FAB 4. Penny Underwhelms At Senior Bowl To Bucs’ Benefit

San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny was supposed to take advantage of a weakened running back class at the Senior Bowl where Oregon’s Royce Freeman and Georgia’s terrific tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel opted not to attend. That afforded Penny, who led the nation with 2,248 rushing yards on 289 carries (7.8 avg.) in addition to 23 touchdowns, the opportunity to be this year’s Kareem Hunt and use the Senior Bowl to raise his draft profile.

Instead, Penny underwhelmed. He had a pair of fumbles the first two days and didn’t really settle in until Thursday when Penny told me he put together his best day of practice. Unless he shines in the Senior Bowl game on Saturday, Penny likely didn’t help his draft stock too much. But because he’s rushed for 3,656 yards and 38 touchdowns on 488 carries (7.5 avg.) in his Aztecs career, in addition to 42 catches for 479 yards (11.4 avg.) and six touchdowns with so much great tape for NFL scouts to evaluate, Penny didn’t lose any ground at the Senior Bowl, either.

At 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, Penny has plenty of size to be a feature back in the NFL, and he has very good breakaway speed too, evidenced by 12 runs of 50 yards or more in his career.

“Using my speed and using my size as a running back and using power, I know a lot of teams in the NFL – all of the teams that were in the playoffs all have a running game,” Penny said. “Just providing that for a team would be great.”

But not just any team. Penny wants to be drafted by the Buccaneers, who interviewed him at the Senior Bowl.

“It went amazing, meeting with the Buccaneers, and I think I sold myself pretty good,” Penny said. “I’m excited about whatever happens. I love the Buccaneers. That would be surreal – that would be so big. I know the weather can get a little crazy out there some times. It’s not San Diego. I said that about Alabama today. It’s too cold out here. I’m not used to it. It would definitely be worth it.

“I’m a big fan of the Buccaneers and the NFC South. That’s a great division and a tough division to compete in with a lot of great running backs. Just having another good running bad added to their system would bring them back to where they were a few years ago. I’m a big NFC South fan and I watch a lot of Carolina, the Saints, the Falcons and the Buccaneers. They have a lot of great defensive players. The NFC South is one of the best divisions in the league.”

Rushing in the shadow of Donnell Pumphrey, who became the FBS all-time leading rusher during Penny’s junior season, Penny still produced a 1,000-yard season in 2016 before his record-breaking senior campaign that saw him post six 200-yard games, including five straight in his final five games as an Aztec. Penny’s production didn’t just come at the expense of Mountain West Conference teams, either. He rushed for 216 yards, including a 95-yard touchdown, in a win at Arizona State and then rushed for 175 yards and a touchdown in an upset against Stanford the following week.

“What did he weigh today – 220?” said Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips at the Senior Bowl. “He felt a lot bigger than that. That’s a credit to him and how hard he runs. I know he’s a really good guy just from knowing him here and playing against him. You’re going to get a person who is going to work hard and probably be a captain in a few years for your organization. He definitely felt bigger and stronger than 220 pounds – he’s probably just one muscle.”

“I was so excited about it because a lot of people doubted us,” Penny said of the Aztecs’ win at Arizona State. “We went into a hostile environment like Arizona State and it was a big game for us. We played hard, and for me to display my talents in a Power 5 game, it was definitely worth it.

“[Against Stanford] we definitely put our foot down as a team not to be messed with at that time. Bryce Love is a great running back in his own right. I’m not taking anything away from him. He deserved the Doak Walker, but the win was the most important and most significant thing about it. To beat Stanford at home and showing that we could compete against anybody – we showed that we could play in the Power 5, too.”

Penny, who has returned seven kickoffs for touchdowns in addition to a touchdown on a punt return, takes pride in his hard-nosed running style and models himself after one of the NFL’s most dynamic running backs.

“I love how Ezekiel Elliott runs,” Penny said. “I always say he runs north and south. He’s not an east-west guy. He’s a one-cut dude, and that’s what you have to have in the NFL to be successful. You always have to have that one cut and just be north and south. It’s not east and west and dancing. It’s always about going forward. If you only gain two or third yards – that’s a positive.”

Toledo RB Kareem Hunt - Photo by: Courtland Richards
Toledo RB Kareem Hunt – Photo by: Courtland Richards

That must sound like music to the Buccaneers’ ears as the team expects to release Doug Martin this offseason after too much dancing around and not enough north-south running over the past two years when he’s failed to rush for even 500 yards in a season.

