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Here are some things that caught my interest this week:
FAB 1. There used to be a day when the Buccaneers were littered with SEC and ACC players as former Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles and Miami Hurricanes filled Tampa Bay’s roster. Now, the Big 12 boasts just as many current Bucs as the ACC, which is 14. After the Big 12 and the ACC, the SEC ranks second with only 11.
Today, there are as many players from Kansas State (QB Josh Freeman and TE Jeron Mastrud) as there are from Florida State (LBs Geno Hayes and Dekoda Watson), and as many Buccaneers from Kansas (CB Aqib Talib) as there are from Florida (FB Earnest Graham) and Miami (TE Kellen Winslow). Of course, that may not be a good thing. My how the Buccaneers have changed.
More current Tampa Bay players have come from soon-to-be former-Big 12 powerhouse Nebraska, which has produced four Buccaneers – MLB Barrett Ruud, WRs Terrence Nunn and Chris Brooks, and SS Matt O’Hanlon – than any other school.
Interestingly enough, a single Big 12 game has produced more current Buccaneers than perhaps any other game over the last decade. When factoring in the coaching staff, the Kansas State vs. Texas game from 2006 has more Tampa Bay connections than perhaps any other contest in the Buccaneers history.
In 2006, Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris had traveled to my alma mater, Kansas State, to become the team’s defensive coordinator. While there he would befriend the Wildcats recruiting coordinator, Jay Kaiser, who is now Morris’ personal assistant in Tampa Bay. Including Morris and Kaiser, a total of eight members of the 2010 Buccaneers participated in an epic, nationally televised contest on ABC that would see No. 4-ranked Texas fall at K-State, 45-42 as Freeman, a true freshman QB, burst on to the national scene for the first time.
Armed with a roster that would feature 14 current NFL players, undefeated Texas had a clear talent advantage over K-State, which has only six players from that team currently in the NFL.
MEMBERS OF THE 2006 LONGHORNS THAT ARE CURRENTLY IN THE NFL
QB Colt McCoy (Browns)
QB Jevan Snead (Buccaneers)
RB Jamaal Charles (Chiefs)
WR Limas Sweed (Steelers)
WR Quan Cosby (Bengals)
TE Jermichael Finley (Packers)
DT Roy Miller (Buccaneers)
DT Frank Okam (Texans)
DE Brian Orakpo (Redskins)
DE Brian Robison (Vikings)
DE Tim Crowder (Buccaneers)
SS Michael Griffin (Titans)
CB Aaron Ross (Giants)
K Hunter Lawrence (Buccaneers)
MEMBERS OF THE 2006 WILDCATS THAT ARE CURRENTLY IN THE NFL
QB Josh Freeman (Buccaneers)
WR Jordy Nelson (Packers)
TE Jeron Mastrud (Buccaneers)
ILB Zach Diles (Texans)
DE Rob Jackson (Redskins
CB Josh Moore (Bears)
This contest would prove to be the greatest collegiate performance by Freeman and Morris during their time at K-State. So in this dead time before Bucs training camp, let me indulge you in their recollections of a pivotal game that would play a role in Freeman, Miller, Crowder, Mastrud, Snead and Lawrence all ending up in Tampa Bay.
The game started off 7-0 with Texas in the lead on its first possession. However, freshman star quarterback Colt McCoy was knocked out of the game and replaced with another freshman signal caller in Snead, who played for the Longhorns before transferring to Ole Miss in 2007.
“We knocked Colt McCoy out of the game on the first drive and then this Jevan Snead guy comes in … and I wanted Colt back!” Morris said. “We were fortunate that while Texas went right down the field on the first drive we knocked Colt out on the goal line. Our star linebacker, Brandon Archer, hit him on the goal line on fourth down. [The refs] said they scored. I still say that’s debatable to this day. That was a great goal line stand by us and we were robbed on fourth down.
“Then Snead comes in and starts throwing dimes and I’m like, ‘Who is this guy … and can I have the starter back?!’ Snead was really driving the ball down the field on us and what won that game was the fact that we had three or four turnovers on defense and we had some big sacks. That’s what we’re preaching now here in Tampa. Score or get the ball back. Texas was good. They were getting yards on us.”
