I’ve been blessed to pursue my love of football in a career covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the past 20 years. For the past four years I’ve helped coach my sons’ Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators as the defensive line coach and a co-defensive coordinator. It’s my way of taking all of the football knowledge I’ve learned over the years and giving back to the community and to kids, while spending family time at nightly practices three days a week and during games on Saturday while my daughters cheer for SPP.
I am using my position as publisher of this website to reach out to as many people as possible to request prayers for a dear friend of my family and our Predators football family. If you aren’t religious or think you’ll be offended by my request for prayer, please do us both a favor right now and stop reading this post.
I do believe in the power of prayer and Xavier Johnson, a 16-year old high school linebacker at Sunlake High School in Pasco County, suffered a very serious head injury in a tubing accident on a lake on Saturday afternoon and needs as many people praying for him as possible. Please forgive me for personally using this platform and the hundreds of thousands of Bucs fans PewterReport.com reaches to help Xavier as he is currently in ICU in a medically induced coma to help reduce the swelling around his brain.
X, as he is known to his family and friends, is the eldest son of Ross Johnson, a great friend of mine, our Predators offensive line coach and the pastor at Gathering Pointe Church, and the older brother of Zephy, our three-technique defensive tackle the last four years.
But X is more than that. I call him an Xtraordinary kid who is always at the SPP field cheering on his little brother and helping out our coaching staff. A lot of 16-year old boys that can drive would rather be hanging with their friends or chasing girls around town on Saturdays, but X is always at our games cheering on his younger brother and helping me, his dad, and our defensive coaches. He loves faith, family and football in that order. Friends are a very close fourth on his list.
X is a fantastic role model for the 10-, 11- and 12-year olds on our Pop Warner team, and the friendliest, goofiest, most hard-working kid you’ll ever meet. I want my boys to grow up to be like Xavier. I love and admire this kid so much.
Aside from South Pasco Predators football and Sunlake High School football, X is passionate about Nebraska football – as is his dad and younger brothers. One of the perks of my job are the relationships I form with some of the Buccaneers players, and each year I bring one of them out to football practice to meet the kids. Two years ago, I brought out former Nebraska star Lavonte David, which thrilled the Johnson family, especially X.
One of our Predators traditions that Ross started with our team is saying the Husker Prayer before our game. It’s the chant that the Cornhuskers say before coming out of the tunnel before each Nebraska game, and X usually leads our young boys in the Husker Prayer before each Predators game.
Dear Lord, the battles we go through in life, We ask for a chance that’s fair. A chance to equal our stride, A chance to do or dare. If we should win, let it be by the code, Faith and honor held high. If we should lose, we’ll stand by the road, And cheer as the winners go by.
Day by day – we get better and better! The team that can’t be beat! WON’T BE BEAT!
So what a thrill it was for him to lead that prayer with David alongside his dad, younger brother, and our Predators team. In the photo and video, Xavier’s father is wearing the red Herbie hat just behind him, and Zephy is just to X’s left, right in front of his dad.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed three more draft picks on Tuesday afternoon, inking linebacker Kwon Alexander, wide receiver Kenny Bell and fullback Joey Iosefa to four-year deals. The Bucs signed top pick Jameis Winston, who will be Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback, on May 1, and signed return specialist Kaelin Clay, the team’s sixth-round pick, earlier on Tuesday.
Alexander, who went to LSU, was drafted in the fourth round, while Bell, who hails from Nebraska was Tampa Bay’s fifth-round selection. Iosefa, who played at Hawaii, was the Bucs’ seventh-round pick this year.
An influx of defensive tackles this offseason has prompted the Buccaneers to move Matthew Masifilo from defensive tackle to guard.
Tampa Bay currently has seven defensive tackles on its roster, including Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald, Akeem Spence, George Uko, and newcomers Henry Melton, Quayshawne Buckley and Caushaud Lyons. Melton is an NFL veteran having spent time in Chicago and most recently Dallas, while Buckley and Lyons are two undrafted free agents the Bucs are high on.
