Cougar Bucannon is all in for 2013 WSU season

PULLMAN – Deone Bucannon is all in for the 2013 season at Washington State. NFL prospects like Bucannon sometimes start looking down the road, sometimes start shifting their in-season preparation and goals more toward the NFL and away from their school and season. Not Bucannon. Not this guy.

"No matter what happens after this season, I just want people to know that I'm focused," said Bucannon, a senior free safety who is already one of WSU's all-time leading tacklers. "I'm all in for them (the Cougars) for this season, for this time right now. I want to be the best player I can be right now.

"A lot of people (NFL prospects like himself) wait until after their senior season to be training hard, to be at the top of what they can be. I want to be the best I can possibly be for this season for my team so I can give my team a chance to win every single game. I don't want to have any excuses. I don't want to look back and be like, ‘Oh, I could have worked harder and been a better teammate.' Every time I'm working out, every time I'm practicing, I just want to get better every day."

Statements like that make Bucannon the poster child for everything Mike Leach has preached since taking over as the Cougars' coach after the 2011 season.

Raised in a military family, Deone (pronounced DAY-own) is respectful and disciplined off the field, but he's vicious and nasty on the field and clearly loves to play the game.

"My dad said there's three rules that he had that you can't break," Bucannon said. "You don't cheat, you don't steal and you don't lie. That's three things I've really followed my whole life. He's always said that trust is the hardest thing to earn back. You have somebody's trust until you lose it."

WSU coaches certainly trust Bucannon, who could wind up in the top five in school history in tackles and interceptions.

BUCANNON LED THE Cougars in tackles as a true freshman -- setting a school freshman record with 84, finished second with 80 as a sophomore and led the team again last year with 106. That was good for fifth in the Pac-12 Conference, the most tackles by a Coug since 1996 (James Darling, 136) and Bucannon added a career-high four interceptions while earning second-team all-conference honors.

Bucannon's bulging biceps tell the story about his grueling offseason workouts. He's gained about 20 pounds of muscle since last season and now checks in at 6-foot-1 and 215 well-chiseled pounds.

"He's worked very, very hard," said Mike Breske, WSU's defensive coordinator and secondary coach. "He's very focused … he's put in a lot of sweat equity."

"He's really trying to be one of the best (college) safeties," senior cornerback Nolan Washington said. "And in my opinion, he is, because I've seen all the work he's put in."

Bucannon credits strength and conditioning coaches Jason Loscalzo, Casey Kramer and Marco Candido for motivating him, particularly when he was forced to sit out spring ball with a collar bone injury. Of course, no one forced Bucannon to lift weights on his own like he did so many times following team lifting sessions.

"Coach Loscalzo, he pushed us in a way a lot of people haven't seen in a long time around here," Bucannon said. "Whether it makes a difference on the field or not, everyone knows they've worked their butts off for one common goal, and that's to win."

BUCANNON SAID THE Cougars are "light years" better than last season's team, both physically and mentally.

"We know what the coaches want from us now," he said. "A year being with them – a year and a half – we understand them. They understand us. They understand what we can do and they know how to press our buttons and teach us how to be better football players."

Bucannon, who grew up in the San Diego area before attending high school in the Northern California city of Fairfield, said he's working hard to become a better vocal leader. He's never been a big talker – father Duane, a former Marine, told Deone and David, a redshirt freshman safety on the Cougars, "to act like you've been there before" – but he's certainly not afraid to express confidence in his team.

"Each and every person made it a goal that no matter what happens, when you leave the field, win or lose, you give it everything you had," Bucannon said. "You don't have any regrets when you step out on that field and it's time to play.

"If you do that, nobody can fault you. Nine times out of 10, that will result in a win."

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