BUCS’ COACHING STAFF NOT SET YET? PewterReport.com has learned that Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett recently signed a one-year deal with the team. However, there is some concern in Tampa Bay that the Dallas Cowboys may be interested in interviewing Hackett for their vacant head coaching position that was created by Bill Parcells’ abrupt retirement on Monday. The buzz at the Senior Bowl was that former Dallas offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who has also been the head coach in Washington and Oakland, may surface as a candidate for the Cowboys job. Dallas appears to be setting its sites on an offensive-minded head coach with a penchant for developing quarterbacks. Turner has that M.O., but so does Hackett
In other contract-related news, several Bucs assistant coaches, including Hackett, assistant defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Muir and assistant head coach/running backs coach Art Valero, are entering the final year of their contracts in 2007.
PewterReport.com previously reported that Valero was miffed that he wasn’t told that new defensive line coach Larry Coyer was also named assistant head coach. As of Monday morning, Valero didn’t know if he had been demoted or if Jon Gruden was going to have two assistant head coaches. PewterReport.com asked Gruden about this situation and he said that the Bucs would have an assistant head coach on defense – Coyer – and an assistant head coach on offense – Valero.
Former Bucs defensive line coach Jethro Franklin was hired by Houston in the same capacity. Former Tampa Bay defensive backs coach Greg Burns is still unemployed and was spotted at the Senior Bowl looking for work.
NEW COACHES MAKING A STRONG FIRST IMPRESSION Tampa Bay’s new assistant coaches made their debut Monday as the Bucs’ coaching staff took the field to head up the Senior Bowl’s North team at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.
The coach that stood out immediately was defensive backs coach Raheem Morris. You couldn’t help but notice Morris on the field as he was extremely active and vocal.
Morris is a high-energy, high-tempo coach, which is much like his mentor, former Bucs DBs coach and new Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.
It’s also just the opposite of Greg Burns, who was fired after serving just one season as Tampa Bay’s DBs coach. Burns looked lost at times during training camp last year, whereas Morris, although young, has a solid understanding for how the defense works.
Pewter Report actually overheard a few NFL scouts inquiring and talking about Morris and the energy and technique he coached with on Monday.
They say players often times take on the personality of their position coach, and that was the case last year with Burns, and will hopefully be the case this season with Morris.
Some validity has already been added to that notion as assistant defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake was noticeably more active in terms of coaching the players up on Monday. With Morris back in Tampa Bay and Lake taking off the handcuffs and taking on Morris’ personality, one can bet Tampa Bay’s secondary is already better than it was last season.
Bucs assistant head coach/defensive line coach Larry Coyer also appears to be an immediate upgrade over Jethro Franklin. Not only does Coyer have the credentials, he’s got the look to command respect from players.
Croyer looks like a seasoned veteran, and he might remind some of former Bucs assistant head coach/defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. Not just because of the limp that both men walk with, but also because of their coaching technique.
Croyer is very active and confident. He shows a good command for everything that is going on, and he’s not afraid to get down and dirty. In fact, one of the first drills Croyer ran his players through on Monday was a hard count drill, where the assistant coach got on his knees with the ball and attempted to draw the defensive linemen offsides.
New linebackers coach Gus Bradley shows a lot of Joe Barry-type coaching qualities. He’s very upbeat, and he’s in good enough shape to show players how to use the proper technique as opposed to just telling them how to do something the right way.
Bradley critiqued in private, but praised in public, or in this case, in front of all of the players and coaches. There were several instances on Monday where Bradley sprinted into the middle of the field to praise Michigan linebacker David Harris at the end of a play.
On the offensive side of the ball, Bucs tight ends coach Bob Casullo was rather quiet during the North’s team’s practice. That’s not to say he didn’t make a good first impression. To be honest, Casullo was the coach Pewter Report watched the least during Monday afternoon’s North team workout.
There is one note, however, that is worth mentioning regarding Casullo. Despite his experience coaching special teams in Oakland, Casullo will not be the team’s assistant special teams coach. Ron Middleton had the dual role of tight ends coach and assistant special teams coach, but only because he had previously worked with special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia at the University of Mississippi
PLAYING FAVORITES? Bucs head coach Jon Gruden spent a significant amount of time working with quarterbacks Tyler Palko (Pittsburgh), Drew Stanton (Michigan State) and Troy Smith (Ohio State) on Monday.
That really shouldn’t come as a surprise as Gruden has always prided himself on working closely with the quarterbacks, whether it is at One Buccaneer Place or the Senior Bowl.
However, Gruden made a point to make the rounds on the practice field, and there were two players that Pewter Report noticed him spending a significant amount of time with.
Notre Dame wide receiver Rhema McKnight and Rutgers running back Brian Leonard were players of interest to Gruden, who was seen working closely with both players throughout Monday afternoon’s workout.
The 6-foot-1, 212-pound McKnight is arguably the best wide receiver on the North squad’s roster, which could explain why Gruden paid so much attention to him.
Leonard (6-1, 238), who is projected to be as high as a second-round pick, is viewed by some as a possible successor to Bucs fullback Mike Alstott.
Speaking of Alstott, he is expected to start the decision-making process in terms of whether to retire or come back for another season in roughly a week. There has been no indication to suggest which way the “A-Train” is leaning.
