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August 29, 2011 @ 2:45 pm
Current rating: 4.33 Stars/3 Votes

Okam Making A Very, Very Big Impression

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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While Morris is disputing Okam's claim of only weighing 355-pounds, the Buccaneers are pleased with the progress of their run-stuffing specialist so far this preseason irregardless of what the scale says.
Looking back in Buccaneers’ history, the number of 370-pound defensive tackles Tampa Bay has lined up on the field is small. Perhaps even nonexistent. The philosophy of the Buccaneers, since nearly their inception, has always been about speed. Quick penetration from the defensive line and then let the linebackers clean up; that was the general philosophy from the early days of Tom Bass all the way to Monte Kiffin and current defensive coordinator and head coach Raheem Morris.

But Frank Okam has broken the mold of thinking around One Buccaneer Place. The fourth-year defensive lineman has been one of the more pleasant surprises of training camp and has made injuries to Brian Price and Roy Miller a little more bearable. Okam understands his role, and relishes in it.

“It all starts in the middle,” Okam said. “My job is to clog up the middle, help free up others and to make plays when they come at you. I’m not making excuses for my size. It is what I’ve been given and it is my skill set, and I am trying to take advantage of it.”

“I think any nose tackle in the league understands, it's kind of like the offensive line in that you don’t get any glory. I just take pride in trying to put good things on tape, helping other guys make plays. It's kind of like [co-defensive line] coach [Keith] Millard says, ‘It takes four [players] to rush the passer.’”

Okam’s path to Tampa Bay was a bumpy one. After being taken by the Houston Texans in the fifth-round of the 2008 NFL draft, he was released midway through the 2010 season after playing in just 13 career games without recording a sack. The former Texas Longhorn spent a week with the Seattle Seahawks before being cut and signing with the Buccaneers. Okam’s career was clearly in limbo.

“I’d have to honestly say getting cut helped me,” Okam said. “Getting cut twice [last season] pretty much brought things in perspective for me. I knew I wanted to stay in this league and be the player I felt I could be. So when I got another chance I had to take advantage of it. I think the most important things are to not take any opportunity for granted and try to do your best to put things on tape that you can be proud of. Being consistent is the most important thing to me.”

Okam said most of the changes he made as part of his improvement were mental.

"I think it was the confidence," Okam said. "It was a huge difference. Coming to a place where you feel the coaches believe in you, that was a big thing for me. And then being comfortable with the other guys in the locker room.

“Maturity [is also big factor]. Going into my fourth season now I am one of the older guys at the defensive tackle position. The longer you stay in the league, the more blocks and schemes you see that you can respond to quicker that a young guy might not be able to. I think the new coaches have broadened my scope of understanding.”

Keith Millard and Grady Stretz were hired in the offseason to coach the defensive line and the players have all had rave reviews about the new duo, including Okam.

“It helps us out to know the coaches are watching you down to the last detail,” Okam said. “Even if you have a good rush and beat someone, they are still critical that you didn’t take the right approach or angle. They still call you out on that. So when you worry about the small details, the bigger things will come into focus.”

His head coach has also taken notice of the Jasper, Arkansas native.

“Okam is a space-eater, a penetrator and a problem,” Morris said Monday afternoon. “He is huge. Right before he came to camp he said he was 370 pounds. I was thinking we have to get him down [weight wise]. Then he showed up, and just looked big and square. We got him going and said, let’s just keep him right there. Whatever his weight is, he is playing at a high level.

“He is unique. Roy [Miller] has played great for us and [Okam] will definitely go in there and play for us. The unique thing about Frank is he plays nose tackle and the three-technique. When he goes out there in the three-technique he is still productive and heavy - and gives us another look.”

While Okam knows his position isn’t glamorous, he understands the importance of his job and the effect it can have on the unit.

“If I’m getting that double-team, I want to drive them back as much as possible and make sure they stay on me because we have some great pass rushers. Young guys like Crowder, Bowers, Clayborn and Michael Bennett rushing off the edge. And obviously Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, some of the quickest tackles in the league.