The Bucs fell in love with Toledo running back Kareem Hunt at the Senior Bowl last year, and missed out on drafting who would become the NFL’s leading rusher in his rookie season. With Penny not elevating his draft stock to the second round like I expected him to with a better performance in Mobile, Ala., I suspect he may still be viewed as a third-round prospect mainly due to his average showing in the passing game as a receiver and more importantly as a pass protector.

And with Tampa Bay needing to address its offensive and defensive lines in the early rounds that may greatly benefit the Buccaneers if they covet Penny in the third round.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

30 COMMENTS

  1. Trust me Scott, my expectations will be real low this coming year, I wouldn’t want to make Licht cringe again! Besides, why expect better results with no coaching changes, and maybe bringing guys like Sims back?

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  2. Scott I feel you are swinging way too hard to the negative side now this year, but I suppose that’s fine 😛

    On a bigger note, if we really are going to a 3-4, don’t be surprised if we keep guys like Barker and Siliga. While the draft is filled with a lot of guys that project as 3-4 OLB pass rushers, the only reason those kinds of guys are able to do work is because they have fat guys in the middle eating up blocks and shedding them to capture RBs. McCoy is wasted in that role, and I think it would be silly to think 7th round rookie Stevie T is going to step in and dominate like that.

    Baker especially has worked out of a 3-4 front before, so I can see him being opposite McCoy if we go 3-4. But who to plug in nose? Stevie T? Siliga? McDonald? Then there’s depth to consider even if we get new pieces.

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  3. fixed that for you SR: Until this team changes the losing, stubborn, trust my system, never make any adjustment coaching that exists at One Buccaneer Place and ultimately proves it by making an unexpected postseason run I won’t believe in the Bucs and won’t overhype this team again.

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  4. My expectations were reasonable last year and I think overall we will be better this year. I never thought we were a 9-7 Team the year before and I don’t think we are a 5 and 11 team this year. We have a few obvious holes on both sides of the ball but with some good drafting and aggressive Free agency picks, we can be a playoff team in a year or two.

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  5. Surferdudes is right.
    Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.
    IMO Desean Jackson should be released and Chris Godwin should replace him. Far too much money (like Baker) with little to show for it.

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  6. Bucs, how did passing on Calais Campbell and signing Jackson and Baker work out for you?

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  7. Scott, The Bucs PASSED ON KAREEM HUNT!

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  8. I think just about everyone bought in. It was hard not to. It wont happen with me again next year either. I also dont care if they go 3-4 or 4-3. Either way they must stop playing so much cover 2 zone. Theyve gota be more aggressive and play more man and blitz more or it wont get much better. Yeah where were the double a gap blitzes? Same thing i said all year. Well that and where were more slants to djax? First went for 41. And more draw plays? First went for 36. Then they dissapeared. The lack of coaching was unbelievable this season. Im stunned they kept the coaches. They must have promised some sort of changes. Cant wait to see what. I hope its starting now with the coaches drawing up schemes…considering they all skipped the senior bowl. Wow nothing to see there I guess. And I hope it then turns into a real training camp where they practice tackle football. That would be a great start. Bucs coaches, please take heads out of rear ends! Thanks

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  9. All this chatter about Baker getting a Half a sack and being released but nothing about our high priced defensive end Gholston and his zero sacks getting the boot.

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    • He may get the boot if they feel it would be an upgrade. Depends on who they think they can sign and draft. You can bet this year there will be alot of change on the Dline. Its apparent to licht that smith is not going to adjust, so he either gets a new crop of linemen or loses his job…maybe both.

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  10. I been a Buc fan too long. I remain optimistic and have high hopes for the Bucs this year – wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve been a glutton for punishment so long that I now consider it a badge of honor. We never give up or retreat, we simply advance to the rear! Go Bucs!

    However, there is something that I would like for anyone to clear up for me. Where/when did the Bucs ever say they were changing to a 3-4 defense? Where did that talk come from?

    Last I heard from our still DC Mike Smith as for the difference between a 4-3 and a 3-4, Smith doesn’t think there’s much of a difference. Here’s what he said “We’re going to base out of a four-man front. But again when you play with a four-man front, you over shift and you’re in a 3-4. You start in a 3-4, you over shift and you’re in a 4-3. There’s not a whole lot of difference in terms of what you do, it’s a matter of how you’re going to put your shell in the back-end. And I think that’s the thing that you have to do, you have to give the quarterback different looks. Your front, there’s only so many things you can do.”

    Serious question! When did he or anyone at the Bucs say different? I apologize in advance if I missed the update.

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  11. Seem to recall Smith tried to run more 3-4 during his last year in Atlanta and it didn’t go well, though I could be mis-remembering that. Hoping the results are different if he decides to go that route in 2018.

