Some will have concerns about Noah Spence’s character until he makes it to his second contract without an off-field incident. Until then, however, it seems only fair to take those who know the player best (former coaches) at their word.
From an on-field standpoint, it’s hard to find a negative opinion of Spence, who recorded eight sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss during his sophomore year at Ohio State. And as far as character endorsements go, the praise continues to reign in on the former Buckeye-turned-Colonel.
Last Wednesday Eastern Kentucky coach Dean Hood, via ProFootballTalk.com, said he had no problem reassuring NFL teams leading up to the draft that Spence’s checkered past was behind him. In fact, Hood believed that even before Spence’s 11.5-sack season at EKU in 2015 – one with zero failed drug tests – and that’s because Urban Meyer went out of his way to tout his former recruit.
“Urban stood on the table for the kid which he’s never done,” Hood told PFT. “Urban has never called me and said, ‘Here’s a kid that would do well with a second chance.’ Right away I knew Noah was a kid who needed that chance. From the moment he stepped on the field he was great. Our guys wanted to know if he would work and if he would be about the team and he was.”
Hood said he told scouts of Spence’s “outstanding” work ethic and “competitive rage” that’s uncontrollable but coachable. Teams need great pass rushers, Hood reminded, and he thinks Spence is well on his way – no concerns about commitment or maturity necessary.
“Because of his background, (front office people) had questions,” Hood said. “They were easy to answer.”
It’s no secret the Bucs’ brass agreed with Hood and Meyer’s assessment of the talented, yet somewhat disconcerting prospect. They selected him with the No. 39 overall pick and general manager Jason Licht told reporters at his post-pick press conference that they felt Spence was the most “pure” pass rusher in the 2016 draft.
Once Spence owned up to his mistakes, Licht said, the Bucs could see that he was sincere and ready to focus on football. Having Pro Bowl veterans to help guide him only made the decision to draft him easier.
“We feel like we have a very strong locker room, especially on defense with Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David some of those guys,” Licht said. “We thought (Spence) was immature at one point and he’s owned up to (his mistakes) and now he’s looking to move forward. He loves football.”
Throughout rookie minicamp, OTAs and mandatory minicamp, Spence has been as advertised. Coaches have praised his athleticism and flexibility in the system while teammates have been impressed by his quick progression. Between newcomers Spence and free agent signee Robert Ayers, and returning veterans Jacquies Smith and Will Gholston, the competition at defensive end will be one to keep an eye on at Bucs’ camp.