The Bucs are in need of a playmaking wide receiver and could be interested in a Senior Bowl prospect like Mississippi's Shay Hodge.
The Ole Miss standout was given the chance to be the Rebels' go-to target during his senior season, as 2009 third-round draft pick Mike Wallace joined the Pittsburgh Steelers in the offseason. Hodge finished his senior season as the SEC's leader in receptions with 70 and receiving yards with 1,135.
Hodge proved he can play against talented defenses when he played LSU. Hodge snagged seven passes for 117 yards and a score. He also is a big playmaker. In 2008, his biggest play was a 86-yard touchdown catch. Another upside to Hodge is that throughout his college career, he has never fumbled. Those are the kind of features that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need if they are going to contend in the NFL.
The Rebels receiver looked to be the best for the South team during Monday's practice in Mobile, Ala. Hodge didn't exactly have blazing speed, but did have enough to gain separation from the secondary and make big plays. He made up for his speed with superb route running. The South quarterbacks could have looked his way more often, as he was gaining separation on most plays and getting open. On short routes, he showed the ability to separate and get extra yardage after the catch. Overall, Hodge was quite impressive.
On Wednesday, Hodge continued to impress. The Rebels' receiver showed his skills in the red zone in 1-on-1 drills. Hodge went up and got the ball on a 10-yard corner route in the back of the end zone over Alabama cornerback Javier Arenas. He also played well coming over the middle on slant patterns. He made a few tough catches that should have caught . On Wednesday, Hodged reinforced his case of being the best wide receiver at the Senior Bowl with spectacular play.
He might be the playmaker in the passing game that the Bucs are looking for. The Ole Miss receiver has a track record of making circus catches over defensive backs. The 6-foot-1, 208-pound Hodge's size could be a turnoff to some NFL teams. Most wide receivers of this size are considered burners, and speed isn't one of Hodge's trademarks. But many receivers in the NFL with his size have had success at the NFL level without blazing speed. Some of these include Isaac Bruce, Michael Crabtree and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. His size and skill set can compare to Indianapolis Colts' receiver Reggie Wayne. At this point in January, it looks like Hodge will be a pick in rounds 4-5, but a good finish at the Senior Bowl and Combine could help out his draft stock.
The Bucs could help out quarterback Josh Freeman by getting a receiver that can come down with the ball and consistently make plays, and Hodge could be the guy they target towards the middle of the draft.
Listed below is a Q&A session Pewter Report's Eric Dellaratta conducted with Shay at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. this week.
Hodge on the bumps in the road he's had to overcome to get where he is at today.
"My daughter died towards the end of my freshman year. It was really a turning point in my career as far as getting better and working towards my future. It provided me with a lot more motivation to get out there, and it helped me see life in a different way."
On his playing style.
"I would have to say I'm playmaker, because I can run routes well. If you disrespect me I'm just going to run by you, and I believe I can go up and get it with the best of them."
When asked about working with Ole Miss teammate Dexter McCluster.
"It has really been fun. He has taken some of the pressure away from me, and I think I take the pressure off of him. In our senior year he was featured at running back and I was featured at wide receiver and I thought we were quite a duo. It really motivated me to work harder because he would always play great and I would always try to get myself to match whatever he did."
On the possibility of playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"It's my dream to play in the NFL. I'm real excited. Whatever team wants me to play for them I'm ready to go. I've seen the Buccaneers play and I think they need some help at receiver. I want to come in and try to be in a rotation instead of just being a special teams player when I first get there. But the Buccaneers would seem like a good fit."
On his attitude and leadership ability.
"I'm not a fiery guy. I'm more of a laid back guy that comes in and does the hard work and I'll just do what I got to do to get better."
On his preference for a certain offensive scheme.
"It doesn't really matter to me, but most people would probably say I fit in the West Coast offense better because I'm better at running slants and short posts. I think I could play well in a vertical offense as well because I think I can go up and get it with the best of them."
When asked what player in the NFL reminds him of himself.
"There are a few guys I like. I really admire Larry Fitzgerald. I think I have some of him in me as far as getting the job done route running and going up and getting the ball over defensive backs. Reggie Wayne is another name that comes to mind because of his route running. I think that really can set me apart."
On goals he wants to accomplish during his time in the NFL.
"I really want to contribute short term. I want to have an impact on the team and not just a guy they drafted and bring along. Long term, I just want to win a super bowl just like any other player out there."