Although Texas had a game-high 384 total yards, it took them 80 plays to amass that total. K-State rolled up 346 yards against Texas’ stout defense in 59 plays, with Freeman leading the way with 19-of-31 passing for 269 yards and a career-high three touchdowns and one interception. The Wildcats only produced 54 yards on the ground on 23 carries (2.3 avg.) as head coach Ron Prince put the game on the shoulders of Freeman, who was a true freshman in only his fourth collegiate start.
“I remember coming out and it was one of those deals where we came off a big win against Colorado and we were feeling hot and feeling good,” Freeman said. “Texas was undefeated and they were gunning for the national championship. We had just become bowl eligible for the first time in three years. We were loose and feeling good. I went into that game really knowing Texas and knowing their defensive backs. We had Jordy Nelson, Yamon Figurs and Jeron Mastrud. I’ll go to war with my guys anytime.”
Figurs, who was originally drafted by Baltimore in the third round in 2007 and spent a few weeks on Tampa Bay’s roster last year, burned Ross and Griffin all night, catching six passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns and helped K-State build a 21-14 lead at halftime.
The 6-foot-6, 255-pound Mastrud, who was an undrafted free agent signing in May, hauled in two catches for 37 yards, including a 20-yarder down to the Texas 1 in the third quarter to set up a 1-yard scoring run from Freeman. That touchdown put Kansas State up 42-21 with one minute left in the third quarter.
“I remember it being one of my better games as a player in terms of getting to the quarterback, but it just wasn’t good enough,” said Miller, who had six tackles and a couple of quarterback pressures. “Freeman was on fire that game and their offense was clicking. He made some throws in that game that showed you why he was a first-round pick. He had some receivers that made some great catches. Snead came in the game for us and played well, too. I’m just excited to be on the same team as those guys now.”
While K-State was celebrating a 21-point lead near the end of the third quarter, misfortune struck the Wildcats at the end of the third quarter.
“Josh actually got banged up a little bit in that game – maybe from a hit from Miller or Crowder,” Morris said. “My head coach, Ron Prince, clicked over on the headset and said, ‘Josh is hurt. Let it bleed slowly on defense.’ So we switched over to Tampa 2 to slow down Texas’ passing game. “
Freeman, who is known for his cool, even-keeled demeanor, admits he lost his temper when he got hurt.
“I got knicked up in the game,” Freeman said. “I hit my thumb on a helmet. I think it Roy Miller’s on one of his pressures. Then I got my hand stepped on a few plays later and it was hurting pretty bad. Of course it had to be my throwing hand. On top of that, I was really nervous and it was a cold game. I took the weather for granted and actually cramped up in the game because somehow I got dehydrated. So I have a black and blue hand and I’m cramping up.
“We had possession coming up and I missed some plays because I had to go in and get an I.V. The trainer couldn’t find a vein and I was screaming, ‘Get me back out there! I’ve got to go!’ The trainers were kind of nonchalant in the locker room, but I was pretty amped up. Our backup, Dylan Meier – may he rest in peace (editor’s note: Meier, who is the older brother of Atlanta Falcons rookie WR Kerry Meier, died at the age of 26 a week before the 2010 draft when he fell off a cliff while hiking in Arkansas with his family) – stepped in and he did a good job sustaining a drive. Then I got in there for the fourth quarter and we held on.”
When Freeman returned to the field, Texas had cut K-State’s lead to 42-28. Snead, who completed 13-of-30 passes for 190 yards, threw a touchdown pass to Sweed to pull the Longhorns within a touchdown.
“I was telling our defense not to sleep on this guy,” Freeman said. “I went to an Elite 11 QB camp with Jevan and he was on my team in the Army All-American game. I knew he was a player. He came and threw the ball on Raheem’s defense pretty well. Fortunately for us, our defense was able to make just enough plays and hold him off.”
Morris was dialing up blitzes and getting enough pressure on Snead to keep Texas at bay. The Wildcats defense recorded five sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered both of them to help stymie Texas’ comeback efforts.
“Raheem called a great game,” Freeman said. “We were getting a ton of pressure on Snead.”
The contest at Kansas State was Snead’s last meaningful game at Texas before transferring to Ole Miss.
