As Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil continued his free fall out of the Top 10 on draft night, many Bucs fans we’re intrigued by the idea of adding arguably the class’s most talented offensive tackle. But what some of those fans didn’t realize was that Tampa Bay believed it already had the guy to protect Jameis Winston’s blind side for the next decade.
Speaking at One Buc Place last Thursday, offensive line coach George Warhop told members of the media that the “sky is the limit” for second-year pro Donovan Smith. The former Nittany Lion would have presumably shifted to the right side had the Bucs taken Tunsil, but that won’t happen and the team is comfortable moving forward.
“He hasn’t scratched the surface as to his potential,” Warhop said of Smith. “It’s up to him whether he wants to reach it or not, but he has unbelievable potential.”
Smith, drafted No. 34 overall in 2015, has been working out with the team’s strength and conditioning coach, Dave Kennedy, and has returned to the facility this offseason in better shape. That should make him lighter on his feet as he works to refine his technique and become more efficient on the field in Year 2. On Tuesday he was asked about striving to reach his full potential.
“I definitely do want it – probably [worse] than anybody – to be the best and I have to do anything to be the best, whether it’s understanding the plays and on the field,” Smith said. “There’s always something that I’m looking at whether it’s punching, my feet, keeping my knee inside on my kick, stuff like that. It’s about the little details and stuff like that that I try to fix and look at.
In April, Smith noted that a year of experience would give him a better understanding of his role and, therefore, his assignment.
Moving inside, Warhop said both starting guards that had surgery this offseason – Ali Marpet and J.R. Sweezy – would be fine by training camp, and that Caleb Benenoch and Kevin Pamphile would give the team flexibility as both are expected to take reps at tackle and guard.
“I think (his versatility is) crazy valuable,” Warhop said of Pamphile, the Bucs fifth-round selection in 2014. “He’s one of those guys – when we drafted him – he was a combination player. He started off at tackle, then started playing a little bit at guard to playing guard some, then playing a little bit at center. The plan was always to develop him as far as he could be developed in terms of flexibility. And he’s embraced it. He’s starting to figure out that the more you can do, the more value you have – not only to us but to other teams in the future.
“That’s the same with Caleb (Benenoch). He’s a guy that has flexibility. He already knew how to snap once he got here.”
And speaking of snapping the ball, Warhop has all the confidence in incumbent, Joe Hawley, but said all four guards are learning how to play center, adding, “there are never enough guys who can pull the ball.” While Hawley appears to be the clear favorite for Week 1, Warhop said to expect five different players taking reps at center this preseason.
In all, Wahop seemed more than assured with the team’s talent and depth along the five-man front. Now it’s about improving as a unit, especially in pass protection.
While the Bucs offensive line, by most standards, exceeded expectations last year, it still gave up the fourth most QB hits (109) in the league. That has to change and Warhop isn’t downplaying it.
“I don’t care whose fault it is – we all have a hand in that,” Warhop said. “That’s’ one of our points of emphasis this year. In our first meeting I said, ‘Listen guys, everyone is telling you what a great job you did, but I thought you were just average.’
“At the end of the day, we could play much better in all parts of the game. But the main thing is, too many hits on the quarterback. We have to control it and cut it down.”
If Smith and Marpet can take the next step in their development in Year 2, while Sweezy can fill the void left by Logan Mankins, and Pamphile and Benenoch can provide solid depth – all things Warhop is confident will happen – than the Bucs offensive line could be poised for a great season.
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
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5 guys taking snaps at center? Wow that is very good depth. The O line did good job run blocking, but pass protection was not good at all at times last year as evidenced by 4th most hits on a QB. Hope Smith is the answer at LT. I also hope we can stay healthy on O line this year it’s so important for continuity and to gel.
We had a great run blocking team last year but the only good pass blocker was Dotson who was hurt part of the year. Sweezy wasn’t a capable pass blocker for Seattle either, so it would be great if he and the rest can master pass blocking this year. If Sweezy can’t do it I am all for Pamphile to take over LG because Pamphile can do both. Like Dotson he was also a basketball player before he was a college football player and he learned Tackle from Dotson. Pamphile proved he could be a starter for us at LG last year the few games he started there.
I don’t get this whole new “pulling” term being used for snapping the ball. I believe in physics terms the center pushes the ball to the QB and the QB “pulls” it away.
The media, in all of their infinite stupidity, starts repeating the term without questioning the reasoning and it becomes all the rage and part of the lexicon.
