Just days after Tampa Bay hosted UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers for a pre-draft visit, the Buccaneers hosted Alabama running back at One Buc Place on Wednesday. Check below for a link to all of the players the Bucs have visited with or are scheduled to meet with this month prior to the draft.
In the two years of the Mark Dominik – Raheem Morris era, the Bucs have hosted their eventual number one pick. In 2009, Dominik and Morris brought in quarterback Josh Freeman, whom Morris knew personally from the 2006 season he spent as Kansas State’s defensive coordinator. Last year, the Bucs had Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy visit One Buccaneer Place.
This year, the Bucs have either hosted or are expected to host several players that carry first-round grades, including Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, California defensive end Cameron Jordan, Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, USC right tackle Tyron Smith, UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers, Georgia defensive end/linebacker Justin Houston and Alabama running back Mark Ingram, who was at One Buccaneer Place on Wednesday.
While Tampa Bay has a pressing need at defensive end, Kerrigan and Jordan are expected to be off the draft board by the time the Bucs are on the clock with the 20th overall pick. From a defensive end standpoint, only Houston and Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn may be the only viable options left in the first round. That’s why the Bucs are bringing in players at other positions, such as offensive tackle, linebacker and running back so that they may maximize the value of the pick and take a player worthy of the 20th selection in the first round.
The Bucs could be in the market for a running back to help keep LeGarrette Blount fresh, which is why they are interested in Ingram. Cadillac Williams, who is entering his seventh NFL season, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent and may not return. Williams, who served as the team’s third-down back last year, is 29 years old and despite two healthy 16-game seasons over the past two years, he has well-chronicled knee injuries in his past.
Ingram is a shifty, powerful back that won the Heisman Trophy in 2009 while leading Alabama to a national title. Ingram rushed for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns while averaging 6.1 yards per carry in the SEC during that season as a sophomore. Injuries limited Ingram, who left Alabama after his junior season, to just 875 yards rushing and 13 scores as a junior. He is an accomplished receiver out of the backfield with 60 catches for 670 yards and four touchdowns in his Crimson Tide career.
Tampa Bay has also had Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter and Penn State running back Evan Royster in for visits.
Ayers, who visited One Buc Place last week, has the size to play linebacker and also defensive end on a situational basis as he did at UCLA. Ayers, a junior entry, finished his Bruins career with 183 tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, seven forced fumbles, six interceptions, three defensive touchdowns and one blocked kick. The Bucs need to improve their pass rush and generate more plays from their linebacking corps.
In fact, Tampa Bay has scheduled visits with at least five linebackers, including Ayers, North Carolina’s Quan Sturdivant, Miami’s Colin McCarthy, Georgia’s Akeem Dent and Fresno State’s Chris Carter. Sturdivant, McCarthy and Dent are all middle linebackers, which could be a sign that the Bucs may part ways with veteran Barrett Ruud, who has been the team’s starting Mike linebacker since 2007.
Ruud will be an unrestricted free agent and the team wants a more physical linebacking corps to stop the run. Over the last two years, the Bucs have ranked 28th and 32nd in the NFL in run defense.
The Bucs are also expected to host USC tight end Jordan Cameron later this week, according to NationalFootballPost.com. For a full list of players that are scheduled to visit the Bucs or have visited One Buc Place, click here.
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