“I got my first extended playing time in that game after Colt got hurt,” Snead said. “Obviously, I wasn’t expecting to go in, but I did my best once I got in there. It was a tough game. K-State played us great and got the best of us at the end. We had a good cast of offensive weapons with Limas Sweed, Jamal Charles and Colt McCoy. Coach Morris and I haven’t talked about that game too much since I’ve been in Tampa. He said something to me when I first got here at the rookie mini-camp. He mentioned something in passing. I feel like I played pretty well against him, but it obviously wasn’t enough to win the game.”
Texas had pulled within three points with 1:43 left in regulation, but Freeman’s last-second heroics saved the day for K-State.
“They cut it down to a one-score lead and then Jeff Snodgrass hit a 51-yarder and it put us up 10 with a couple of minutes left,” Freeman said. “Texas wasn’t quitting though, and Jevan had gotten hot. We recovered Hunter Lawrence’s onside kick and had a three-point lead and it was third down. If we got a first down it was over. We thought about running it to help the clock, but Coach Prince said, ‘No, let’s put it in the hands of our playmakers.’ Coach Prince looked and me and said, ‘This ball goes to Jordy! I don’t want it going anywhere else! If he’s not open take a sack and let some time run out.’
“It was a heck of a catch by Jordy. I threw it a little away from him and he stuck his hand out and got it. Then he shook a guy and dove for the first down. I got goose bumps after that. It was a great game – probably my best college game. I was letting the ball go just in time before Miller and Crowder got to me, and Texas didn’t have an answer for Yamon Figurs that night.”
As K-State won, students and alumni stormed the field to celebrate the upset win as Morris breathed a sigh of relief that his underdog defense did just enough to hang on for the victory.
“We had our offense going that night with Josh and Jeron Mastrud and Yamon Figurs, who was on our roster in Tampa for a while last year,” Morris said. “Roy Miller and Tim Crowder were going hard on defense along with Michael Griffin at safety and the cornerback who is now with the Giants – Aaron Ross. There were a bunch of people playing in that game that are in the NFL now, including me. The DVD of that game is on my shelf at home.”
Morris used his experience from his one season at Kansas State to personally scout the talent that would eventually lead to Tampa Bay drafting Freeman and Miller last year, signing Crowder off the waiver wire in 2009, and picking up Mastrud, Snead and Lawrence as undrafted free agents this year.
“I remember what Jevan Snead did in that game against us, and whenever you have guys go undrafted, you pour over all the information you have,” Morris said. “Having been at Kansas State just one year gave me a lot of input into Big 12 players like Mastrud, Miller and guys like Snead, who later went to Ole Miss. I remember going to strong safety Larry Asante’s home on a recruiting trip and getting to know him and his family. We lost him to Nebraska, but that stuff is helpful when it comes draft time.”
I went over all of the Buccaneers’ connections from the 2006 K-State vs. Texas game with Miller, and he was shocked to see how many there were.
“It’s weird that a lot of people from that game ended up in Tampa,” Miller said. “I know a lot of guys on this team that I played against in college. It’s crazy to end up in the same place as the guy you were trying to sack a few years ago.”
Snead, who got to reunite with Miller, Crowder and Lawrence in Tampa Bay when he signed with the Bucs after the draft, is grateful for the chance to play with Freeman again, too.
“There were a lot of Buccaneers in that Texas – K-State game,” Snead said. “It is kind of crazy when you think about it after looking back at that game. Josh and I have talked about playing against him while I was at Texas. He’s a great guy. Even before I competed against him in the K-State-Texas game, I competed against him at the Elite 11 camp out in California. I got the chance to hang out with him there. We both played on the same team at the Army All-American Game, so we’ve had the chance to know each other over the years. It’s pretty cool being here with him.”
But Snead and Miller have to put up with some occasional trash talk from Freeman, who reminisces fondly over that epic night against Texas on November 11, 2006.
“It’s kind of weird that there are so many Tampa connections from a K-State – Texas game,” Freeman said. “I like to talk a little trash against Roy and Jevan every once in a while. I’ll say, ‘What was our record against Texas again? Oh, that’s right. It was 2-0.’ It’s all fun and games, though. Those guys are good friends of mine. It’s just really cool to have such a Big 12 connection down here in Tampa.”