With only four guards on the roster, including Logan Mankins, Patrick Omameh, Kadeem Edwards and Ali Marpet, the team’s second-round pick this year, Bucs general manager Jason Licht and the organization suggested the move for Masifilo, who will compete with those four in addition to Garrett Gilkey and Josh Allen, two players who are being cross-trained at both guard and center.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how Masifilo does because we moved him to guard,” Licht said. “I think he’s got a background doing it. He plays like a wrestler. It will be interesting.”
The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Masifilo has been a member of Tampa Bay’s practice squad for the past two years. He was originally signed from San Francisco’s practice squad on November 17, 2012. Masifilo did play offensive line in high school.
“We had Stephen Neal in New England,” Licht said. “He was a wrestler. He never played college football, but he turned himself into a guard at this level. It can be done.”
In Friday’s SR’s Fab 5 column, PewterReport.com reported that Bucs general manager Jason Licht had begun scouting new Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston, the team’s first-round pick on Thursday, during his redshirt freshman season at Florida State in 2013 when he was with Arizona. After Winston’s introductory press conference, Licht elaborated on his extensive scouting of the quarterback that led the Seminoles to a 26-1 record and a national championship.
“We knew he was going to be a special player,” Licht said. “We went and watched him play when I was in Arizona, and watched him on tape, too. And we talked a lot about him when I was there. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be the general manager of a team that would have the chance to draft him.”
Former Florida State quarterback, and likely Bucs draft pick, Jameis Winston, is known for his loud, boisterous personality. Some have described it as confident, while detractors call it cocky.
Regardless of the more accurate description, Tampa Bay star linebacker Lavonte David thinks if Winston is the pick, his personality will fit inside the locker room, or else the veterans will make it fit.
“We have guys in this locker room with great character and I think if we draft him and (he) comes in the locker room, I am sure guys that will pull him to the side and make him understand that there’s a role here he has to play, and sometimes he may have to tone that down,” David said. “Some guys may just say, ‘Be yourself. That’s who you are so be yourself.’ But I don’t think it will be a distraction or anything like that. I’m sure if he comes in he’ll adapt to what we have going on in the locker room.”
David, during his few minutes on the podium also touched on the team being eager to get last season’s 2-14 record behind them .
“Very eager – you can tell by the guy’s attitude in the locker room,” David said. “Nobody’s mentioned anything about last year yet. That was one of the worst years I’ve been through since I started playing football and something I want to get out of my head as soon as possible. That’s why I’m here every day, just doing what I got to do to not go through nothing like that again and I’m sure all the other guys feel that way.”
The Buccaneers have reportedly interviewed at least 75 people in their pre-draft evaluation of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, a player that most, including PewterReport.com, believe Tampa Bay will select with the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. From those connected to Florida State’s football team to some in the district attorney’s office in Tallahassee, Winston has been thoroughly investigated by Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht and his staff this offseason.
The investigation is important due to some red flags and character concerns stemming Winston had from several off-field incidents at Florida State over the past three years. Yet throughout the investigation, the Bucs have said the organization – from the Glazers to head coach Lovie Smith to Licht himself – is “comfortable” with picking Winston first overall.
“We’ve talked to a lot of people,” Licht said. “And ‘a lot’ is probably not a big enough word. But we’re not going to publicly talk about whom we’ve talked to, that’s what we’ve decided internally. We’re not going to talk about the process. All I can tell you is that the Glazer family, the head coach, the GM and our staffs, couldn’t feel more confident about the process that we’ve gone through so far.”
Licht said that it’s not necessarily a bad thing having to spend so much time investigating a player like Winston, and that it is not a red flag itself.
“Yes, I’ve been around some picks where we’ve done almost as much work,” Licht said. “Unsettling? I don’t want to say unsettling because sometimes you find more and more good as you go. It’s not unsettling that we’re doing this much, it’s actually comforting that we’re putting as much work into it as we are.”
Licht said that a similar amount of research time was put into former LSU free safety Tyrann Mathieu, who was drafted by Arizona in the third round in 2013, which was the last year Licht was with the Cardinals organization. Mathieu, who was a dynamic defensive back in college, had a history of drug usage at LSU.
“Very similar,” Licht said. It’s talking to a lot of people, and trying to talk to as many unbiased people and associates around him as well as people close to him. It’s very similar. We find a guy there (Mathieu) that Steve Keim, Bruce Arians and Michael Bidwell were very comfortable with him as a person and how much football meant to him.”