“My job is to keep pushing the pocket, clear those guys up and let them go be playmakers.”
Last modified on Tuesday, 30 August 2011 21:21

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  • avatar

    Horse is holding out for a long term deal!
  • avatar

    Yes, start Okam at NT and Horse at 3-Technique.
  • avatar

    @ColoradoBuc- hilarious!!!
  • avatar

    I hear you Mark, it's different from the stands. We have the luxury of being able to focus in on just one player for a few plays while you have to take it all in so that you can report on the game. Keep up the good work.
  • avatar

    avatar lalvarad August 29, 2011 8:04 pm Okam needs a long term contract. EXACTLY. Now lets hope Dominik recognizes...
  • avatar

    Uh..... no........... It is the preseason. If he is playing at a high level at least halfway through the season, then yes.
  • avatar

    Trust me Jay Buc, that was a factor! Seriously though after being able to watch the game a few times and being able to rewind, Okam stood out a bit more than he did from the press box. Believe it or not the worst seat in the house is the press box sometimes. We are tweeting, writing Talib stories, people are asking questions plus no DVR to rewind..sometimes it takes a few reviews to see things.I 'm glad to have the feedback. I can show you my notes, he was one of the names I wrote down early. But looking at the game stat sheet he had 2 tackles. Of course I know a player can have a great game and only have a couple tackles. Anyway again thanks for the feedback. MC
  • avatar

    PewterReportMC, thank you for your honestly. Thank you for listing to us fans.
  • avatar

    Well, Mr Cook, even though you passed him up in your five most impressive column, it is nice to see you finally got it right... with a little help from the readers.
  • avatar

    Irrespective of what you irresponsive posters say about irregardless, I will not rest easy until George Hicks, the only grammerian that I trust on this website, weighs in. C'mon George, set this matter straight and while you're at it, tell Horse to raise up off GMC. lol.
  • avatar

    Regardless, I've become a believer that Mr. Okam will be a force this year. Tag teaming O-linemen with Miller will be fun to watch.
  • avatar

    Okam needs a long term contract.
  • avatar

    You guys crack me up. I was going to change it but love the arguing! It is in the Websters dictionary but listed as a non standard word. But if Bill Shakespeare can use it, so can I !...While we are the subject of proper grammar, what about this?...lots of people say I could care less...shouldn't it be I couldn't care less? Lets get the poll going! I say couldn't is the proper way..Thanks for the feedback, good and bad. MC By the way, Okam is a really good guy and good interview. Really honest and upfront, plus speaks French fluently! Not many 377 pound guys from Arkansas who can claim that.
  • avatar

    Iam all over this Iam glad that the other teams didn't get this player when we did.It means that the rest of the defensive line will do there job. GO bucs
  • avatar

    The defensive line has some nice depth now. A young group with a lot of promise. It'll be fun to watch this group play.
  • avatar

    When Okam is in the game they have to double team him because of his sheer size. I am so sold on our new draft picks Bowers and Clayborn; now Price is starting to come along. Bennett is reliable and watch out for Johnson. All we need is for GMC start pulling his part and we are set on the DL for awhile. Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    I "could care less" but "irregardless" I like Big Frank better at starter "then" Miller.
  • avatar

    Frank Okam is becoming a fan favorite.... "Irregardless" is not a proper use of the English language. Further, I don't trust any dictionary that allows for entries such as omg, lol, fyi, and so on as words. These choice entries and others like it are nothing more than slang (abbreviated slang at that) substituted for proper English. Their use, aside from that used on forums and social sites, and "words" such as "irregardless" are nothing more than lazy use of a language.
  • avatar

    Gotta love Big Frank the Tank!!
  • avatar

    Ok...first up irregardless is a word so says the webster's universal edition dictionary college edition...it means non-standard: regardless....and if "youngry" is irritating to you then you need to lighten up....on the flip side..I really hope Okam's efforts win him the starting job alongside GMC. I absolutely agree that he would be the perfect compliment. You can't double both D tackles unless you're in max protection and that is usually a passing situation...so who would you rather go and let take the single block...Okam or Mccoy??? Could be the makings of a potential pick your poison D tackle duo ala the williams wall in it's prime in Minnesota...good thing about that is both Mccoy and Okam are way more athletic and have a much quicker first step than they did in their prime too...If you're a true Bucs fan how are you not salivating over the potential of this team in particular this defense??? Yes it's pre-season but take the measuring stick to where the defense in particular was this time last year compared to this year in terms of on the field, obvious, swarming fast talent...it's here, I can see it, and I'm going to love watching it develop for as long as I'm blessed to be able to...GO BUCS!!
  • avatar

    I like Okam a LOT. I believe he's our starter NOW. With Miller sidelined, at least temporarily, it makes sense to rotate them, maybe with Okam as a starter, McCoy at 3-tech, then Price rotating into either spot.
  • avatar

    Thats what you call a very unselfish team player! Okam will end up starting in a few weeks that man is a mack truck and an awesome complement to McCoy!
  • avatar

    irregardless isn't a word. just sayin
  • avatar

    True. Many people use it, but it is not a word. I hope they drop the "youngry" thing too, it "reiritates" me. I am feeling very good about Okam, I think he may be the key to enable the other DL to function well at their jobs.
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