Dan Buckner is one wisecracking wideout, always quick with a witty remark or some good-natured smack talk.
This spring, however, the Arizona Wildcats' resident funnyman is playing it straight.
"I'm too busy trying to catch my breath and work hard to tell any jokes or be too personable right now," Buckner said.
Then he smirked.
Perhaps no player is more integral to the UA's 2012 chances than Buckner, a 6-foot-4-inch, 214-pound outside receiver. He caught 42 passes for 606 yards and two touchdowns as a junior in 2011, his first action since transferring from Texas.
With Juron Criner gone, Buckner figures to be the top outside threat in Arizona's new spread-option offense. Off the field, Buckner is reinventing his image. He's even wearing a new jersey number: 4.
"He's a senior, and we're expecting an awful lot of him," first-year coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We're going to push Dan as hard, or harder, than any of the receivers because we expect so much out of him."
The Star talked to Buckner, 21, about his expectations, the new coach and his status as a social-media maven:
There's a different coach, a different system and a different feel this spring. What have the last two weeks of practice been like for you?
A: "As far as practice, I don't think there's anything you can do to prepare for it. You just have to get out here and do it. It's tough. We're moving at a fast pace, but it'll pay off."
Coach Rodriguez said he likes personalities, but "I don't want guys to be big talkers if they're not big doers." What do you make of that?
A: "Coach Rod likes players that work … if you're working, you're not going to goof around and disrupt anything. It's a game of enthusiasm. He wants enthusiasm to keep the team up. He likes personalities, but he likes work more than anything."
Are you still going to keep things loose?
A: "Always, forever. I'll forever keep things loose."
From a strictly X's and O's standpoint, how is the new offense different?
A: "The terminology's totally different. It's complex. For me personally, I love football. I love the game. it comes to me pretty easily. It's just the conditioning and moving at a faster pace."
Between Texas and Arizona, you're on your third head coach - fourth if you count Tim Kish …
A: "Yeah, fourth. Third and a half. … I really don't even think about it. I just live day to day. I'm here now. I'm blessed to be here. Like I said when I first got here, the weather's still nice. I still love it out here. We're working harder trying to change the culture. Those coaches are gone - they're great coaches, and they're going to have great success wherever they go. I'm still here, so I have to work for whoever I'm playing for."
Do you really have 2,000 Twitter followers?
A: "I think I have 1,836 or something like that." (Note: It's 1,879).
What's that like, knowing you have such a large audience?
A: "I'm not tweeting for my 1,800 followers. It's just my form of expression. Sometimes I get in trouble for things I say. It's a curse and a blessing. … I think I have 5,000 Facebook friends. ... There are good leaders and bad leaders. I just want to be viewed as a positive one."