The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been purchasing a number of flights to and from Mississippi in the last few months as they have shown heavy interest in a few draft eligible players from the University of Mississippi. The players the Bucs have spent a lot of time with are defensive tackle Peria Jerry, wide receiver Mike Wallace, and offensive tackle Michael Oher. They also interviewed linebacker Ashlee Palmer at the Senior Bowl.
Sources have told Pewter Report that Bucs have concentrated on Wallace and Jerry, and both players are potential targets for Tampa Bay on draft day.
Jerry, Wallace, and Oher first met with the team during the Senior Bowl. Those interviews were continued at the NFL Scouting Combine, and all three players have been brought to One Buc Place for visits during March and April. Oher is projected as a first-round pick, and the common thoughts are that the Bucs are not likely to use their first-round pick on an offensive tackle.
Pewter Report has learned that Jerry and Wallace are under extreme consideration for Bucs picks in next week's NFL Draft. Jerry is slated to go in the first round of the draft, and Wallace has seen his stock skyrocket from a late-round pick at the end of 2008, to a mid-round pick after the Senior Bowl, and there are some rumors of him going in the second round of the draft.
Wallace (6-0, 199) finished his senior season with a flurry, compiling 527 yards in his last six games. For the season he had 39 catches for 784 yards (20.1 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns. In his collegiate career Wallace caught 101 passes for 1,910 yards for an average of 18.9 yards per catch and 15 touchdowns. He also served as a kick returner for the Rebels. Wallace returned 60 kicks in college and averaged 23.2 yards per kick return with two touchdowns.
The Buccaneers are drawn to Wallace's big-play ability, and he was one of the fastest draft prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine. Only Darrius Heyward-Bey's 40-yard dash time of 4.30 was faster than Wallace's time of 4.33. Wallace told Pewter Report at the Senior Bowl that the Bucs were one of the three teams that had shown the most interest in him. The other two clubs were the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers.
Jerry had a banner senior year where he was one of the nation's leaders in tackles for a loss with 18. He also contributed 7 sacks, 49 tackles, and two forced fumbles. His 6-foot-2, 299-pound frame was a better fit in the old Tampa 2 defense under Monte Kiffin. Jerry would have been a perfect fit as three-technique pass rushing defensive tackle in that scheme.
New defensive coordinator Jim Bates does not have defensive tackles play under tackle, over tackle, or the three-technique. Bates prefers bigger defensive tackles that line up directly over the guard and take on blockers to free up linebackers. Bates has played some undersized defensive tackles before, and Tampa Bay is trying to decide if Jerry can thrive in Bates' scheme. Pewter Report has learned that the Bucs think very highly of Jerry as a player. The team is in the process of determining if he is the right fit for Bates' defense.