FAB 2. The buzz is building around second-year signal caller Josh Freeman, whom the Tampa Bay organization is counting on to become a franchise quarterback. Much has been made of Freeman’s size, arm strength and budding leadership qualities this offseason, but now it’s time to talk some more X’s and O’s – just like we did when Pewter Report detailed Freeman learning to identify the Mike linebacker and make the line protection calls in a previous SR’s Fab 5.
So I went to Alex Van Pelt, Tampa Bay’s new quarterbacks coach to find out what is really going on with Freeman’s game. We spoke about how the 10 fumbles from a year ago (only two of which resulted in turnovers) have to be eliminated with better ball-handling skills in the pocket. That’s something that Freeman has worked on in drills since Van Pelt arrived in February.
Freeman’s accuracy also needs to improve from a year ago when he completed just 54.5 percent of his passes. Van Pelt acknowledged he had made decent strides in this area too, in addition to limiting his interceptions in practice due to a better understanding of the offense and the routes. To get a better understanding of his development, I asked Van Pelt which routes were Freeman’s best throws and which ones were still a work in progress.
“He’s got a big repertoire of throws he can make,” Van Pelt said. “He can make most of the throws. He can throw the hook route. He can throw the seam posts – any of those throws where he can really drive the ball are his strengths right now. The slants and the quick game – I think we are getting better with our accuracy in the quick game. That all goes in with knowing the system inside and out so you are not thinking. You are just reacting. That comes with the right footwork that goes with a certain route concept. It becomes more second nature.”
Freeman has spent an enormous amount of time throwing the ball to each of his receivers either in organized team activities or in non-scheduled practice work at One Buc Place where he will personally call his wideouts and have them meet him at the team facility for some extra work on what are supposed to be days off.
Just last week before his own high school football camp, Freeman was throwing passes to wide receiver Mario Urrutia, who missed the entire OTA program due to turf toe. Freeman has very little experience throwing to Urrutia, a backup receiver who was on the practice squad last year, and wanted to develop some chemistry with him before training camp.
When Freeman gets to camp, Van Pelt will have him continue to practice some of the throws he has yet to master.
“He needs work on his digs and the deep end cuts – those rhythm throws where you have to drop it in over a defender or drive it threw a tight window,” Van Pelt said. “Those are two different types of throws. He can throw those, but he still needs some work on them.”
Van Pelt is just as eager as Freeman is to get to the preseason to see how his improved pupil performs in game situations. Van Pelt agrees with the philosophy of head coach Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Greg Olson to play Freeman extensively in the preseason in order to best prepare him for the regular season.
Typically, veteran starting quarterbacks don’t play much in the preseason for fear of injury. But the Bucs anticipate Freeman playing the equivalent of at least two whole games when you add up all the quarters.
“Those preseason games don’t count, but they do for Josh and any second-year quarterback,” Van Pelt said. “There needs to be some second-year growth in those games. He needs to get some experience in those games. At the same time, you aren’t playing for a playoff spot in those games. You don’t want to take the undo risk for injury by playing him with a bunch of backups.
“You just want to get a feel for how well camp is going for him and see what he does in the first game. If he has a good first game, maybe you don’t play him as long as the third game. That will be their decision. At some point, Coach Morris and Coach Olson will say that Josh has had enough. It’s a comfort level thing. Or it might be that he needs more playing time.”
Van Pelt would also like to get a good look at the progression made by backup Josh Johnson. With Freeman taking around 70 percent of the reps during the OTAs and the mini-camp, Johnson has been left with only 25 percent of the snap.
“I think the right thing to do is to give Josh Johnson a good amount of snaps in the preseason, too,” Van Pelt said. “Once again, that’s the coaches’ decision. Josh Johnson would need some more reps than the normal backup would need because he’s still a young, developing guy. The more reps and game experience for him the better.”
Expect to see Freeman and Johnson play the majority of the first three games, which should make the Bucs’ 2010 preseason contests more entertaining for fans. That would leave the fourth game for backups Rudy Carpenter and Jevan Snead to split to try to make a favorable impression on the Bucs’ brass in order to win the third quarterback roster spot.
For Freeman, he needs to make some favorable impressions throwing digs and deep end cuts to fully stock his arsenal of NFL throws. Expect Olson to call some of those routes in the preseason so Freeman can practice them in a scenario where real bullets are flying this August.
