With temperatures in the low 80’s under sunny skies, head coach Lovie Smith and the Tampa Bay rookies hit the practice field at One Buc Place for the second day of rookie mini-camp.
Practice started just like it did Friday, leading off with the team splitting up into position groups to work on technique. The message of the day from wide receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker to his group was clear.
“Don’t be soft,” said Hayes-Stoker to his receivers. “Be physical. We want to be known for that.”
Wyoming sixth-round pick Robert Herron spent a lot of time learning release technique with Hayes-Stoker. Because he’s a small receiver (5-9, 193), the speedy receiver will have to learn how to beat press coverage in order to be effective.
The receivers were later joined by Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith, who looked much better on Saturday. First-round pick Mike Evans’ ability to move his feet quickly is truly extraordinary for a 6-foot-5, 231 pound receiver. He can stop on a dime when running hitch routes and gets in and out of his cuts very quickly.
Next on the agenda was a one-on-one session between wide receivers, running backs, defensive backs and linebackers.
Third-round pick running back Charles Sims roasted Rutgers linebacker Damaso Munoz on a corner route, leaving him in the dust as he hauled in the Brett Smith throw. Sims has great burst out of his cuts and displays great explosion when he plants his foot in the ground and moves up-field.
Mike Evans hauled in an under-thrown jump ball deep down the left sideline. The Texas A&M stud out-muscled Virginia-Lynchburg cornerback Keith Lewis to bring in the 30-yard pass for a catch.
Undrafted free agent quarterback Brett Smith struggled to complete deep passes in the one-on-one session. He missed a wide open throw to speedy California running back Brendan Bigelow on an angle route out of the backfield. Smith settled in towards the end of the session, completing a beautifully thrown back-shoulder pass to Boise State wide receiver Aaron Burks. Offensive coordinator praised both Smith and Burks after the play.
Oklahoma State running back Jeremy Smith looked good during the individual drills and one-on-one sessions. During a blocking drill, Smith delivered a very strong punch into the sled, noticeably stronger than the other backs in the group. He got great separation from linebackers during one-on-ones and made some good catches in traffic. Unfortunately, a stacked running back roster severely diminishes his chances of earning a contract.
Tryout tight end Taylor Sloat from UC-Davis made a tremendous one-handed diving catch on the right sideline near the end of the one-on-one session. His great catch obviously won’t make as much noise as the tremendous catch Mike Evans made on Friday, but it was one of the best plays at Saturday’s practice. Sloat delivers a strong punch as a blocker and has shown decent hands, but he has struggled to get separation and at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, he doesn’t offer great size.
Special teams sessions usually don’t garner a lot of attention at rookie mini-camps, but punter Jacob Schum caught PewterReport.com’s eye on Saturday. He crushed the ball on almost all of his attempt, with some punts traveling 60 to 70 yards in the air. Schum was easily the most impressive specialist on Saturday. After the special teams session, the Buccaneers transitioned into a walk-through installation before beginning 7-on-7 drills.
Quarterback Brett Smith looked terrific in the 7-on-7 drill, which was the final session of the day. He completed 18 of his 22 attempted passes for the session, and two of the passes were catchable balls that were dropped. Robert Herron, who was running an out route, couldn’t hang on to a very catchable pass, ending Smith’s streak of 8 consecutive completions during the session.
Later on, Smith threw a gorgeous deep pass to running back Charles Sims, who was running a wheel route. The ball dropped right over Sims’ shoulder and was perfectly in stride. He later threw another great wheel route to Oklahoma State running back Jeremy Smith.
The Wyoming quarterback attempted a daring throw intended for wide receiver Aaron Burks in between converging safeties. The pass was bobbled by the diving receiver and the safeties swatted the ball down before Burks had a second chance. In a game situation, Burks would have been on the receiving end of a huge hit. Thankfully the safeties were able to pull up before crashing into the Boise State receiver.
Second-round pick tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins practiced on a limited basis again on Saturday. He is still recovering from a foot injury. Sunday’s final rookie mini-camp practice was cancelled by head coach Lovie Smith.
Smith spoke to the media in attendance when practice was over and gave his assessment of how the day looked.
“Day two, you want to see some improvement from the guys,” Smith said. “As a player you never know what to expect. You know they’re going to have a lot of soreness and things like that. The guys are not really used to the pace that we’re going at – even though the guys have been here in practice all week, they’ve gone about five straight days, which is quite a bit. We are seeing some separation, which you should see.
“[Running back] Charles Sims is an excellent football player, has excellent hands, which he’s been able to show to us. Our punt returner is an area of concern a little bit for us, so it was good to see some of the guys, whether they could do it or not. We’ve gotten some good work done. We at least know a little bit more about our rookies right now. They have a long ways to go. Next week we start our OTA’s – our version of the spring ball starts up Tuesday, so we want them ready to go then, not too sore, so we’ll just go through walk-throughs tomorrow and get ready for Monday.”
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