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  12. welcome to the no-hype zone, Scott. when schiano’s 7-9 team with a horrible secondary landed revis and dashon goldson, i thought we had ourselves a steady playoff contender. freeman on the rise, doug martin projecting as a stud, lavonte looking like an MVP type player….what could go wrong? that was the last time i allowed myself to get optimistic about this team prematurely

    since then i’ve been resolved to not get excited about the bucs until they are relevant around thanksgiving. at least i had 2016….

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  13. And I just don’t get the love Sims gets from Licht and the coaching staff. I understand he’s evidently a great guy and all, but come on, when he’s in the game he might as well wear a sign that reads ” we’re running a pass play”. There’s tons of other “receiving” backs out there that can actually returns kicks and punts and offer more production in the run game.

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  14. To all of the Pewter Reporters. Thank you for so much insight into the players at the Senior Bowl. Your hard work is much appreciated.

    In the “bad old days” all we Bucs fans had was hope and the Senior Bowl always served as the beginning of the Season of Hope. We checked out the college draftees and knew just one or two of those guys would be the saviors that would elevate our team to well…………mediocrity. We knew in a few weeks we’d get Mel’s Big Blue Book in the mail so we could figure out which players we should, could, would select. Of course then Draft Day would come and the Bucs would choose players who often weren’t even in the book.

    So now, the Pewter Reporters have become naysayers even as macabee, Horse, Surfer, Martini and the other Baby Boomers’ long awaited Season of Hope is barely underway. Say it isn’t so Ethel.

    But alas, I still vaguely remember coming off another 5-11 season in 1978 when no one had much hope for a “New Day in Tampa Bay”. As Gomer Pyle would say, “Surprise, Surprise.” “Worst to First” indeed. “Remember the Jaguars”.

    I have learned to temper my enthusiasm over the years. I don’t ride Raheem’s emotional roller coaster as I once did. I have hope for a lot of things much more important than the Bucs…………like waking up each morning. So until I’m told by my doctor, “Scubog, I HOPE you have a good life insurance policy, you’re a gonner”, I’ll have hope to relive that day 15 years ago in San Diego when Gene screamed the words, “There’s the dagger” and it wasn’t in my heart.

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  15. What could the coaching staff have going on that’s more important than going to the Senior Bowl practices? Considering the thin ice below their feet, you’d think they’d want to get a really close look at these prospects.. i also think the idea of a 3-4 base defense is a good idea.

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  16. I would trade two high draft picks for a local fan base that could fill our stadium with BUCS fans and would cheer our team through thick and thin. We seem to have the opposite of a home field advantage. I am so jealous of the huge advantage that the Patriots, Eagles, Cowboys, Seahawks, Steelers, etc, have.

    Regarding local sports writers who are so good at pointing out team weaknesses and dampening fan enthusiasm, I know lots of people who have ugly, under-performing kids, but it rarely does any good to point that out and rub it in.

    On the positive side, at least we don’t live in Cleveland.

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    • Ahenneke. Im glad youre not the GM. Its a bandwagon city buddy. Trust me Ive been going to games since about 82. The place was packed when they won around the time of the new stadium. The waiting list drove up the prices. I paid 6 bucks in around 1990. The bandwagoners drove up the prices then never went because the play fell off. Its a shame. Im one who believes a losing team needs the fans much more than a winning team. Too bad it doesnt work that way with most.
      Also the local writers have nothing to do with dampening fans enthusiasm. They write what they see and hear. We judge off the games played. Just like us they want the team to succeed too. Ya cant let others judge for you.

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  17. Scubog, hope, and expectations are to different things. With this team moving forward, I’ll be hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. My UCF Knights lost all their games two years ago. When they hired Scott Frost, and old man O’Leary retired I saw he had that it factor, and my hopes were rewarded with progress then a once in a life time perfect season. Sorry to see him go. Frost quickly changed the culture, the offense, the attitude, you could tell things were going to be at least different if not better. I’ve seen enough of Licht the last four years, and Koetter the last three to realize what we’ve seen is what we’re going to get. Don’t expect Smith to switch to a 3-4, don’t expect Koetter to become a genius in the red zone, or have his troops practice harder. The ping bong table will stay, McCoy will make the same we need to do better statements. My hope is the Glazers find the right people next time around, I’ll still be here waiting. Hopefully Frost wants to be an NFL head coach next year, and we make it happen.