FAB 3. One of the more overlooked aspects of Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris’ final press conference of the offseason back in June was the praise he heaped on the team’s first- and second-year players. Morris singled out fledgling leader Josh Freeman, the Bucs’ first-round pick in 2009, and the team’s young wide receiving corps for taking it upon themselves to grow up quickly so Tampa Bay can win more games.
“(What) all those guys have shown, and Mike Williams included, is the willingness to work,” said Morris. “The young man has been here on the weekends when it is not required and it’s just because Josh (Freeman) told him to come by and catch some balls. It’s really been all of them.
“You talk about Arrellous Benn, Sammie Stroughter, and Maurice Stovall; they have kind of bought into that. That is who they are as a position group. We talk about how your position group defines itself and what’s the standard for the room. They are really setting up a good standard in that room and where they are going to be.”
Morris rambled on for several minutes about the work ethic and uncommon maturity of his young players. He said he has not been around another group of young players that are this serious about football, including Freeman.
“I would have to say it is unusual and that is just from my experience from being here in Tampa,” said Morris. “It’s not a knock on anybody from how they prepare. I know Jeff Garcia needed to get away from football for a little bit. Brad [Johnson would say], ‘Shoot, I got about 20 throws in me today and then I have to go. My arm is going to be sore.’ It’s not a knock on how they prepare. It’s just where they were in their careers and what they wanted to do.
“Luke McCown had a lot of that in him [where] he wanted to throw every day. [He had a] gung-ho mentality and [would] get everybody to come. Everybody sees light at the end of the tunnel and everybody sees ways of getting onto the football field and everybody sees a way to go out there and be productive. I think that is what drives [Freeman] and I think that is what makes him humble.”
Morris marveled at how the young receivers like Williams, Benn, Stroughter and Stovall have spent a lot of time with Freeman away from One Buc Place. Stroughter and Stovall even took a vacation with Freeman to the Bahamas earlier in the offseason.
“It’s how they come out here on the weekends and what they are going to do with Josh in the offseason and how they are going to go see each other and each other’s houses and throwing the football when they can,” Morris said. “I’m sure they are going to have some fun together, but at the same time that is the continuity, that’s the type of competitive edge you want.
“Josh Freeman understands the type of sugar you have to give a wide receiver every once in a while and pat him on the back if he didn’t get a ball that day. And I think Mike Williams understands that, too. He better like Josh Freeman if he likes the football. And make no mistakes about it, he is a smart, receptive young man.”
If the play of Tampa Bay’s young receiving corps can match the players’ work ethic, the decision to surround Freeman with young wide receivers he can grow with instead of veterans will pay off in the long run.
FAB 4. The shocking decision by Tampa Bay to fire offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski after just three offseason games didn’t really rattle the Bucs players or the fan base. Jagodzinski, who had served as Boston College’s head coach in 2008, had only been in Tampa for six months and hadn’t planted many roots yet.
Most of the Bucs assistant coaches were still just getting to know Jagodzinski, except for one. That would be newly hired running backs Steve Logan, who had spent nine years coaching alongside Jagodzinski. The two had become good friends over the years.
Logan and Jagodzinski were both hired by East Carolina University in 1989 and spent seven years together with the Pirates. Logan was the team’s running backs coach for one year before becoming a co-offensive coordinator, while Jagodzinski coached the offensive line. In 1992, Logan was promoted to head coach and he kept Jagodzinki on until he left to coach Boston College’s offensive line in 1997. Logan remained the Pirates’ head coach until 2002.
The two would team up again in 2007 when Jags became the Eagles’ head coach. Logan was hired to be Boston College’s offensive coordinator and remained in that post until Jags got fired for interviewing for the New York Jets head coaching vacancy. When Jagodzinski was hired as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator, he brought Logan with him to the Buccaneers to coach the running backs.
Needless to say, Logan was disappointed when Jagodzinski was fired, but was a team player and showed allegiance to Raheem Morris and the Bucs organization even though he was brought to Tampa Bay at Jagodzinski’s request.
