The Buccaneers were well represented at the West practice on Tuesday afternoon at St. Petersburg High School with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, special teams coordinator Kevin O’Dea, linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson, offensive line coach George Warhop, nickel backs coach Larry Marmie and offensive quality control coach Ben Steele in attendance among others, along with a horde of Tampa Bay front office personnel and college scouts. Conditions were perfect with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s, although the turf on the field was loose and slippery after a downpour of rain on Monday, causing a lot of draft prospects to lose their footing.
The general feeling among scouts and NFL personnel that PewterReport.com spoke with on Tuesday was that the West squad had more talent than the East, and more prospects that interested the Bucs. The group defensive backs had several talented players, but Memphis cornerback Bobby McCain and USC cornerback Josh Shaw stood out. McCain is a fluid player with great ball awareness and good hands.
Though not the biggest cornerback, the Tigers star has the ability to play outside at the cornerback spot or inside in the nickel, where he might be a good fit for Tampa Bay. Shaw is a big, muscular defender and a very good athlete, but his size and lack of fluidity in his hips might make him an ideal free safety with coverage skills at the next level. That type of player would be ideal for the Bucs.
Shaw demonstrated his quick feet during agility drills, as well as solid coverage during 11-11 play. He also ran hard on kick coverage drills, which is something scouts pay even closer attention to when evaluating mid- to late-round players. The biggest knock on the former Trojan is his closing speed. But in the Tampa 2, coverage skills can go a long way. Shaw has also had some off the field issues that NFL teams will certainly look further into.
North Dakota State running back John Crockett and South Dakota State runner Zach Zenner both stood out on Tuesday. The East-West Shrine Game has produced some quality Day 3 running backs over the years in St. Louis’ Zac Stacy (2013) and Washington’s Alfred Morris (2012), and scouts believe that both Crockett and Zenner can make NFL rosters.
Crockett is an exciting player in that his motor never stops and he has a knack of slipping, sliding and stepping past defenders to get to the second level. He is a very boisterous, high-energy player that is always praising his offensive line and fellow running backs after every play.
While not terribly elusive with his speed, Crockett is a very physical runner that smashes into would-be tacklers and has the ability to bounce off them or spin away from them. Zenner is a similar runner with even more acceleration. Not afraid of contact, Zenner runs with a reckless style about him and great body lean and balance to maximize every carry and get the most yards possible. Like Crockett, Zenner is a very good receiver out of the backfield.
While Arizona offensive tackle Mickey Baucus had a solid showing on Monday, Tuesday’s practice was very inconsistent with the 6-foot-8, 305-pound Baucus struggling to get lower pad level to prevent defenders from getting underneath his pads to beat him with leverage. Western Kentucky tackle Cameron Clemmons, who is 6-foot-6, 305, also struggled with the same issue.
Clemmons had a few nice reps during one-on-one drills. He showed a strong initial push during run plays, being able to drive defensive ends inside. He has great size, but could definitely benefit from time spent in the weight room, converting himself into more of a muscular build. While his hands were impressive, the fifth-year senior didn’t seem too agile with his footwork.
When Baucus and Clemmons played with proper knee bend and displayed a quick first step both were hard to beat. But neither lineman was consistently fast out of their stance, which caused an immediate breakdown of their technique.
The most impressive linemen on Tuesday were Kansas State center B.J. Finney, who isn’t a great athlete, but is tough and has been well-coached in terms of his technique, and San Diego State guard Terry Poole, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound athlete who plays with very good balance. Finney and Poole stood out for their consistency from play to play blocking Northern Iowa defensive tackle Xavier Williams, who looked like the most talented defensive lineman on the West squad.
At 6-foot-2, 308 pounds Williams is a muscle-bound interior lineman with a nice surge of power and quickness off the ball with an explosive first step. The Panthers star is hard to move off the line in the running game and has some good counter moves to use off his bull rush, too.
The other impressive defensive lineman on Tuesday was Memphis’ Martin Ifedi, who is well built at 6-foot-4, 270 pounds. Ifedi has a set of quick and active hands that he used to easily maneuver around linemen on Tuesday and get into the backfield. He has a fast first step to get penetration and the hands to finish once engaged with a lineman. Ifedi rivals Kentucky’s Za’Darius Smith, who is on the East squad, as the best pass rusher at the East-West Shrine Game.
During 1-on-1 drills against offensive tackles, there were reps where Purdue defensive end Ryan Russell looked heads above the rest. He had a couple of spin moves that looked NFL-caliber. But his production started to decline as the practice was coming to an end, and he looked fatigued, which will be a cause for concern regarding his consistency.
With Nickerson studying the linebackers intently, Michigan State’s Taiwan Jones stood out for his size and speed combination. While not the most fluid in dropping into coverage, Jones does have good straight-line speed and arrives at the ball with nasty intentions. Jones played weakside and middle linebacker for the Spartans, but was playing strongside linebacker in Tuesday’s West practice.
Kansas middle linebacker Ben Heeney and Utah State’s Zach Vigil also showed well. Although undersized at 6-foot-1, 228 pounds, Heeney is a tough, blue-collar linebacker whose motor never stops and you can tell he loves contact. Vigil is a better-looking prospect at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds. He looks like a smart, tough linebacker that will force some, including PewterReport.com, to go back and watch more tape on this intriguing prospect.
Scouts were buzzing about Oklahoma tight end Blake Bell, a converted quarterback, on Tuesday, saying he looked the part of an athletic, NFL tight end with his 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame and ability to move. Bell showed well as an in-line blocker and was adept at getting open while running routes.
However, the quarterback play was atrocious as Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly, South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson and Nevada’s Cody Fajardo all disappointed on Tuesday with their inaccuracy. In fact, one NFL talent evaluator told PewterReport.com that Bell could probably switch back to quarterback and outperform all of the West passers.
PewterReport.com’s Zach Shapiro contributed to this report.
Scott Reynolds is in his 22nd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
I have watched all of Taylor Kelly’s Games in his career so I can speak on this and we see him on a regular basis at the Exos training facilty he is not an NFL QB, he has wonderful mobility but he is highly innaccurate lofting the ball over the heads of wide receivers. jaleen Strong who to me is the second best wr in this draft bailed him plenty of times in games making one handed catches etc. But hey we had Rudy Carpenter on our team for 3 yrs and Kelly was better in college than him so maybe we will sign as a undrafted free agent, lol
I think their is some talents that Tampa could select in Mid-late rounds besides College FA.GO BUCS
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