With a possible vacancy at the left cornerback position, and the need to start grooming a Ronde Barber successor, three members of the Buccaneers personnel attended the Pro Day workout at the University of South Florida on Friday -defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, linebackers Coach Casey "Gus" Bradley, and director of college scouting Dennis Hickey – all to zero in on cornerback Mike Jenkins.
Jenkins, who developed a reputation as one of the hardest-hitting cornerbacks in college football, opted to participate only in position drills. He'd walk to the start of the 40-yard marker, wave, and go back in line – not wanting to jeopardize an exceptional 4.38 Combine mark, and understandably so, due to heavy winds. In position drills he showed good manueverability and reaction time, dropping only one pass, the drop more than likely due to a lapse in concentration because of the elements.
"He's got the total package," said Kiffin, who spent most of the afternoon chatting with USF defensive coordinator Wally Burnham. "He's got great ball skills. You can see it." He's got the numbers to support Kiffin's claims – 133 tackles and 42 pass breakups in his career.
Draft analysts are touting this cornerback class as the deepest in years, projecting Jenkins to go anywhere from 16th to 30th pick in the first round. With the Bucs sitting at number 20, it's difficult to say whether they'd commit to drafting a defensive player for the second consecutive year, particularly with such a dire need for play-makers on offense. Still, Jenkins could fill a void at left corner if Brian Kelly, who is a free agent, does not return.
"I actually started off playing left corner, so I'm kind of comfortable with it, converting over to the other side," Jenkins said, flanked by dozens of reporters.
He said he met with the Bucs at the Combine in Indianapolis, and after talking with Kiffin today, the organization is arranging a visit. He also has a meeting with the Jets on March 29th. Adds Kiffin, "The shutdown corners are hard to find – Jenkins is one of those kind of guys. He's special."
Jenkins' special teams ability also increases his stock – his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Cincinnati this past season was a school record, with 192 return yards in that game alone. Says Kiffin, "I'm sure [special teams coach] Rch Bisaccia is excited about him too on special teams."
A Bay Area native, Jenkins turned down offers from Florida, Florida State, and LSU coming out of high school, opting instead to be closer to his mother who was hospitalized for diabetes on National Signing Day. Although the chances of him continuing a career all spent within the same 50-mile radius remain slim, there's hope in his voice and a twinkle in his eye at the notion of playing for Tampa Bay – the team he idolized growing up.
"I can give back to the community. A lot of people know me [in Tampa] so I'd be very comfortable [playing] here," said Jenkins.
The other USF corner, Trae Williams, participated in all events, as did middle linebacker Ben Moffit. Bradley spent most of the morning watching Moffit, but left early after Moffit went to the training room with what was reported to be a tweaked hamstring. That's a concern for him, although he did improve his results from the Combine. His broad jump went from a 9'9" at the Combine to a 10'4", his vertical – from 32.5 to 37.5.
Williams also improved his Combine results – shaving five-hundredths of a second off his 4.53 Indy time with a 4.48, and topping his 29-inch vertical with a 33. In the short time span since the Combine, his most notable improvement has been a faster start. He wasn't nearly as sharp as Jenkins in agility drills – he's slower to react, and like Jenkins he did have one ball drop.
Still, don't count the Plant City native out of the current cornerback mix, as USF had one of the most prolific secondaries at the collegiate level this year. Sure Jenkins' speed makes him a more attractive prospect, but Williams can hold his own – he had 13 interceptions the last two years, three returned for touchdowns in 2007 alone.
While Jenkins, Moffit, and Williams anxiously await their NFL debuts, former Buccaneer wide receiver Frank Murphy was on hand hoping to revive his career. Murphy's most notable accolade was a a pre-season kickoff return for a touchdown in 2002, the Buccaneers first game under Jon Gruden.
He's put on some weight since his playing days, but his unofficial 4.5 mark and beautiful stride were impressive for his size. It's not known whether the Bucs have shown interest or set up a visit with him.
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