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1. LOGAN CONVERSATION
After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired head coach Jon Gruden and replaced him with Raheem Morris, the Bucs ownership and new management wanted the team to bring in a different and more effective offense. The Bucs hired Jeff Jagodzinski to do that for their new offense, and he brought running backs coach Steve Logan with him from Boston College. Logan had been Jagodzinski's offensive coordinator and play caller for their two seasons there.
After Jagodzinski was replaced by quarterbacks coach Greg Olson on the eve of the final preseason game, Logan lost his friend and the coach that brought him to Tampa Bay. Pewter Report caught up with Logan to get some answers on a variety of topics like: naming a starting running back, the running back rotation, who would be the goal line back, who would be the short-yardage back, and of course his status and feelings after the Jagodzinski firing. Here is a transcript of the conversation.
PR: You have a very unselfish group of running backs that know they will all play and get carries. Considering that, what went into choosing one to be starter and what is the significance of being the starting running back?
Logan: "There is no significance about being the starter, and we've all agreed on that. We talk about 16 games. We don't talk about a single game, so we have 16 games and it will take everybody in there to make it through. There will be guys who get an ankle [injury], and have to miss a week or something of that nature. In fact, I went around the room just yesterday and asked who in the last two years went through all 16 games without being down due to injury for one or two weeks. Everyone of them had been down, so I was emphasizing the point that whether you start, or are in the middle, or whether you finish it is going to take everybody in the room, and it has been a great room."
PR: "Coach Morris talked about rotating the backs in terms of series with a two series, two series, and one series rotation among three running backs. Is that still the plan moving forward or do you envision the backs getting their carries in a different manner."
Logan: "It is fluid. The two-two-one rotation is a way to start, but if you get a hot hand obviously you let that guy keep going. At the same time it is the coaches' responsibility to make sure there is a fresh running back on the field at all times. We feel that we have that luxury."
PR: Are you guys going into games splitting up the carries saying we want this guy to get 10 carries, this one to get 15, and so on?
Logan: "Not really. We monitor that during the game. Again, if somebody has a hot hand they are likely to stay in the game longer, but we'll monitor it during the game. Who is getting how many carries and touches and those kinds of things. That way at the end of the game we are sure to have done our duty as coaches to get all the talent on the field at the proper time."
PR: Do you have a short-yardage back picked out?
Logan: "Right now there is not much difference. You can give the ball to Carnell [Williams], you can give the ball to Derrick [Ward], or you can give the ball to Earnest [Graham]. The only guy that would be out of the mix there would be [Clifton Smith]. Certainly B.J. [Askew] could get the ball on third-and-1, so we have a real luxury with that in our room."
PR: Do you have a goal line back picked out?
Logan: "Same thing (as short-yardage). Same exact thinking."
PR: You have one true fullback in B.J. Askew, but Earnest Graham can play the position as well. In recent years here the team always carried two fullbacks. With one fullback it seems their role may be reduced. How do you see their role in the offense this year?
Logan: "Well, the fullback position is a little bit more fluid than it was here last year. With Earnest at fullback sometimes, and certainly with B.J. in there, both of them can catch the football and be the lead blocker. They do a nice job in protections. It is a real flexible group [and they will get used]."
PR: You and Coach Jagodzinski came here together from Boston College. Was it a shock when the change was made, and is it difficult to remain when he brought you here?
Logan: "When you've been in the football industry for 35 years like I have in college, pro, and high school you learn to deal with surprises, adjustments, you name it. By the time you think you've seen everything something else will happen, so just deal with it and go on. Everybody in the industry does."
PR: Has your role changed and have you had a change in your responsibilities with Coach Olson as offensive coordinator?
Logan: "Not really. It has been a very smooth transition. I'll just say that overall it has been very smooth. The [players] have been great. The coaching staff has been great, and we just move forward. We don't slow down. The train doesn't wait for anybody. I know that."