“If you’ve coached for any length at all, and I have, there are so many situations that are parallel to that that you’ve seen,” Logan said. “You’ve seen close friends get fired. You’ve been fired when another guy didn’t. You’ve had to change jobs when you friends don’t have to. This industry is such a carousel. Sometimes you are on the merry-go-round and sometimes you are not. Sometimes you get kicked off the merry-go-round for good reasons and sometimes for not so good reasons.”
A rift on the coaching staff had developed and ultimately pitted the laid back Jagodzinski against quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, wide receivers coach Richard Mann and assistant receivers coach Tim Berbenich, who were used to grinding a lot more hours and installing a lot more plays in practice.
Those coaches – and even some Bucs offensive players – had grown very concerned over the lack of productivity in the offseason and felt the offense was behind when they addressed their legitimate concerns to head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik. New position coaches like Logan and offensive line coach Pete Mangurian and tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts were caught in the middle.
Morris and Dominik had sensed that Jagodzinski, who didn’t have any play-calling experience at the pro level despite carrying the title of offensive coordinator in Green Bay in 2006, wasn’t cut out to be an NFL coordinator and that they had made a huge mistake with this hiring. When they made decision to fire Jagodzinski, whose playbook was called a “pamphlet” by some players, 10 days before the start of the regular season, Olson was promoted as his replacement.
Logan didn’t begrudge the organization for the decision, even though it personally pained him. The reason is because Logan has been coaching at either the high school or college or pro level since 1974 and knows that this industry is one that can chew up coaches and spit them out.
“Everybody is eligible for getting kicked off – general managers, players, coaches or water boys,” Logan said. “We’re all eligible. People watching it from the outside can’t see it accurately. When you are in the business, you understand the business. It’s just the nature of the beast. When you have a job, just go out and do the best you can and be thankful for the job.
“In reality, nobody wants to admit or say it this way, but everybody in the NFL is on a one-year contract. This possible strike-lockout thing, which I know nothing about, could put everybody in a work stoppage. Second, in the football industry – and this is becoming true at the college level, too – if you don’t win you could be let go after one year. You have to win or you could be one-and-done. The reason is because teams are paying enormous amounts of money now and they expect a return on their investment. That’s understood and if you don’t understand it, you’re crazy. You are getting paid well, so you better perform. Perform means win. I’m no rookie. I understand. If I’m unemployed in February do you know whose fault that is? Mine, because we didn’t win enough. But I expect to be employed.”
Logan said the untold story surrounding the turmoil that Jagodzinski’s firing caused Olson, the coaching staff and the players was the resiliency that was demonstrated by the Buccaneers.
“I spent three years in NFL Europe, so the NFL culture and the way of doing things was not foreign to me,” Logan said. “I understood the difference and how to coach the players and what to expect in terms of their performance. It was tough on everybody last year from Raheem all the way down in terms of getting all the situations that needed to be tuned up, tuned up. It was chaotic. It was hectic. I don’t think anyone would deny that. From my perspective, the thing that I was most pleased and proud of was the way that everybody in the building hung together. The players, in particular, were wonderful. There was a lot of stress last year. Nobody cracked. Nobody went crazy. I thought it set the table for us to move forward this year and really become a competitive team in the National Football League.”
Like most of Tampa Bay’s assistant coaches, Logan’s contract expires after the 2010 season. If Morris remains the head coach in 2011, it’s a safe bet that Logan will return. He is one of the most impressive and inventive coaches in practice and is one of Morris’ favorites.
“I’ve got a great coach in Coach Logan,” Morris said. “He’s got some real inventive drills he does and he’s been a great addition to our staff.”
The well-spoken native of Broken Arrow, Okla. speaks with a distinctive southern drawl and after a few minutes of talking to him, you know that Logan is an expert when it comes to football despite not playing the game at the collegiate or pro levels. The 57-year old Logan, who looks 10 years younger than he really is, attended the University of Tulsa but aspired to be a college professor – not a college football coach.
He got his coaching start at Union High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma before entering the college ranks at Oklahoma State in 1980 coaching tight ends. After a two-year stop at Hutchinson Community College, Logan returned to his alma mater to coach quarterbacks, wide receivers and be the offensive coordinator from 1983-84.