Mathieu went on to have 68 tackles, nine pass breakups, two interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack in 13 games before tearing his ACL and being placed on injured reserve. The Bucs can only hope that Winston, should they draft him, has just as good of a rookie season for them.
Earlier this offseason Bucs general manager Jason Licht revealed that the team had been receiving calls for quarterback Mike Glennon, who has started 19 games for Tampa Bay since being selected in the third round of the 2013 draft. When asked about Glennon, who some perceive as potential trade bait by the Bucs this year, especially if the team drafts a quarterback with the first overall pick, Licht reiterated how much the Bucs like him.
“We really like Mike Glennon,” Licht said. “He’s a very valuable piece of this organization and this team.”
Licht’s comment was rather ambivalent in the fact that Glennon could have value to the organization as a solid backup behind a rookie starter like Jameis Winston, whom many, including PewterReport.com, or as a valuable trade commodity. It is believed that the Bucs would ideally want a third-round pick for Glennon and wouldn’t settle for anything less than a fourth-rounder if the club decides to trade him.
Yet trading Glennon is not a foregone conclusion as Licht and the organization put a premium on having a backup quarterback that is capable of winning games in the NFL in case of an injury to the team’s starter. While Glennon only has a 5-14 record in his 19 NFL starts, he has thrown for 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his two years in the league.
If Glennon isn’t dealt by Day 2 of the 2015 NFL Draft there’s a strong chance that he’ll be Tampa Bay’s backup quarterback once again.
On the heels of the civil lawsuit filed on Thursday by Erica Kinsman, the former Florida State student who accused former Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston of sexual assault in December 2012, Winston’s legal advisor, David Cornwell, fired back on Friday with a statement:
“This stunt was expected. Ms. Kinsman’s false accusations have already been exposed and rejected six times. This time will be no different. Mr. Winston welcomes the opportunity to clear his name with the truth.
“Mr. Winston is looking forward to the upcoming draft. He will not permit this ploy to distract him as he begins the journey of fulfilling his lifelong dream of being a championship quarterback in the National Football League.”
Winston has claimed his innocence and that the sex with Kinsman was consensual. He was not charged with any crime after being investigated by the Florida State Attorney’s Office and by Florida State University.
Kinsman, who was featured in the documentary “The Hunting Ground,” filed her civil suit two weeks prior to the NFL Draft where Winston is expected to be the first overall selection by Tampa Bay. Bucs sources told PewterReport.com on Thursday that this civil suit will have no effect on the team’s draft plans whatsoever.
BUCS’ PRE-DRAFT VISITS & WORKOUTS: CBs
The Buccaneers have added some depth and competition to the cornerback position this offseason and will likely continue that trend in the draft. With Mike Jenkins re-signed to bolster the cornerback position, which is led by Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks, Tampa Bay could turn to improving the talent at the nickel cornerback spot in the draft.
The Bucs only had one interception last year from the nickel cornerback spot, which was handled by Leonard Johnson and Isaiah Frey. Tampa Bay signed veteran free agent Sterling Moore to compete for the starting job, but all three nickel corners are only signed for the 2015 season.
The Bucs have been scouting nickel cornerbacks during the offseason, including Texas’ Quandray Diggs and Oregon State’s Steven Nelson at the Senior Bowl and Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Here is a list of nickel cornerbacks the team has scouted in either visits to One Buc Place or personal workouts at the players’ respective schools.
TCU CB Kevin White
The Bucs met with White at the Senior Bowl and then visited with him at One Buc Place. He’s a willing tackler in run support and had six career interceptions while matching up against some of the Big 12’s top receivers like West Virginia Kevin White and Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett. The shifty White is considered to be a third-round pick.
Florida State CB Ronald Darby
The Bucs have met with Darby, a junior entry, who produced two interceptions and two forced fumbles in his three years at Florida State, but did not record a pick last year. Darby isn’t as fast or as athletic as fellow Seminoles cornerback P.J. Williams, but he’s tough in run support and good against slot receivers. He’s regarded as a fourth-round draft pick.