ALL EYES ON THE NORTH SQUAD The majority of NFL scouts attended the South team’s practice at Fairhope Stadium on Monday afternoon.
However, that wasn’t the case with the Buccaneers. In fact, with the exception of three personnel men, all of Tampa Bay’s personnel people attended the North team’s practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Several members of the Bucs personnel department spent a significant amount of time scouting offensive linemen. One player that really stood out at the North team’s practice on Monday afternoon was Penn State left tackle Levi Brown, who used his 6-foot-5, 325-pound frame to hold off pass rushers and move the pile in the running game.
SOUTH PRACTICE NOTES NFL scouts were buzzing about Florida quarterback Chris Leak’s height – or apparent lack thereof. Leak measured in at just a hair under 6-feet tall, which sent his draft status plummeting. The fact that Leak displayed a weak arm during the South practice on Monday ensured that he would be a seventh-round pick at best, or perhaps a priority undrafted free agent.
Most of Tampa Bay’s scouts were attending the North practice on Monday afternoon, but the Bucs did have three representatives on hand watching the South practice, which is where Scott Reynolds and Hugh MacArthur were. The Bucs scouts spent most of the time watching the offensive and defensive linemen drills, especially “The Pit” where the linemen squared off against each other.
Central Michigan left tackle Joe Staley looked like a tight end that grew into an offensive lineman, which is exactly what happened. Staley showed great athleticism and knee bend for such a big tackle, but lacks the power to be consistently effective in the running game. Staley’s forteÂ´ is clearly pass protection and looked good doing it.
The same could be said for Arkansas left tackle Tony Ugoh. Ugoh flashed some great ability in pass protection drills, but also has a real raw quality about him. He has a good physique and is quite an athlete with a pair of quick feet. However, he must work on his lower body and has a set of skinny calves.
The best offensive lineman was clearly USC center Ryan Kalil, who goes about 6-foot-3, 291 pounds. Kalil stymied every defensive tackle he faced and proved to be a sound technician who maintained great leverage throughout his blocks. Kalil has strong hands and knows how to use them well. He doesn’t have the fastest feet, but he redirects well and keeps his balance. It appeared as if the Bucs were honing in on Kalil. If they weren’t, they should have been.
Auburn guard Ben Grubbs had a pretty solid day. Grubbs isn’t overly athletic, but gets a nice, wide base and has a strong upper and lower body. Once he latched onto a defensive lineman, it was pretty much over.
Tennessee’s Aaron Sears was moved from tackle to guard for the Senior Bowl and had a marginal practice. While he wasn’t poor, he didn’t do much to impress the scouts on hand, either.
The least impressive offensive linemen were Clemson center Dustin Fry and Georgia Tech right tackle Mansfield Grotto. Both players were overmatched physically. Grotto looks the part of an NFL lineman, but can’t play the part, and Fry didn’t look or play the part, appearing overweight and out of shape.
Florida defensive end Ray McDonald made a horrible impression by wearing two knee braces and an elbow brace on his right elbow that only reminded scouts of all of his injury-riddled college career. McDonald jumped offsides several times and was clearly overwhelmed by the Senior Bowl practice.
North Carolina State’s Tank Tyler was somewhat disappointing in that he was quick off the ball, but had trouble redirecting and would lose control of his body during pass rushes. Tyler is a strong, stout player, but something appears to be missing from his game and he doesn’t look like a first-round pick. The 49ers D-line coach told him, “Remember, fast feet and violent hands.”
LSU defensive end Chase Pittman looks like a big, try-hard guy, but doesn’t have the speed or athleticism to be a consistent playmaker at the NFL level. Coaches were imploring him to be quicker off the ball.
The biggest disappointment among the defensive linemen was Georgia’s Quentin Moses. Moses, who entered the 2006 college football season as the top defensive end, saw his draft stock fall with a sub-par senior year. It might have fallen even further after his first Senior Bowl practice in which he failed to beat some very average offensive linemen off the ball. Moses is small at 6-foot-5, 247 pounds and is more fast than quick. He has a hard time redirecting and can’t counter.
A couple of defensive linemen had impressive days. Mississippi State tackle Antonio Johnson has a thick build from his ankles to his neck, measuring 6-foot-3, 303 pounds. Johnson was disruptive in practice, as was Miami defensive tackle Kareem Brown, who is more of a power player than a speed rusher.
Texas safety Michael Griffin and Auburn cornerback David Irons drew raves from scouts at the South practice. Griffin had one of the hits of the day, popping Georgia tight end Martrez Milner and knocking him to the ground.
The other hit of the day came as Alabama fullback La’Ron McClain lowering a shoulder into the face of Florida State linebacker Buster Davis, who had his helmet knocked off. Davis, who weighed in close to 5-foot-9 and 244 pounds, appeared to be very short compared to the other players on the South squad.
Another Seminole, running back Lorenzo Booker, had a decent day running the football, but did lose a fumble in the rain.
While Davis was somewhat impressive, the best linebacker on the field was clearly Ole Miss’ Patrick Willis, followed by Oklahoma’s Rufus Alexander. Willis showed great leadership ability and quick, decisive playmaking ability. Alexander could fly around the field, too, but had trouble shedding blocks.
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