All while being completely wrong in terms of what is physically happening. No wonder America gets more stupid everyday.
As far as the offensive line is concerned I believe it is going to be better even without Logan Mankins returning but it still would have been nice to have him back for one more year.
As for the rest of the team, if anyone shows up overweight and out of shape it might be time to cut them.
If you can’t stay in shape while making 100 to 500K a year if not more, its time you find another career because you aren’t taking this one very seriously.
See Dequawn Bowers.
If this is such a big issue for you I would have to say you are incorrect as it def is NOT pushing the ball. A push would imply forward trajectory, would it not?
it’s really a matter of perspective. you are either pulling it up off the ground into the QB’s hands or you are pushing it through the air into the hands of the QB. if you were making a motion with your arms towards and through your body yanking a rope or opening a door, you would call it pulling. either way it’s semantics and at least for me lies firmly outside the family of topics that i wish to get worked up about
You have too much free time
Wow, this is what we are arguing about, pushing or pulling. Man I cant wait for football season so we can actually have something meaningful to discuss..
It’s def a pull and I like the fact that the rookie from UCLA has a chance to pull the ball he is big and fast.
warhop, amazingly, is now the longest tenured coach currently with the buccaneers. he’s going into year 3 with this unit and has gotten lots of help from the draft along with a couple late FA additions last year. Expectations are rightly high for him and his guys, they have not just credible starters but also the sort of depth that no other position group can claim right now.
i think our offense will be just fine as long as we can find a slot receiver…i want to hear more about the defense
Best coach with the Buccaneers? Jameis Winston!
Our o-line is young and has potential, we hit on both rookies last yr who showed promise for yrs to come and according to the TE Coach and Mark Cook etc we have the “invaluable” Stocker out there to seal off the edge block and power drive DE’s back, were very luck to have him
jongruden, if only we could have heard you make that remark about Stocker in your own voice, we all would have heard the dripping sarcasm.
Never has one man loathed one person for so long for so few reasons.
Stay thirsty my friend.
I will talk about Stocker till the day he never wears a Bucs Uniform again
“Who did we draft in the first round in 2015, Smith? No, it must have been Marpet. No, that’s not right he went in the second! No, it was Alexander in the second. No,he was drafted later. Wait a minute we drafted Winston first! …… ”
I think it will be so much fun to see who really become the “stars” three, four and five years from now!
Meanwhile, back to the upcoming season. I am thinking about all that might happen in the near future. The excitement builds!
Push the ball, pull the ball, snap the ball, spin the ball. Who cares? What’s that song about the good old days. Sing along folks! “When a ho was a hoe” “When crack was a joke”.
I actually like the term “spin.” It describes accurately what a good spiral pass is doing. Really a beautiful thing to see as well.
I’m surprised no one has mentioned how much having a rookie QB will effect the number of hits. With his second year in the system, Winston’s decision making will be a tick faster which will make the o line seem better too. All in all we will be better than last year so I’m excited to get this thing going! Go Bucs!
Well I hope Smith’s the answer, but in the words of:
GMC: “potential is what gets you cut”
Lovie: “you are what your stats say you are”
Let’s hope he starts turning that “potential” into results, and that those results are better than one of PFF’s worst LTs.
PFF is a joke EastEndBoy.
I stand corrected on my first post after speaking to a much more learned friend of mine who actually took a physics course in college.
The center is indeed pulling the ball back to the QB at the beginning of the snap. At one point during the snap, the pull does become a push.
But, at the beginning of the snap, the enter is actually pulling the ball back to the QB.
Mea culpa. That’s Latin and it means it takes a big man to admit he is wrong.
@drdneast: I think there are many who share your view of PFF…I am not sure I have heard the full arguments either way, I simple make two points:
1) I am fine with you deleting ym reference to PFF and inserting any other reasonable statistical analysis of Smith’s play last year…my (admittedly sometimes inaccurate) “eye-stats” showed a pretty mix grading for him with a lot to be concerned about.
2) while I’m sure PFF has many issues, it is at least an effort to try and look at each player’s play individually and make an assessment…which may be inaccurate, I accept…
EastEndBoy, from what I understand and have heard, the problem with PFF is they sell two services.
One to the NFL teams and the other to the regular public. The one sold to the public and is different from the one sold to the teams in how it is graded, put together and by who performs the task and the grading.
Wish I had taken a physics course in college. I wasted all of my time taking English courses on film and novels and chasing pretty girls around campus.
Pretty much the same things I do today except they won’t let me on college campuses to do it anymore.
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