Kansas CB JaCorey Shepherd
The Bucs worked out Shepherd in late March at KU on the same day the team worked out linebacker Ben Heeney. Shepherd is more quick than fast, which is why he’s better suited inside in the pros. He’s had 28 pass breakups and five interceptions in the past two years, and is viewed as a fourth- or fifth-round selection.
Rice CB Bryce Callahan
Callahan is always around the ball, evidenced by his 33 pass breakups and 13 interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. The Bucs were scouting him hard at the East-West Shrine practices and have met with the Day 3 prospect, who will likely be drafted in the fifth or sixth rounds.
Memphis CB Bobby McCain
McCain has 12 career interceptions, including three he returned for touchdowns, three fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. He had a great week at the East-West Shrine Game and met with the Bucs, in addition to Tampa Bay visiting with him at One Buccaneer Place. McCain, who also has experience as a kick returner, is viewed as a sixth- or seventh-round pick.
Ball State CB Eric Patterson
The Bucs worked out Patterson, who hails from Tampa, with some other local prospects on Friday. He’s overcoming a broken arm that caused him to miss the last three games of the season. Patterson is a hard-hitting corner in run support, but also had six career interceptions at Ball State. He’s likely a seventh-round draft candidate or an undrafted free agent.
BUCS’ PRE-DRAFT VISITS-WORKOUTS: FSs
The Buccaneers could surprise a lot of folks and draft a free safety early – perhaps as early as the third round. That premise has been written about in a recent edition of SR’s Fab 5 and also in PewterReport.com’s 2015 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft.
Tampa Bay has been scouting mid-round safeties hard this offseason despite the re-signing of Major Wright and the addition of free safety Chris Conte. Wright signed a two-year deal and Conte inked a one-year pact with the team, but neither is considered to be a long-term solution at free safety opposite strong safety Bradley McDougald.
With only two interceptions coming from the safety positions last year – and none through the first 15 games of the season – Tampa Bay needs more playmakers roaming the center of the field. The Bucs like a lot of safeties, including Samford’s Jaquiski Tartt and Utah safety/cornerback Eric Rowe, and here is a list of the ones the has scouted in either visits to One Buc Place or personal workouts at the players’ respective schools.
Arizona State FS Damarious Randall
Arizona State reporter Brad Denny reported that Randall would work out with the Bucs and that took place on Sunday at One Buccaneer Place. Randall has actually met with Tampa Bay twice and is the team’s third-round pick in the latest PewterReport.com’s 2015 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft, but he could go in the second round. Including his two years at a junior college, Randall intercepted 19 passes over the last four years.
Northwestern FS Ibraheim Campbell
Aaron Wilson reported that Campbell has recently worked out for Tampa Bay and his stock is on the rise after the Senior Bowl where he performed well. Campbell has great instincts, ball skills and hitting ability. He notched 10 interceptions and six forced fumbles as a four-year starter for the Wildcats. Campbell’s stock is on the rise and he could have moved himself into the third round with a nice offseason.
Fresno State FS Derron Smith
Bucs safeties coach Mikal Smith attended Derron Smith’s workout at Fresno State. It’s possible that Smith has had a workout with Smith at that time. The Bulldogs safety was a four-year starter and finished his FSU career with 15 interceptions, including two pick-sixes, including seven as a junior in 2013. Smith is considered a third- or fourth-round prospect.
Louisville FS Gerod Holliman
Matt Miller first reported that Holliman was scheduled to meet with the Bucs back in March, and that visit took place on Sunday at One Buccaneer Place. Tampa Bay wants more takeaways from the free safety position and Holliman tied an NCAA record with 14 interceptions as a redshirt sophomore in 2014. Holliman needs to work on his tackling, and because he does, he’s likely a fourth-round selection.
Penn State FS Adrian Amos
In his diary for the Baltimore Sun, Amos reported that he recently had a private workout with Bucs safeties coach Mikal Smith. Amos, a former cornerback, is a big, hulking safety with solid hands and a nose for the ball. With his frame, Amos has the size and skill set to play either free safety or strong safety. He’s likely a fourth- or fifth-round pick.
This PR Bucs Blog entry will be updated as more free safeties visits and/or workouts are reported. Photo by: Getty Images