Dating back to the 1990s with the signing of Texas A&M-Kingsville wide receiver Karl “The Truth” Williams, who is the greatest return specialist in Tampa Bay history, the Bucs have found some undrafted aces over the years in the team’s rookie free agent class.
Ryan Nece was signed with Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent out of UCLA in 2002, and became a long-time starter at strongside linebacker in the Jon Gruden years in the 2000s. Current Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson was an undrafted free agent in 2009 after playing just one season of football at right tackle at Southern Miss.
The Bucs even found a Pro Bowler – return specialist Clifton Smith – as an undrafted free agent out of Fresno State in 2005. This year’s undrafted free agent class has some notable names and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a few of these players wind up on Tampa Bay’s 53-man roster in 2015.
PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds spoke with Bucs general manager Jason Licht and director of player personnel Jon Robinson to get the team’s analysis of the 12 new rookies, in addition to Brown long snapper Courtland Clavette.
“I’m much happier with the camp guys that we signed this year than last year,” Licht said.
Robinson, Licht’s right-hand man in the organization, agrees.
“That’s one of the things we’ve tried to do with our 90-man roster – improve from spots 65-90,” Robinson said. “If our 65-90 is better than last year’s 65-90 that’s going to make players 1-64 better. That will make our players 1-64 on the roster better from last year.”
In an exclusive interview with PewterReport.com, I asked Licht to give a brief scouting breakdown of the undrafted free agent signings.
Iowa MLB Quinton Alston – 6-1, 232
Alston was a one-year starter for the Hawkeyes. He recorded 118 tackles in his career with 94 coming as a senior, and he also broke up five passes and forced two fumbles.
“We’re going to try him at Mike,” Licht said. “He’s had some experience making the calls and the checks. He has the versatility to play outside, too. He was productive in his one year as a starter.”
Louisville RB Dominique Brown – 6-2, 241
Brown fell out of favor with head coach Bobby Petrino during his senior year, but rushed for 1,736 yards and 16 touchdowns on 399 carries in his career at Louisville, while also catching 47 passes for 411 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s a strong inside runner,” Licht said. “He pounds it in there. He’s a tough guy. He’s the type of guy that has a chance. We had an undrafted free agent a couple of years ago in BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He’s the same type of kid.”
Idaho DT Quayshawne Buckley – 6-3, 305
Buckley was very productive against the run and the pass at Idaho. He recorded 181 tackles with 41.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks and a forced fumble in his Vandals career.
“He’s a pass rusher,” Licht said. “I really like him a lot. He’s a really good football player. Our scouts are really excited about him.”
Towson DE Ryan Delaire – 6-4, 254
The 6-foot-4, 254-pound Delaire recorded 151 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 25 sacks and six forced fumbles over the past three years. He is coming off back-to-back seasons of 11.5 and 11 sacks.
“He doesn’t quite have the speed Jacquies Smith has, but he does know how to rush the passer,” Licht said. “He does play a little faster than he times. He can bend. He knows how to use his hands and he’s been productive. Some guys are just going off pure athleticism, but some guys actually do have instincts and know how to rush. He knows how to rush. He has strong hands and a good punch. He’s athletic and he can maybe play teams, too. He’s at least a practice squad guy. He’s got potential.”
Texas A&M CB Deshazor Everett – 6-0, 193
Everett played both safety and cornerback at Texas A&M. The hard-hitting DB posted 218 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, five interceptions and scored four defensive touchdowns for the Aggies.
“We’ll know a little bit more after the mini-camp, but he’ll get a shot at both inside and outside,” Licht said. “He’s tough. He’s probably more of an inside player, but he’ll get a shot outside. He’s a tough player. He’s instinctive. We have a lot of nickels, so he’ll get an outside look, too.”
TCU FS Chris Hackett – 6-0, 195
As a three-year starter, Hackett posted 224 tackles, 18 pass breakups, 12 interceptions, including seven as a senior, 9.5 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and two sacks. He’s a hard hitter and has a knack for creating takeaways but lacks ideal speed (4.68).
“He’s a real productive guy,” Licht said. “He reminds me of Tony Jefferson, who we signed [in Arizona] as an undrafted free agent. He fell because of his 40-time and he became a very good role player in Arizona.”
UCF WR Rannell Hall – 6-1, 200
Hall played wide receiver for the Golden Knights in addition to fielding kicks and getting some occasional carries. He caught 145 passes for 2,051 yards and nine touchdowns, including 57 receptions for 886 yards and five scores as a junior.
“Rennal Hall is strong and has very good hands,” Licht said. “He was better in his junior year in terms of production. He was a team captain and has football character is really good. I was really happy we got him. We drafted two receivers so it could have been easy for him to go somewhere else. We were in some competition for him. He had some really good plays in the Senior Bowl as a late add.”
Boston College OLB Josh Keyes – 6-2, 223
Keyes had 124 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles as a two-year starter at Boston College. Keyes uses his quickness to make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
“Keyes was a former safety that moved to linebacker,” Licht said. “He’s got great feet. He has good speed – not great – but great feet. He has some natural instincts to slip blocks.”
Tusculum DT Caushaud Lyons – 6-5, 285
Lyons played defensive end and defensive tackle at Tusculum and is a very good athlete, but raw. He had 89 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and nine sacks last year, finishing his career with 13 sacks.
“I was happy to get him,” Licht said. “He can play some nose and he can play some three-technique. It will be interesting with him and Buckley. We like Spence, but it’s going to be interesting.”
UCF WR Josh Reese – 6-0, 180
Reese has seen action on the field in each of his four seasons, catching 101 passes for 1,387 yards with nine touchdowns. His best season was last year when he caught 39 passes for 552 yards and six scores.
“He’s built smaller than his teammate, Hall, is, but he caught some passes from Blake Bortles over the years. It’s great to get both UCF receivers despite the receivers we added in the draft.”
Kansas OLB Michael Reynolds – 6-1, 240
Reynolds was a rush end-rush linebacker at KU where he recorded 97 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks, seven pass breakups and seven forced fumbles. Reynolds has long arms and that allowed him to notch seven sacks and force five fumbles as a senior.
“He started the last two years and he had some production behind the line of scrimmage that was interesting,” Licht said. “I’m going to play him at outside linebacker at Sam.”
Jones County Junior College DE Jamal Young – 6-4, 240
Jones was a sprinter at Southern Miss before playing football at Jones County Junior College for former Bucs head coach Ray Perkins. He got noticed at the Southern Miss pro day and the Bucs beat the Patriots to the punch when it came to signing Young.
“He’s a traits guy. Lovie loves traits guys – size and speed. He may be raw, but this is the time where you take a shot. He jumped out of the gym. He had a 36-inch vertical, a 10-foot, 6-inch broad jump. He ran a 4.67 in the 40-yard dash. He really only played one more year of football and that was at JUCO, but he was explosive.”
“We lost out on a couple of guys we were trying to get, but that’s the nature of undrafted free agency,” Robinson said. “I took a step back and looked at our rookie free agent class I think we did pretty good.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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