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All right, draftniks. You know that Pewter Report is the undisputed king of Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft coverage. We’ve listed players, such as defensive end Gaines Adams (2007), linebacker Quincy Black (2007), wide receiver Maurice Stovall (2006), quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (2006), middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (2005), cornerback Torrie Cox (2003) – among others, at their respective positions in the Bucs’ Best Bets sections of Pewter Report’s annual Bucs Draft Preview – only to see them get drafted by Tampa Bay.

As the 2008 NFL Draft approaches, Pewter Report’s resident draft expert, Scott Reynolds, has spent countless hours watching over 12 college games per week and scouting which prospects would look good wearing red and pewter next year. With over 500 college games to review dating back over the last four years and countless scouting contacts throughout the NFL, Reynolds is armed with the inside scoop needed to put together these scouting reports on players who might fit Tampa Bay’s schemes on offense and defense.

The casual football fan already has a good deal of knowledge on likely first-round draft prospects, such as LSU defensive tackle Glen Dorsey, Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm and Virginia defensive end Chris Long. The goal of these regular Pewter Insider features on PewterReport.com is to inform you about players that will likely go in rounds 2-7 that might help the Buccaneers.

Will one of these players wind up being the next Ruud, Stovall or Gradkowski? We’ll all find out next April when Tampa Bay is on the clock. Here is this week's prospect.

HOUSTON RB ANTHONY ALRIDGE
VITAL STATS

Alridge is listed at 5-foot-9 and weighs 175 pounds, but he may be closer to 5-foot-8, 170 pounds. He has been timed in the 40-yard dash between 4.25 and 4.34 by NFL scouts. Known for wearing a camouflage bandana under his helmet, Alridge’s nickname is “Quick 6” because of how quickly he gets to the end zone.

CREDENTIALS
Alridge carried the ball 95 times for 959 yards and eight touchdowns in 2006. His 10.1 yards-per-carry average led Division 1-A last year, and he ripped off five runs over 50 yards, including an 87-yarder vs. Tulane and two 77-yard touchdowns versus SMU. Alridge also caught 19 passes for 274 and one touchdown.

Alridge’s average has slipped to 6.3 yards-per-carry in 2007, and he has rushed for 1,217 yards on 192 carries with 11 touchdowns. He also has been a major weapon in the passing game, hauling in 33 catches for 371 yards and four touchdowns, including an 86-yard score on a screen pass against Oregon. Alridge also threw a 24-yard touchdown pass off a halfback option against SMU.

RECORDS AND SUPERLATIVES
On October 13, 2007 in Houston’s 56-48 win over Rice, wide receiver Donnie Avery caught 13 passes for 346 yards, while running back Anthony Alridge rushed 24 times for 215 yards. That was the first time in major college football history that such a feat had been accomplished.

Alridge has 10 100-yard rushing games in his career, including four 200-yard games. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in five straight games this season.

HIS BIGGEST GAMES
11/04/07 at UTEP 31 carr., 154 yards with 2 TDs, 2 rec. 28 yards, 24-yard TD pass
10/13/07 vs. Rice 24 carr., 205 yards with 4 TDs, 3 rec. for 1 yard
10/6/07 at Alabama 17 carr., 100 yards, 7 rec. for 94 yards and 1 TD
9/1/07 at Oregon 22 carr., 205 yards with 1 TD, 3 rec. for 88 yards and 1 TD
11/11/06 at SMU 13 carr., 225 yards with 2 TDs, 1 rec. for 33 yards

WHY HE WOULD LOOK GOOD IN RED AND PEWTER
Alridge brings the speed to hit the home run in the running game, as well as in the passing game. In fact, it Alridge’s prowess in the passing game that makes him an attractive player to Tampa Bay. He’s the type of player who could be a “Joker” in Jon Gruden’s offense. That is, he could be a player who could line up in the backfield, in the slot or split out wide. Alridge also has the speed to be an impact player on special teams as a return specialist.

At first glance, Tampa Bay's backfield is stocked at the running back position with Cadillac Williams, Michael Pittman, Earnest Graham, Michael Bennett and practice squad player Kenneth Darby. But Williams will likely miss part of the 2008 season with a torn patellar tendon, and Pittman and Bennett are free agents at season's end. Alridge is a breakaway back similar to Bennett, so if he isn't re-signed, Alridge may be an option.

TOUGHEST TRANSITION IN TAMPA BAY
Alridge would have to overcome his size limitations by showing toughness, especially in pass protection and blitz pick up, to play for Jon Gruden. Gruden passed on smaller, productive backs like Kansas State’s Darren Sproles and Northern Illinois’ Garrett Wolfe in recent years because of his concerns in pass protection.

Alridge won’t break many tackles and works best in space, so that limits how he can be used as a runner. However, Gruden was eager to work with and feature the smallish Warrick Dunn in his offense. Dunn is just 5-foot-9, but weighs 190 pounds and is one of the best backs in pass protection in the NFL. Dunn would have been a perfect fit in Gruden’s version of the West Coast offense.

Alridge had academic trouble and was forced to sit out the entire 2004 season due to grades. His test scores will have to be closely watched as he enters the 2008 NFL Draft.

SPECIAL TEAMS FACTOR

Alridge does have kick return ability, and given his speed, it’s surprising he doesn’t have a touchdown yet. He has a career 21.7 kick return average, with returns of 76 yards (2006) and 57 yards (2007). Alridge has the speed to cover kicks, but does he have the toughness and tackling ability?

DRAFT PROJECTION
Alridge has increased his stock this year by showing that he can handle a heavier workload. However, with his lack of ideal size, his draft stock will likely rise no higher than the fourth round. If he is on the board in the fifth or sixth round, Alridge might be worth going after by the Buccaneers.

THE QUOTE
"I'm getting the ball a lot," Alridge said. "My coach has confidence in me and my playmaking ability. I get the ball a lot and use my God-given talent. A lot of people didn't think I could take the pounding. I had 27 carries in our last game. It hasn't affected me. I'm not timid when I hit the hole. It's about heart, and I use it when I hit the field."

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Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys 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: [email protected]