The Buccaneers addressed their defensive line again in the fifth-round of the 2007 NFL Draft by using the 141st overall pick to select North Carolina Central defensive lineman Greg Peterson.
“I was just anxious,” Peterson said. “I didn’t really expect to get picked up in the fifth, but it happened. I’m just really glad they picked me up. I fell in love with the Bucs when I came down there. Obviously, they loved me.”
The 6-foot-5, 286-pound Peterson is an athletic specimen, but he was forced to play at the JUCO level initially due to academic challenges.
“It was academics,” Peterson said when asked why he didn’t play for a bigger school. “Me coming out of high school, I didn’t take school as seriously as I should. In junior college I straightened up a lot, but I still fell a couple of classes short from going to a big Division 1-A school, so I transferred to Central and I made the best of my situation.”
After notching 92 tackles and 11 sacks as defensive end at Hinds Community College for two years, Peterson transferred to North Carolina Central, a Division II school, in 2005.
Peterson also changed positions, switching from defensive end to under tackle. He started 24 games at N.C. Central, notching 104 tackles, 10.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles for a loss.
Although he’s a bit undersized for the under tackle position, Peterson is extremely quick and uses his hands well. He ran a 4.73 40-yard dash in a private workout and said he’s comfortable adding weight if he’s asked to.
“I’m at 286 right now,” said Peterson. “I could add weight. I was up to 297 when I was training in Atlanta with Chip Smith. When I got up to 297 I was feeling really good at that weight. If I need to put on weight, I can put on weight. It’s not a problem.”
The Bucs feel Peterson’s combination of size and speed will help him contribute at the under tackle position or even be a situational edge rusher.
“He’s a big, fast athlete,” said Bucs assistant head coach/defensive line coach Larry Coyer. “He’s bigger than 280 pounds and ran in the 4.7s. He’s got a great vertical jump. He’s active and has good hands. He’s a relentless player. You hate to use the word upside because he’s a pretty good player, but he’s a big, fast athlete.
“We’re probably viewing him as a defensive tackle prospect. He’s got some quickness and chase in him. It’s hard to find a guy with his kind of measurables, but when you watch him play he catches your attention. You try to get away from evaluating the competition because they’re playing against each other because it’s even. But Peterson dominated the competition and was head and shoulders above in the all-star game.”
As a senior, Peterson was an All-American, Black College All-American, All-Region and All-Central Intercollegiate Athletics Association defensive lineman. He ranked seventh in Division II with 19.5 tackles for a loss and led the team with 7.5 sacks and finished with 48 tackles.
Tampa Bay lost defensive end/tackle Dewayne White to the Detroit Lions in free agency, and their 2006 fifth-round draft pick, DE/DT Julian Jenkins, failed to make a significant impact in his rookie season.
While veteran DL Kevin Carter appears to be Tampa Bay’s starting under tackle, the Bucs believe Peterson has the ability to fill the void left by White and eventually work his way into the starting lineup at the three technique.
“There’s real potential that might be,” Coyer said. “He catches your eye as a tackle because of his quickness. He’s got great get-off. He’s also a powerful defensive end. But inside, he’s naturally gifted. He has a quick first step and he plays with good leverage. He’s relentless, and we’re lucky to get him where we did.’
Tampa Bay has used five of its first six draft picks to select defensive players (DE Gaines Adams, S Sabby Piscitelli, LB Quincy Black, S Denard Jackson and Peterson).
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