Mexico Bowl.
A physical open-field tackler with tremendous field vision and instincts, Bucannon has excelled a wreaking havoc vs. opponents during his WSU career. The fourth-leading tackler in school history with 384, that total is also the most by any defensive back that has ever performed at the university. That figure leads all active players in the Pac-12 Conference and is fifth-best among active participants at the NCAA Football Bowl Sub-division level.
What separates Bucannon from most players that perform at his position is his incredible "nose for the ball," coupled with a "search and destroy" approach when challenging ball carriers, tight ends and receivers that dare to come into his territory. One that thrives on initiating contact, the defensive back also ranks second on the school career-record chart with 268 solo tackles, the most registered by an NCAA FBS active player.
One of the better "inside the box" hitters in the game, he has made 222 plays vs. the ground game, as Bucannon recorded 22 of those hits on third-down plays and three more during fourth-down snaps vs. the ground attack. One of the major reasons the Cougars ranked 18th nationally in red zone defense is their safety recording 89 of his 384 tackles in that area, including making 30 stops on goal-line stands. Thanks to his range, he has successfully come out of his area to deliver 44 touchdown-saving tackles while preventing runners from reaching the end zone.
As impressive as Bucannon's dominance in run support has been, he is also highly effective in shutting down the passing game. He currently is tied for the national lead among active players with 14 interceptions, tied for third in WSU annals. With the man coverage skills one would expect from a cornerback, and not a safety, he has been a terror in press coverage. Among the 297 passes targeted into his area during his career, he has jammed and/or rerouted his opponents away from 118 of those tosses (39.73%), coupled with recording 14 thefts while deflecting 14 other throws.
Opposing quarterbacks know they need to account for Bucannon every time he steps on to the field. They have managed to complete just 77 of those 297 targeted passes (25.93%) vs. the strong safety, producing only one touchdown, as he limited his assignments to averages of 9.52 yards per completion and a miniscule 2.47 yards per attempt.
The senior has accounted for 79 third-down stops and 14 more on fourth-down plays while playing in pass coverage. He has also made some sensational cross-field stops that led to him registering 28 more touchdown-saving tackles vs. the aerial game. To add even more impressive "numbers" to his resume, Bucannon is also a standout special teams performer, posting 11 tackles as a member of the kickoff coverage unit, along with five more stops, a blocked kick and a fumble recovery for the punt coverage squad.
Bucannon led the Cougars in tackles with 114 during his senior season. That made the 2013 campaign the third season in four years at the university that he has led the team in that category. As a sophomore in 2011, he placed second on the squad with 80 hits. In 40 starting assignments spanning 46 contests, he has recorded at least 10 tackles 16 times. In addition to his sensational ability to make touchdown-saving tackles and record 14 interceptions, he has caused seven fumbles and recovered three others as a Cougar.
Prior to joining the Washington State University football program, Bucannon attended Vanden High School in Fairfield, California, where he lettered four times in golf before lettering twice in football field as a junior and senior. He briefly appeared in one game during his sophomore campaign, as the then 165-pound linebacker made three tackles.
As a junior, Bucannon added over twenty pounds of bulk to his frame, taking over strong safety duties for Vikings head coach LeVon Haynes, while also seeing action as a wide receiver. He was an instant success, earning All-CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III and City Defensive Player of the Year honors, in addition to garnering All-Region, All-City and All-Solano County League accolades.
Bucannon guided the team to a 9-2 record that included a 5-0 league mark in 2008. He registered 140 tackles (54 solos) that included a trio of sacks, a pair of fumble recoveries, three interceptions and five pass deflections. He reached double-digit tackles in nine of those 12 contests, including a season-best 22 in the Rodriguez High clash.
As a senior, Bucannon was a force to be reckoned with, on both sides of the ball. He received first-team All-State (medium schools) recognition from CalHiSports.com and was also named first-team All-Northern California by GoldenStatePreps.com. For the second consecutive year, he was selected the SCAC Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to being placed on the All-Solano County League and All-City teams.
Bucannon helped the Vikings reach the second round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs, as they finished the 2009 schedule with a 10-2 record. On defense, he made 107 tackles (44 solos) that included four sacks, two fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. He intercepted two passes, deflected eight other tosses and in brief action as a kickoff returner, he averaged 17.0 yards per runback. On offense, he pulled in 20 passes for 264 yards (13.2 ypc), scoring on a 42-yard grab vs. Armijo High, in his debut as a wide receiver.
Bucannon received a three-star prospect ranking from Scout.com, ranking him 102nd among the prep safeties in the country and the 78th-best overall prospect in the state of California.
