The Buccaneers traded up in the fourth round to draft Illinois defensive tackle Akeem Spence, who will likely play nose tackle in Tampa Bay. Spence was one of the strongest players at the combine with 37 reps of 225 pounds.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers addressed the defensive tackle position on the third day of the 2013 NFL Draft, selecting Illinois’ Akeem Spence with the team’s first fourth-round pick.
Spence was drafted with the 100th overall pick, which was acquired in a trade with Oakland. The Bucs traded the 112th (fourth-round pick) and the 181st (sixth-round pick) selections to the Raiders for the right to move up 12 spots and grab Spence.
Spence, who is a junior entry, was named to the Freshman All-American team after compiling 45 tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack in 2010. The next year, Spence became a full-time starter and started all 13 games at defensive tackle. He posted 69 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. As a junior, Spence started all 12 games and recorded 72 tackles, seven tackles for loss and one sack en route to being named an All-Big Ten honorable mention.
The Bucs like Spence’s ability to play both the three-technique tackle and nose tackle positions at Illinois. He has the ability to back up Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and line up next to him.
“I feel like I can be a plus and just take some pressure off of him,” Spence said of playing with McCoy. “With him having to take on a lot of double teams I can come in and have some production and take some pressure off him and just make some plays.
“I am capable of playing both [defensive tackle spots] so I can adjust to playing the one [technique]. I played one [technique] and three [technique] probably about 50-50. I have experience at both.”
The 6-foot-1, 307-pound Spence was one of the strongest players at the combine, where the Bucs interviewed him, bench-pressing 37 reps of 225 pounds.
“I play with a lot of power,” Spence said. “I am real strong. I have a great first step. What you notice on film is that I make a lot of plays chasing those receivers down from behind. Knocking the ball out or just playing from sideline to sideline. As you can see on film I play real hard.”
However, his 5.15 time in the 40-yard dash was underwhelming and likely led to his stock sliding into the fourth round. Spence had hoped to become a third-round pick after leaving Illinois a year early.
“I heard the third [round] so my heart was set on the third and then I was thinking maybe I will jump into the second,” Spence said. “And then just watching it and seeing how things unfolded yesterday … I nearly broke down because I was saying, ‘Oh my God, I did not go in the third.’ So now I am thinking, ‘What now?’ Then just to get that call this morning it was just a sigh of relief. It was just a sigh of relief.”
While Spence is a powerful player, he is not a great pass rusher, evidenced by his 3.5 career sacks.
“Down at high school I was the state weight-lifting champ coming out of high school,” Spence said. “The weight room has always been very important to me. I’ve made it a big part of who I am. I like to work out a lot when I’m bored and stuff. I just like to stay in shape.”
The Buccaneers are now in good shape at defensive tackle, and now have eight defensive tackles on their roster, including Spence, McCoy, Gary Gibson, Derek Landri, Lazarius Levingston, Corvey Irvin, Richard Clebert and Matt Masifilo.– Victoria Horchak contributed to this report
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