After two brief stops at Colorado (1985-86) and Mississippi State (1987-88) to coach running backs and quarterbacks, respectively, he moved on to East Carolina in 1989. When he became the head coach four years later, Logan would go on to become the school’s all-time winningest coach with a 69-58 record and take the Pirates to five bowl games.
While at ECU, Logan would coach NFL quarterbacks Jeff Blake and David Garrard. At Boston College a few years later, Logan would be credited with developing Matt Ryan.
I asked Logan if he preferred the NFL over college, and whether he aspired to become an NFL offensive coordinator or if he would rather return to the college ranks to pursue a head coaching position. Like the running backs he coaches, Logan effectively juked and dodged his way around the question.
“I know some people try to chart their course,” Logan said. “Some coaches try to do that. I’ve become a head coach and wasn’t trying to become one. I was an offensive coordinator and wasn’t trying to become one. The way I try to exist in this profession is that I love my players and I try to teach as clearly as I can and if we win enough games usually something good will happen. I’ve lost a job in which I’ve won 20 games over two years. Everything happens for a reason, but I’d rather win than lose. If we win, chances are something good may happen. That’s how I have to approach it.”
FAB 5. Here are a couple things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:
• Although he didn’t admit it last year, Bucs center Jeff Faine questioned the new approach to the offensive line, which would be doing mostly zone blocking in 2009 under new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski. Tampa Bay’s offensive line is comprised of aggressive, physical players, whose strengths were muted last year in a finesse style of offensive line play.
“I hate making excuses, but I think learning a new scheme last year it really kind of took away our mentality of a power run football team and the stuff we love to do,” Faine said. “We love being physical because we are a physical offensive line that is also athletic. Let’s mix that zone in and switch it up here and there. We really like to get after guys and really get physical and that’s kind of what we are getting back to a little bit. We have a balanced attack so that we are able to take advantage of what ever the defense gives us.”
Greg Olson, who took over for Jagodzinski as the team’s offensive coordinator prior to the Bucs’ fourth preseason game, incorporated more man-power-blocking schemes as the 2009 season progressed and good things started to happen for the line. Olson, who was the team’s quarterbacks coach dating back to 2008, wants to get back to what made Tampa Bay’s running game and its offensive line so effective, which are isolation blocks and using a pulling guard.
“I feel like we took a step back last year, and I feel like we need to get back to some of the things we did when we first got together and really get hungry,” Faine said. “I think that has been the statement that we have put on this offseason and we’ve been working hard together. That’s something coming into training camp that we’re going to go after and we’re really going to be a physical offensive line and really get after it to change the reputation of what we had and what we did last year. We’re going to get back to our core beliefs and what we did our first year together.”
• Bucs head coach Raheem Morris was dismayed at the thought of the Big 12 conference’s possible implosion over the summer. Although Colorado defected to the Pac-10 and Nebraska moved on to the Big 10, the Big 12 conference survived and remains a 10-team league.
Although Morris played collegiately at Hofstra, his year as Kansas State’s defensive coordinator in 2009 has him partial to the Big 12 conference, which he keeps close tabs on.
“The Big 12 conference has produced so many big-time athletes,” Morris said. “Not just the guys at Kansas State like Josh Freeman and Jordy Nelson, but the guys I played against in that conference when I was at K-State in 2006. I’m talking about Aqib Talib, Larry Asante from Nebraska, guys from Oklahoma. Our last three number one picks – Talib, Freeman and Gerald McCoy – all came from that conference. It’s crazy that the conference was about to picked apart. It is a great conference that has produced a lot of NFL talent.”
In fact, five out of the first six draft picks in the 2010 NFL Draft came from the Big 12. St. Louis took Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford first overall, followed by Detroit taking Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Two more Sooners went third and fourth overall as Tampa Bay drafted McCoy and Washington selected offensive tackle Trent Williams. With the sixth overall pick, Seattle grabbed Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung.
“When I was in the Big 12, I was able to see Josh Freeman up close and person in addition to Roy Miller from a competitive standpoint and you get really excited about it,” Morris said. “That’s why the stuff that was happening with the Big 12 was so shocking to me. At K-State I complained at the time about how much recruiting we had to do at the time, but now it’s paying off big time when you remember those guys at draft time. I remember walking into those players’ homes like it was yesterday.”