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  18. Sorry Scott, but I see us better than your win prediction of yours. Yes we need DdE’s, but if there are no worthy players in the 1st or even 2nd round then we can fill those two spots with other needs or trade down and draft those DE’s in 3rd and 4th rounds. I will agree we have seen enough on the DL that Baker, Ayers,Silgva, and yes Gholston should go too; let younger players try to become starters. The Buc world has not come to already predicting another awful season; it actually is just starting for us in another week. I’m hopeful like many;t most of us don’t let it ruin our day to day life if we lose games. Now if we start off very poorly as to our performances from players and coaches then I’ll join the bandwagon to say NEXT! Can some of you please stop looking in the past of players we should have, could have, didn’t get, and move on to the thought of what are we doing about making this a better team. Most of us know just about enough of the game to understand we are all knowing of nothing. Go Bucs! Make it our year!

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  19. Bucs fell in love with Kareem Hunt at the senior bowl last, hopefully they continue to do due diligence, I know early on you guys were on Rashad Penny, then the switch to Sony Michel, however, I can’t see how Penny’s senior bowl will move him up or down, his film hollers loudly as a big play back, watched him in the bowl game where he went crazy and a few other games during the year, hoping he would stay under the radar even though can’t, I would love to see this guy in Pewter, but I do not think he will be there in round two, given the success of RBs lately in the NFL

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    • You know what’s hilarious? The spin that the Bucs loved Kareem Hunt. Sure they did, they loved him so much the passed on him THREE times and let him fall to the 86th pick (they had the 84th pick).

      If that doesn’t show you Licht and Co loved a player in the draft (after he becomes the leagues leading rusher) then what does?

      It’s almost as bad as the “rumor” that ownership comandeered the draft room to take Aguayo. Ignoring the fact that the GM paid a heavy price to trade up in the 2nd round to draft him. Now that, my friends, is love. Not whatever BS spin Scott and Licht want you to believe about Kareem Hunt.

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  20. Rashad Penny showing up in the senior bowl so far in the second quarter. 73 yard TD reception and a plus 40 yard run

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  21. I cant believe the OL staff didnt even attend the Senior Bowl. If they stick with this OL and they dont sign any free agents or draft any OL AND they extend the awful Donovan Smith, then I will stop wasting my time watching them.

    Philly was just named the PFF OL of the year and they’re in the Superbowl with Nick Foles as their QB.

    If they are that stupid, fire them all after next year. Lame ducks is what they are. Extremely lame

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  22. The only reason they’re going to win any games this year, is because of the weaker schedule. Roy Cummings hit the nail on the head, when he said that they were just going through the motions during training camp last year, lethargic etc. Most Buc fans are foolish optimist, but hey, what else do you have as a Buc fan. The Glazers are the real problem. They need to sell the team to someone who can run this team the right way!

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  23. On one hand Scott has finally come around to the idea that the roster is full of holes and limitations that keep it from being a playoff team.

    On the other hand, Scott refuses to assign any accountability to the GM who is in his 5th year building said swiss cheese roster. Instead Scott writes that he doesn’t “envy” the man who is most resposible for being in the position he is in.

    You’re a funny guy Scott.

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  24. Licht needs to draft down and get two second picks, then take Oklahoma’s Brown LT in the first round; then Cherry in the second (feature back and break away run back specialist both) and then Okoronkwo DE also in the second round, Stephen Shepherd as your nose tackle in the third round, Michigan State’s Center falls to the fourth round with all the controversy at his college and we take him so we get our All Pro RG back. If any undersized DEs are left take one of them in the fifth round, Pinero from FL Gators in the sixth, and a fast Special Teams Ace in the seventh. Use Free Agency for a DB and a Safety and a back up OL. Keep Dotson, Pamphile (as a back up OT), and Beneoch (only a back up Guard only), and our backup Center (not Smith).

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  25. That way you don’t need to draft a top LG, just shift Smith to LG and he will be an All Pro there. Save money cutting backup Center Smith, Sweezy, our pudgy Free Agent DT Bust, our old DE, and have McCoy as the three technique DE in the new 3-4 and put our 6’8” DE for the 5 technique from Michigan State who is solid against the run despite no sacks as the DE on the other side. Put our two LSU MLBs in the middle and David on one side as an OLB and Okoronkwo as the OLB on the other side. Make those changes and insist on our DC playing more man to man and an aggressive 3-4, and I will be optimistic next year.

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  26. Thought provoking SR5

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  27. You are rounding back into style SR. 3 in a row, albeit late, but good. You know I am the ever optimist. And It sucks not to have hope. But with all being considered I’m kind of waiting for the shoe to drop and we go hunting for a new front office…ugggghhhh

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