The Buccaneers need starters at defensive end, safety and cornerback and there are some good defensive players, especially in the secondary, in this year’s Senior Bowl. There are plenty of interesting small school defenders that will be looking to prove that they belong in the NFL as they go against top players from Power 5 conferences.
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Here are some players Tampa Bay that might be a good fit in Mike Smith’s 4-3 defense:
Northern Iowa CB Deiondre’ Hall – 6-2, 190
Hall, a starter for three and a half years, was the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 with 82 tackles. He finished his career with 13 interceptions and four pick-sixes. Hall has great size, a long wingspan and good ball skills.
SE Louisiana CB Harlan Miller – 6-1, 180
Miller had 11 career interceptions, including seven over the past two years. Miller is a very good athlete, and led the Southland Conference with a 10.5-yard average as a punt returner. Miller is trying to follow in the footsteps of Robert Alford, another SE Louisiana cornerback who starred at the Senior Bowl.
LSU CB Jalen Mills 6-1, 194
Mills was a four-year starter (44 starts) at LSU with two years at the safety position and two years at cornerback. The versatile defensive back finished his Tigers career with 216 tackles and six career interceptions. Mills has good size to play either safety or cornerback, but will be tried at cornerback at the Senior Bowl.
Samford CB James Bradberry – 6-1, 213
Bradberrt, a four-year starter, finished his career with eight interceptions and 27 pass breakups as one of the best cover cornerbacks in the Southern Conference. Bradberry was consistent, notching two interceptions in all four years at Samford. Played well against SEC teams, recording an interception against Auburn as a junior and breaking up two passes against Arkansas as a sophomore.
Virginia CB Maurice Canady – 6-2, 195
Canady, a two-year starter, has great length for a cornerback. He’s a good athlete, evidenced by the fact he returned punts as a senior, returning one 74 yards for a touchdown against William & Mary. The key for Canady at the Senior Bowl will be to prove he’s fluid enough to turn his hips and run to cover smaller, quicker wide receivers on the outside.
Middle Tennessee S Kevin Byard – Photo by: Getty Images
Middle Tennessee FS Kevin Byard, 5-11, 217
Byard was a four-year starter and a big-time playmaker for the Blue Raiders, recording 19 career interceptions for 377 yards and four touchdowns, in addition to 307 tackles. Also had five forced fumbles in his Middle Tennessee career. Byard is a compactly-built player that isn’t afraid of contact.
Boise State FS Darian Thompson – 6-2, 212
Thompson, a three-year is one of the best ballhawks in the nation. He’s the Mountain West Conference’s all-time leading interceptor with 19, surpassing Eric Weddle. Thompson had five interceptions, 65 tackles and two forced fumbles as a senior for the Broncos. As a junior, Thompson had a career-high seven interceptions, including a pick-six, to go along with 71 tackles.
William & Mary FS DeAndre Houston-Carson – 6-2, 195
Houston-Carson was a three-year starter at cornerback and became a dominant safety his senior season. He racked up 293 tackles, 10 career interceptions and 10 career kick blocks at William & Mary. As a senior, Houston-Carson had 109 tackles, four interceptions, including a school-record 94-yard touchdown. He had six double-digit tackle performances last year, a punt block for a safety, a 70-yard blocked PAT return for a score and a 65-yard blocked FG return for a touchdown.
Maryland SS Sean Davis – 6-1, 202
Davis was a very productive safety for the Terrapins, recording over 300 tackles, six interceptions and three interceptions in his career. Davis recorded five forced fumbles as a senior, which was second in the nation last year. Davis has good size and coverage ability. He also started at cornerback for two years at Maryland.
Eastern Kentucky DE Noah Spence – 6-3, 261
Spence was kicked out of Ohio State after his sophomore year for failing multiple drug tests for ecstasy. He sat out the 2014 season and then played his junior season at Eastern Kentucky where he recorded 11.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for a loss. Spence notched 8.5 sacks at Ohio State, including 7.5 as a sophomore in 2013. Spence is a gifted athlete with a great shoulder dip and is expected to dominate at the Senior Bowl and become a first-round draft pick.
BYU DE Brandon Kaufusi – Photo by: Getty Images
BYU DE Bronson Kaufusi – 6-7, 265
Kaufusi has spent time at defensive end and outside linebacker for the Cougars, but is a better fit as an end in the NFL. He’s BYU’s second all-time leading sacker with 26.5 sacks. He ranks third in Cougars history with 44 tackles for loss. Kaufusi also had two interceptions, including a pick-six. Kaufusi is a high-motor player with a great wingspan and good power.
LSU LB Deion Jones 6-1, 227
Jones, a Butkus Award finalist, replaced Tampa Bay’s Kwon Alexander as a starter at LSU last year and finished with 82 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, two interceptions, including a pick-six against Eastern Michigan, in his first year as a starter. Jones is one of the fastest linebackers in the NFL and is a special teams demon on kickoff coverage with bone-crushing hits. Jones can play weakside or strongside in the NFL due to his coverage ability.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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