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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 wide receiver Dexter Jackson (2008), offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah (2008), quarterback Josh Johnson (2008), 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.
As the 2009 NFL Draft approaches, Pewter Report's resident draft experts, Scott Reynolds and Charlie Campbell, have 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 and Campbell are 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 USC MLB Rey Maualuga, Oklahoma G Duke Robinson and Ohio State OLB James Laurinaitis. 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, Zuttah or Johnson? We'll all find out next April when Tampa Bay is on the clock.
WAKE FOREST CORNERBACK ALPHONSO SMITH VITAL STATS: Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith is 5-foot-9 and weighs 190 pounds. He has been a standout cornerback for Wake Forest since earning a starting spot as a redshirt freshman. The Pahokee, FL product is a speed player that reportedly runs around 4.40 40-yard dash.
CREDENTIALS Smith is a First team All-ACC selection and third team AP All-American. Five games into his senior season, Smith has 17 career interceptions that he has returned for a total of 249 yards and four touchdowns. Smith's nose for the football is also illustrated in his career total of 165 tackles, 21 tackles for a loss, five forced fumbles, and 34 passes defensed. The Demon Deacon standout is a real weapon on special teams. Not only does he return punts and kicks, but also he has blocked four kicks in his career. RECORDS AND SUPERLATIVES Smith is the ACC Conference's active leader with 17 interceptions. He is three away from tying the record by Dré Bly (North Carolina 1996-1998). With one more interception Smith will become Wake Forest's all-time interception leader. He is currently tied with Ronnie Burgess and A.J. Greene. His eight interceptions in the 2007 season gave him the highest single season interception total in Demon Deacons history. HIS BIGGEST GAMES 11/24/07 at Vanderbilt two interceptions, six tackles, one sack, one forced fumble 11/17/07 vs. North Carolina State two interceptions, seven tackles, two passes defensed 9/22/07 vs. Maryland one INT returned 100 yards for TD, six tackles, one pass defensed, three kickoffs totaling 55 yards 11/25/06 at Maryland two interceptions, five tackles, one tackle for a loss, one sack, one pass defensed 10/28/06 at North Carolina one punt return 34 yards for a touchdown, four tackles, one blocked kick
WHY HE COULD BE A RED AND PEWTER PLAYER Smith is an absolute ballhawk. He has 17 career interceptions, and is not afraid to get physical an make a tackle. Smith's play is somewhat reminiscent of Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber. Wake Forest plays a lot of Cover 2, so he should have that as a basis for assimilating into defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2 defense. The Bucs like cornerbacks with Smith's skill set: great speed, ball skills, tackling ability, and nose for the football.
Smith is also adept at making the most of the opportunities to return an interception. Four of his 17 picks were taken back for touchdowns. In 2007, he picked off Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown. If Smith became a Buccaneer, he would defend Ryan twice year when the Bucs play the Atlanta Falcons.
Despite spending a first-round pick on cornerback Aqib Talib last season, the Buccaneers have some real uncertainty at the position. The veteran Barber is 33 years old and the Bucs will need to start grooming a replacement. Starting left cornerback Phillip Buchanon is a free agent and he could be difficult to re-sign. Buchanon may be one of the best cornerbacks on the free-agent market, and it would not be surprising if other teams offer contracts that are beyond what Tampa Bay is willing to pay.
Talib looks to be set at as one of the Bucs starting cornerbacks of the future. Backup Elbert Mack also looks like he has a bright future, but he looks more like a long-term nickel back than a starter. The Buccaneers could definitely use another speedy ballhawking cornerback to pair with Talib, and matchup against some of the potent passing attacks they face in their division.
TOUGHEST TRANSITION IN TAMPA BAY Smith definitely has a size disadvantage. He is listed at 5-foot-9, 190-pounds but some times college measurements can be generous to the players. One thing the Bucs liked about Talib was his impressive size to go with his speed and ball skills. Smith has the speed and ball skills, but he does not have the height or long arms that Talib possesses. Smith will have to overcome his size limitations in the NFL the same way that Barber has. SPECIAL TEAMS FACTOR Smith is a legit special teams demon. He has blocked four kicks in his career to go along with experience as a punt and kick returner. Over 17 punt returns in his career, Smith has 9.5 yards per return average, with one touchdown. On kickoff returns, Smith has brought back 16 kicks and averaged 19.9 yards per return. While his return averages are not earth shattering, that could be for a variety of reasons including his blocking. Smith's experience as a returner might prove to come in handy if he becomes a Buccaneer, and returner Dexter Jackson proves not to be the long term answer as Tampa Bay's returner. DRAFT PROJECTION Smith's stock is up in the air right now. He is having a strong senior campaign and has been consistent throughout college. His numbers indicate first round, but his size will hurt his status with some teams. At this time, Smith is probably a late round one to early round two prospect. Smith will likely be invited to the Senior Bowl, and if he has a good week there than he could solidify his place in the first round.
THE QUOTE In speaking with the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Smith said this about how he comes up with so many interceptions.
"I always tell guys, I don't play cornerback, I play receiver," Smith said. "Once the ball is snapped, I'm a receiver and that's the way I approach the game. When the ball is in the air, it's mine. And if you're playing receiver, it's hard to call pass interference on you." THE HIGHLIGHTS Smith shows his physical play in this highlight. Smith had a good game against Florida State on Sep. 20.