Rather than waiting until his prep senior season had concluded, Bucannon visited the Washington State University campus on September 4th, 2009. Three days later, he committed to play for the Cougars. He was also recruited by West Point Academy (Army), Nevada and San Diego State, but opted to enroll at WSU instead.
Bucannon concentrated on special teams coverage duties earlier in his freshman season at WSU. He also saw action on defense during the Cougars' first five games on the 2010 schedule, even earning a starting assignment vs. Southern Methodist. His performance in limited action would see the coaching staff insert him into the lineup again, for the final seven games.
Bucannon responded by leading the team with 84 tackles (67 solos) and four stops behind the line of scrimmage. He caused two fumbles, recovered another and had five pass break-ups, along with a pair of interceptions. That effort earned him Freshman All-Pac 10 Conference first-team accolades and Freshman All-American honorable mention, as he held his opponents to a pass completion percentage of 29.69, allowing only 19-of-64 tosses targeted into his area to be caught. 14 of his tackles came inside the red zone, as he produced 14 third-down hits and three more on fourth-down snaps.
Bucannon received All-Pac 12 Conference honors as a sophomore, starting 11 games. He was limited late in the season by an ankle sprain that would sideline him for most of the Utah clash. That missed playing time caused him to miss out on leading the team in tackles again, placing second on the squad with 80 hits. He also intercepted three passes, deflected four other throws and blocked a punt.
The sophomore continued to deny most receivers any opportunity for enjoying a "good day" vs. the strong safety. He allowed only 17-of-64 passes targeted into his area (26.56%) to be caught, holding his opponent to averages of 10.06 yards per catch and 2.67 yards per pass attempt. He rerouted or jammed his coverage assignment on 24 passes that were incomplete, posting 16 tackles inside the red zone, including seven on goal-line stands, along with delivering 19 third-down stops and a total of 12 touchdown-saving tackles.
As a junior, Bucannon registered a team-high 106 tackles (65 solos), the most by a Cougar since linebacker James Darling posted 136 hits during the 1996 season. He missed the first half of the Nevada-Las Vegas clash while serving a league-imposed suspension for a late hit on a receiver the previous week vs. Eastern Washington, but he still paced the Cougars with four interceptions, finishing fourth in the league in tackles.
In pass coverage, Bucannon saw the opposition limited to completing only 22-of-80 passes targeted into his area (27.5%). He posted 65 of his tackles in run support, with 29 of them coming inside the red zone, along with nine registered on goal-line snaps. He led the Pac-12 defenders with 31 third-down stops, adding six more tackles on fourth-down plays, in addition to rerouting receivers away from 31 pass attempts.
Bucannon played at 192 pounds during his junior season, but he was determined to "reinvent" his body during the 2013 off-season. He arrived back on campus as a chiseled 217-pounder and his wrath has been felt by every opponent he has faced during his final season. The added bulk saw him record 96 tackles through 10 games, leading to 10 turnovers in the process (five interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries).
Named a semi-finalist for the coveted Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back, the defensive captain was dominant through the campaign. He held opposing quarterbacks to a pass completion rate percentage of 21.35%, the lowest for any defensive back in the NCAA FBS ranks (19-of-89 passes targeted into his area were caught). He rerouted his coverage assignment away from 40 of those tosses and made a total of 33 third-down stops (27 vs. the pass), along with posting 25 of his tackles inside the red zone.
With his eye-opening performance that included a nation-high 19 touchdown-saving tackles, Bucannon became just the fifth defensive back in school history to receive first-team All-American honors. The first to garner that award was Ken Greene in 1977, followed by Paul Sorensen in 1981, Lamont Thompson in 2001 and Marcus Trufant in 2002. Since they began competing in football in 1894, only three other Cougars have been named to the All-American first-team, besides the secondary quartet.
Bucannon started 43-of-49 games at Washington State, ranking fifth in the nation among active players (one of 15 with at least 300 stops) while leading all defenders presently in the Pac-12 Conference with 384 total tackles, which rank fourth in school history behind Lee Blakeney (524; 1980-81,83-84), Anthony McClanahan (440; 1990-93) and Brian Forde (436; 1984-87)…His 384 tackles are also the most ever by a Cougar defensive back, topping the previous mark of 343 by free safety John Rushing (1991-94), joining Billy Newman (325; 1998-2001) and Artie Holmes (305; 1985-88) as the school's only defensive backs to reach the 300-tackle level…His 268 solo tackles are the most among active players in the NCAA Football Bowl Division ranks, as just five players presently in college football can boast recording at least 200 solo hits.