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There were very few Bucs official present at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Tuesday morning to watch the Oakland-coached North squad. The North has some very fast, shifty wide receivers in Oklahoma’s Mark Clayton, UCLA’s Craig Bragg and Indiana’s Coutney Roby. While Clayton and Bragg stood out the most with terrific cuts and smooth acceleration, Purdue’s Taylor Stubblefield really impressed.
At just 5-foot-11, 172 pounds, Stubblefield resembles a more talented Karl Williams. He has tremendous hands and body control and a wide variety of moves that help him get open. He is always open and gets plenty of separation due to his quickness rather than his speed, which is just above average. Stubblefield is a player who doesn’t wow you physically. He just produces. While you are looking for holes in his game he just goes out and makes more catches.
Pewter Report had the chance to speak with Clayton, who figures to be a first- or second-round pick, after practice and he said that the Bucs have already interviewed him and that he had a terrific meeting with them.
“It went good, I really enjoyed it,” Clayton said. “They said it would be cool to have a Clayton-Clayton combination.”
Northern Colorado wide receiver Vincent Jackson is an amazing physical specimen who is muscular and cut. He has teams drooling after him at this year’s Senior Bowl. Even at 6-foot-5, 223 pounds he has amazing speed and showed some good moves to get open. He did drop an easy touchdown pass on a bomb that made scouts groan.
Ohio State kicker Mike Nugent made all of his field goal attempts and got great distance on his kickoff returns.
Stanford tight end Alex Smith and Missouri defensive tackle Aatiyah Ellison also had standout practices for the North.
All of the North’s running backs caught the ball well, especially Kansas State’s Darren Sproles, Northwestern’s Noah Herron and California’s J.J. Arrington. Sproles and Arrington impressed with their cutting ability and quick burst. It’s amazing to see how small Sproles is. I interviewed him after practice and he is a shade under 5-foot-6, but he is well put together at 185 pounds. Still, his lack of height will likely push him to the second day of the draft because there is no track record for a guy that size being productive at the next level in the NFL.
Don’t be surprised if Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden and his coaching staff, which is heading up the South team at Senior Bowl, soundly defeats the North team on Saturday afternoon.
That’s the impression Pewter Report and several pro scouts and coaches came away with after observing both teams’ practices Tuesday.
The North team, which is being coached by the Oakland Raiders, had a very sloppy practice on Tuesday morning. It featured too many dropped passes and botched quarterback/center exchanges. The North’s offensive line wasn’t very impressive, either, allowing its quarterbacks to get heavily pressured on nearly every passing play. The only players Pewter Report came away impressed with after the North’s workout were Kansas State RB Darren Sproles, Purdue WR Taylor Stubblefield and Oklahoma WR Mark Clayton, who catch every ball thrown his way and has the speed that would make him a nice compliment to Bucs WR Michael Clayton.
It seemed as though more pro scouts were more interested in observing the South team’s practice, which was held on Tuesday afternoon at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
The South’s practice was definitely more livelier. Perhaps that was because Gruden was a bit more animated and vocal than he was on Monday. The play of the South team was much better all around than the North squad.
For the second straight practice, Gruden spent the entire warm-ups with the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.
All eyes were on Arkansas’ Matt Jones, who is trying to make the transition from quarterback to wide receiver/tight end. The 6-foot-6, 237-pound Jones isn’t a blazer, but he covers ground quickly and is much faster than Bucs TE Nate Lawrie. Jones displayed soft hands and tremendous concentration and toughness on pass he caught while running a slant. Although Jones got lit up on the play by Florida State cornerback Bryant McFadden, he managed to hold onto the football for a 10-yard gain.
Speaking of getting lit up, Texas fullback Will Matthews did just that to South squad linebacker Cornelius Wortham after hauling in a pass near the flat. But that wasn’t the most impressive hit of the practice.
West Virginia RB K.J. Harris completely ran over Virginia Tech defensive back Keith Fuller during 11-on-11 drills. That hit got a huge reaction out of nearly every person on hand.
Florida State WR Craphonso Thorpe was a pleasant surprise Tuesday and probably had the best outing of any of the South’s receivers, including Georgia’s Reggie Brown, who dropped two passes during practice. Thorpe (6-1, 189) isn’t the biggest receiver, but he showed soft hands and good route running on a consistent basis during Tuesday’s practice.
Although Craphonso impressed Tuesday, Bucs wide receivers coach Richard Mann spent a notable amount of time talking with UAB WR Roddy White for the second consecutive day. White had a so-so practice on Monday and seemed to be a bit sharper during Tuesday’s workout.
Newly hired senior assistant Aaron Kromer was quite impressive in terms of the way he worked with the offensive line. Remember — Kromer is working in place of Bucs offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Muir, who is tending to some health issues.
Kromer has much more of a hands-on approach with the offensive linemen. He worked with some of the linemen by actually bending over and moving their foot over to get the proper base and things of that nature.
One player — Fresno State offensive lineman Logan Mankins — definitely caught Kromer’s eye Tuesday. In fact, he probably caught everyone’s. Mankins, who is making the transition from left tackle to left guard, pancaked Virginia Tech’s Jim Davis, who has been disappointing over the past two days. While Mankins struggles a bit pulling, he’s been working on that and hopes to get better.
Alabama’s Wesley Britt had his highs and lows Tuesday and wasn’t as consistent as he was on Monday.
Not all of the impressive action came courtesy of the South’s offensive squad. The Monte Kiffin-led defense had a few standouts of its own.
Auburn safety Junior Rosegreen had an outstanding practice Tuesday. He broke up a few passes and had a couple of nice hits. Rosegreen drew a lot of praise from the Bucs coaching staff and clearly had the most dominant day of any player on the field for the South’s practice.
While it wasn’t as impressive as Rosegreen’s, USC nose tackle Mike Patterson’s performance certainly rivaled it. Patterson was simply unblockable on Tuesday and played both the one and three technique positions. In fact, Patterson disclosed to Pewter Report after Tuesday’s practice that he came to USC as a three-technique. He’s also been getting great feedback from Kiffin and the Bucs coaches this week, which is definitely something to remember come draft time since the Bucs are in need of a defensive tackle.
Alabama NT Anthony Bryant regressed today from yesterday’s outstanding performance. He didn’t show the quickness he showed on Monday and wore down as practice went on. He was literally flattened on a double-team block by Miami guard Chris Myers and North Carolina center Jason Brown.
This story is intended to be read by PewterInsider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers. Be sure to read the latest issue of Pewter Report on-line in PDF format on PewterReport.com. Buccaneers merchandise in the world.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys 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 protected]
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