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All right, draftniks. You know that Pewter Report is the undisputed king of Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft coverage. We've listed players, such as quarterback Josh Freeman (2009), wide receiver Dexter Jackson (2008), offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah (2008), quarterback Josh Johnson (2008), defensive end Gaines Adams (2007), linebacker Quincy Black (2007), wide receiver Maurice Stovall (2006), quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (2006), middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (2005), cornerback Torrie Cox (2003) – among others, at their respective positions in the Bucs' Best Bets sections of Pewter Report's annual Bucs Draft Preview.
As the 2010 NFL Draft approaches, Pewter Report's resident draft experts, Scott Reynolds and Charlie Campbell, have spent countless hours watching over 12 college games per week and scouting which prospects would look good wearing red and pewter next year. With over 500 college games to review dating back over the last four years and countless scouting contacts throughout the NFL, Reynolds and Campbell are armed with the inside scoop needed to put together these scouting reports on players who might fit Tampa Bay's schemes on offense and defense.
The casual football fan already has a good deal of knowledge on likely first-round draft prospects, such as Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, USC safety Taylor Mays, and Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes. These regular Pewter Insider features on PewterReport.com will scout players that are candidates for the Buccaneers to select in next April's draft, including some lesser known prospects.
Will one of these players wind up being the next Ruud, Zuttah or Johnson? We'll all find out next April when Tampa Bay is on the clock. KENTUCKY LINEBACKER MICAH JOHNSON VITAL STATS: Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Micah Johnson measures 6-foot-2, 258-ponds. The Fort Campbell, Kentucky product is believed to run the 40-yard dash in the 4.8 range. CREDENTIALS Johnson has been the leader on the Wildcats defense for the past three seasons. As a true freshman, Johnson worked his way into the linebacker rotation before taking over the starting middle linebacker spot as a sophomore. Halfway through his senior season, Johnson has 232 career tackles, 21.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, and nine passes broken up. Johnson is a physical thumper on the inside that does a great job taking away an interior running game. The Wildcats standout runs well for his size at the college level. Johnson is known to be a hard worker and an emotional fire-starter on defense. Johnson missed a few games due to injury last season, but overall has been durable in college. WHY HE COULD BE A RED AND PEWTER PLAYER The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had trouble stopping the run dating back to the 2008 season. The December collapse by the Bucs was directly related to the team's inability to stop teams from running up the middle of their defense. Through six games in the 2009 season, Tampa Bay is surrendering 172 yards per game on the ground and ranks 31st in the NFL in run defense.
The Buccaneers have a quality middle linebacker in Barrett Ruud, but uncertainty surrounds the status of the Bucs fifth-year veteran. Ruud will most likely be a restricted free agent at the end of the season if there is not an extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and there has been speculation that Tampa Bay could trade the veteran for draft picks. Ruud wants a lucrative contract extension that the Buccaneers may not be willing to agree to, in part because the quiet and humble Ruud has disappointed the Bucs front office by not demonstrating fiery leadership. Not to mention a lot of Ruud's tackles are coming downfield well past the line of scrimmage. Ruud was drafted to be a Tampa 2 middle linebacker, and after a fairly quiet six games to start 2009 in terms of splash plays, some are wondering if Ruud is a good fit in the Bucs new system.
Johnson looks like he would be a good fit in defensive coordinator Jim Bates' 4-3 defense. He has great size in the middle of the defense. Johnson's power and bulk allow him to hold up against blocks from offensive linemen while shoving them aside to make tackles on the ballcarrier. As his career tackle total shows, Johnson is a tackling machine that would be an asset to shutdown an interior running attack.
The Buccaneers sure could use a thumper in the middle of the defense and Johnson is that type of player. He has excellent anticipation and instincts for reading his keys and making the tackle. In pass defense, Johnson has shown good instincts with breaking up passes. Johnson has improved his pass coverage greatly in college. Against Miami of Ohio Johnson did a great job of running with tight ends down the deep middle of the field. TOUGHEST TRANSITION IN TAMPA BAY Johnson will have to prove to scouts in the Senior Bowl, combine, and pre-draft workouts that he has the speed to run in the NFL on outside runs and in pass defense. He's a good athlete, just not an overly fast one like Bucs linebacker Geno Hayes.
RECORDS AND SUPERLATIVES After last season, Johnson was recognized as a first team All-SEC selection by the SEC coaches. He was a second team All-SEC linebacker by Phil Steele, and an All-SEC honorable mention by the Associated Press. He was an SEC All-Freshman Team pick by SEC coaches in 2006. Johnson was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week for this last Saturday's performance against Auburn. HIS BIGGEST GAMES 10/17/09 at Auburn 14 tackles, one tackle for a loss 11/29/08 at Tennessee 12 tackles, two tackles for a loss 11/1/08 vs. Mississippi State 9 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, one safety 10/18/08 vs. Arkansas 15 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, one pass defensed 9/27/07 vs. Florida Atlantic 1 INT returned 21 yards for a TD, 2.5 TFLs, 9 tackles, 1 PBU
DRAFT PROJECTION Johnson looks like a second to third round prospect at this time. With a larger than normal influx of juniors expected to enter this year's draft, Johnson could get pushed down into the middle rounds. Johnson has put production on tape for NFL teams. If he runs well after the season his stock could soar. Johnson's draft stock will largely depend on his 40-yard dash time.
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