2. DRAFT NEEDS ENTERING 2009
As many subscribers know, last fall during college football season each week Quick Hits would look into some college prospects worth watching for draft purposes. Some weeks we focus in on one player, and other weeks we talk about specific games that will showcase a number of draft prospects. With college football under way, it is time to start looking at players that could help the Buccaneers a year from now.
Entering the 2009 season the Buccaneers have a few needs that stick out at this time. Defensive line, cornerback, and wide receiver may be the most pressing where new starters could be essential by next season. The team has depth issues with secondary needs at a few positions like: offensive line, linebacker, and safety. This week we'll look at a senior and junior wide receiver that could help Tampa Bay.
At wide receiver the Bucs could use a game-breaking deep-threat receiver. In his camp diary Buccaneer rookie defensive tackle Roy Miller has raved about his former college teammate Jordan Shipley. The speedy Shipley is a speedster in the same mold as the Vikings WR Bernard Berrian or the Eagles WR Kevin Curtis. Shipley recorded eight receptions for 180 yards and one touchdown against Louisiana-Monroe.
Typically, the top junior wide receivers enter the draft early, and this year there could be even more early-entries with a rookie wage scale being a topic of discussion in the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. With that in mind, one junior wide receiver in particular looks NFL ready.
Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant is a point producer with 27 touchdown catches only one game into his junior season. In the first game of the season against Georgia, Bryant caught three passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Bryant is a playmaker that has out-of-this-world body control to make impossible catches. His physical, gritty play and size make him very reminiscent of Bucs wide receiver Antonio Bryant.
The Buccaneers' Bryant will be a free agent after this season, and depending on how he performs the Bucs could franchise him again for a second straight season, sign him to a long-term contract, or let him leave in free agency.
Beyond Bryant, the Bucs' receiving corps could use an infusion of playmaking. They don't have a true deep threat receiver like Shipley, and if Bryant leaves after this season Dez Bryant would be a perfect replacement. Even if Antonio Bryant re-signs, the Buccaneers could consider spending a high draft pick on a receiver. Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin was a candidate for the Bucs first-round pick last April.
3. WHICH POSITION HAS BATES' ATTENTION
For some time now in practice, the Bucs have been splitting up the safeties and cornerbacks to get individual work on drills specific to their positions. When they do this, defensive backs coach Joe Baker works with the safeties, and defensive coordinator Jim Bates takes over with the cornerbacks.
When Bates came to Tampa Bay he said that his defense was cornerback driven, so it makes sense that he pays special attention with this unit. In just about every practice, Bates takes the cornerbacks on his own and works on tackling with them. The corners are working on fundamental form tackling. Bates is emphasizing exploding through the prospective ball carrier while wrapping up around the dummy. Bates also has the corners working on this while simulating the tackles in the open field.
The players seem to have taken a liking to Bates as well. Veteran Ronde Barber and Bates hung out before a practice together having a few laughs as Bates set up the tackling dummy and ground pad for his drills. The players are definitely responsive to the vocal Bates during the drills, and he has been handing out a lot of praise with how they are executing their tackling.
4. SOUL GLOW FREEMAN
On the weekend of the NFL Draft, Morris divulged that his nickname for quarterback Josh Freeman was ‘Tito' for his resemblance to Tito Jackson of the Jackson 5. In the time since being drafted by the Buccaneers, Freeman has continued to grow his hair out where he now has a full head of curly, long hair (as you can see in this photo from the Miami Dolphins preseason game).
Freeman's curl is not without some more jokes from his teammates and coaching staff. However, the evidence of the hairstyle that Freeman is sporting is not limited to comments.
On the back of Freeman's red and black Nike cleats he has the word ‘Soul' stitched into the left shoe and ‘Glow' on the right shoe. Soul Glow (written Glo in the movie) was a mock hair spray product for jheri curl hairstyles in the Eddie Murphy movie Coming To America. Not only does Freeman sport the curl, but he is a striking resemblance to the actor that was used in the fake commercial.
Pewter Report will find out from Freeman if he had the training staff stitch that into his cleats, or if some of the veterans on the team had it done to play a joke on him.