There’s a lot of practice sessions and a full slate of preseason games to go, but wide receiver Adam Humphries will get the first shot at locking up punt return duties Thursday in Jacksonville.
It’s the second starting job Humphries has the inside track on locking up. Earlier this week, head coach Dirk Koetter said the second-year pro out of Clemson is the leading candidate to be the team’s third receiver, behind Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans.
That was as far as Koetter would go, though, in terms of offering identities of players expected to run back punts and kicks.
“I would think Adam Humphries on punt returns and I’ll have to get back to you on kickoff returns,” the first-year head coach said Friday afternoon. “I’m not trying to fake you out, I just don’t really know.”
The Bucs enter this season without an incumbent return man after letting running back Bobby Rainey go after the season. The only other Buccaneer to return a kick or a punt last year was receiver Donteea Dye, who brought back two kickoffs and averaged 18.5 yards.
Humphries has collegiate experience as a punt returner, though the results weren’t spectacular. He handled the bulk of those duties for the Tigers his final three years in Clemson, averaging 6.9 yards on 69 total attempts. He did bring one to the house his senior year and averaged 10.6 yards on 20 attempts as a junior.
Since training camp got underway last Thursday the Buccaneers have sent a large number of players back deep to take turns either receiving punts fired out of a JUGS machine or participating in return-team blocking drills. Along with Humphries and Dye, those players include receivers Kenny Bell, Jonathan Krause and Bernard Reedy, and running backs Mike James, Charles Sims and Peyton Barber, and defensive back Ryan Smith.