• One of the Bucs’ secret weapons over the last two years when it comes to the draft is Raheem Morris’ personal assistant, Jay Kaiser. The two met while Morris was at Kansas State University in 2006 and when he was named Tampa Bay’s head coach in 2009, Morris hired Kaiser to join the coaching staff.
“Another resource we have here in Tampa for the draft is Jay Kaiser,” Morris said. “He was the recruiting coordinator at Kansas State for years and years. He recruited Jeron Mastrud out of Oregon to come to Manhattan, Kan. Jay knew Jason Pierre-Paul from junior college because he was about to go to K-State before he switched to go to South Florida. Jay was able to reminisce about his visit and meeting him. It’s the same thing about bringing in a coach like Eric Yarber from the Pac-10. He was able to give us some input on the guys he recruited to go to Arizona State. Going back to college sometimes really helps you in this league. It got us our franchise quarterback and a lot of Big 12 guys.”
• We are at the end of another SR’s Fab 5 column and it’s time for another one of my personal anecdotes about my first 15 years of covering the Buccaneers. I have a very good professional relationship with head coach Raheem Morris dating back to the days in 2005 when I would interview him and speak regularly with him when he was a quality control coach helping out Mike Tomlin and the Buccaneers defensive backs.
I did the first story on Morris back when other beat writers didn’t know who this low-level assistant coach was. I only knew who he was because Tomlin kept telling me to keep an eye on his assistant and that he would be a great coach one day soon.
Our professional relationship has had some very interesting twists over the years. When Morris unexpectedly left to become Kansas State’s defensive coordinator in 2006, I broke the story – although I didn’t get the scoop from Morris. I got it from my connections at K-State, which is my alma mater. When I called Morris to congratulate him on the opportunity – and to tell him to fix the Wildcats defense – he was surprised I knew about it already because the team had not released the news.
I playfully chided Morris that he should have given me a head’s up to help me out professionally – and as a Wildcat fan. So when Morris abruptly left K-State after only one year with the Wildcats to return to Tampa Bay as the defensive backs coach, I naturally broke the story again.
Yet just like the last time he changed coaching destinations, Morris didn’t give me the scoop – even though he returned to Tampa Bay. You know, the team I cover professionally? This was also after he invited me to come out to Manhattan, Kan. to see K-State beat Texas, which I did.
Just like before, I got the scoop on Morris from my K-State sources – not Morris himself. So when I called him after I broke the story, I playfully chided him for not giving me the head’s up – again. After staying in weekly contact via e-mail while he was at K-State that’s the least the guy could do, right?
Well, my good-natured ribbing must have finally sunk in because when Morris was unexpectedly promoted to Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator for the 2009 season on Christmas Day he texted me with the news around noon. The only problem was that my phone was in my office while I was helping my wife prepare Christmas dinner for our family. I didn’t see the text until around 6:00 p.m. because I didn’t check my phone until after dinner and everyone had left.
Charlie Campbell was covering the Bucs news for us that day and got the story up around 4:00 p.m. with the rest of the media after the team announced. I don’t know what surprised me more – the fact that Morris was promoted to defensive coordinator on Christmas, or the fact that he had FINALLY actually given me some scoop. Scoop that I inadvertently wasted by leaving my phone across the house. Such is the tale of star-crossed scoop.
Silly me. Who was I to think that the Bucs would break some major news on Christmas? Needless to say that my phone is glued to me now – even on major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Although Morris and I are both close in age (in our 30s) and have known each other for quite some time, we have maintained a very professional relationship over the years. Aside from my trip to K-State in 2006 when he was no longer working with the Bucs, and Morris’ appearance at the Pewter Report-Barrett Ruud charity golf tournament in 2009, we really don’t socialize away from One Buc Place.
That allows me to maintain my objectiveness, which was in full effect last year as I was certainly critical of several decisions he made in his first year as an NFL head coach in my columns, articles and radio show appearances. I will not stray from my obligation to call it as I see it – even if the facts and my opinions are not flattering to Morris.
At the same time, I received an unexpected phone call prior to the draft from a livid Morris, who gave me a tongue-lashing over something I had written about Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. I’ll keep the conversation between he and I, but it goes to show that Morris can call it like he sees it with me, too. That’s the sign of a good working relationship.