Teammates and coaches always seem to talk about three things when the topic is Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end William Gholston: intensity, potential and versatility.

In three years with the Bucs since being their fourth-round draft pick in 2013 out of Michigan State, Gholston’s shown all three on the field. The problem, however, has been channeling and focusing his emotions and abilities with consistency.

There’s the Will Gholston that leads the team in tackles like he did Thursday night in St. Louis last year. Then there’s the Will Gholston that commits three 15-yard personal foul penalties during a second-half meltdown in Washington.

Adding the good, bad and everything in between of 2015 resulted in a pretty good year for the 6-foot-6, 281-pounder. Gholston logged the second most defensive snaps of any Buccaneer not named Gerald McCoy, recorded a career high three sacks and led all Bucs defensive linemen with 67 tackles. His seven penalties also tied with three other players for fifth most on the team and six of those infractions were personal fouls.

Gholston, whose mild-mannered, soft-spoken demeanor with the media belies the on-field depiction expressed by his comrades, appeared in all 16 games for the first time last season and his tackle total has increased from 30 to 41 to 67 over his three-year career. Now it’s time for Gholston to put it all together and he has the added motivation of being on a contract year. Birthday No. 25 comes next Sunday and his 4-year, $2.56-million rookie deal will expire at the end of the season.

Gholston’s name came up on a few occasions during Tampa Bay’s offseason program. Fellow defensive linemen Clinton McDonald and Robert Ayers pointed to Gholston’s impact potential and new head coach Dirk Koetter said how he’s looking forward to getting his high motor back on the field during live scrimmage and game situations.

“The style of play that Will Gholston has is not conducive to playing underwear football because Will’s a grinder,” Koetter said during the team’s three-day mini-camp last month. “Will is an ‘in-the-trenches, beat-you-up’ defensive end, so guys that are going to show up in underwear football are speed and quickness guys, flashy guys. To win football games in the NFL you have to have grind-it guys and I’ve been telling our defensive coaches all along, Will is one of those grinders. He’s an in-the-trenches, every-down guy. He’s going to give you what he has and I think for Robert Ayers to [compliment him], that just shows Robert’s experience in the league, that he can appreciate a guy that’s a grinder like Will is.

“We’re fortunate to have Will. Will is one of those guys that – again, because he’s not a flashy guy – not everybody appreciates what he does in the trenches, but we sure appreciate it.”

Gholston started 11 of 16 games last year at left defensive end and the former regime of head coach Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier would slide him in at defensive tackle on occasion, as well. Multiple injuries on the interior led to those moves but it allowed Gholston to display his versatility.

“Look at Will Gholston,” McDonald said this offseason. “He’s a guy that plays end, but he can play three-technique, he can play nose, he can play all across the line. He’s someone you really have to look out for. A guy that’s 6’6 or 6’7, 285 pounds that can play all the positions is a guy that says, ‘I leverage and have speed and know how to use my tools.’ ”

With Mike Smith in at defensive coordinator and a new staff, it’s unclear whether the team will keep bouncing Gholston inside or if he’ll be able to focus on coming off the edge. Longtime Cincinnati Bengals assistant and new Bucs defensive line coach Jay Hayes said in May it was too early to speculate on how players will be utilized but didn’t dismiss the idea of linemen shifting around.

“Until we start getting some pads on and things like that, that’s kind of hard to tell,” Hayes said. “We’re just going to have to mix and match the guys we have. My history has been we’re going to roll guys through, keep people fresh and just keep coming after people in waves. That’s kind of what I’ve always done and that’s what we’ll continue to do here.”

Something to note: Gholston was listed as a defensive lineman all last season on the team’s official roster. This year his position is specified as a defensive end. That doesn’t technically mean anything, but it may show the team’s intentions moving forward.

Regardless of where he lines up, Gholston needs to take the next step as a pro – especially if he wants to cash in during a contract year. Two big things to look for while watching No. 92 will be his ability to keep himself in check (less 15-yard penalties) and shorten his paths to the quarterback (more quarterback hits and sacks). Doing so and approaching double-digit territory in sacks will have Gholston cashing in next offseason.

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About the Author: Eric Horchy

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chetthevette
chetthevette
5 years ago

Good afternoon all Bucheads. I’m not inclined to go along with the nay sayers concerning lack of depth on the D-Line. I really believe that absent off a superstar on the line, we are still formidable. Keeping those guys fresh by a rotation is to me a great tactic. Do I see a 10 plus sacker on the team? No, but I see 4 guys that can get close to it, maybe 5 if I count Spence. In a dream world McCoy would break the 10 sack threshold. Add a solid 7-9 sacks from Ayers, Spence, Smith and McDonald I… Read more »

Horse
Horse
Reply to  chetthevette
5 years ago

chetthevette, Hurry up and no huddle offenses compromises a rotational defense.

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  Horse
5 years ago

For sure it does. The secondary will have to man up and help out. But I’m still excited and optimistic. Woke up this morning and donned my rose colored glasses. GO BUCS

muvlodge
muvlodge
Reply to  Horse
5 years ago

I dunno so much about that. You would think a rotational D-Line would accent a hurry up no huddle ofense, seeing as u will sometimes not be able to eat up clock when drives stall thus having the D come back on the field. So, one would think a rotating line keep the guys fresher and plays into that method of play.

WiltheBrewer
WiltheBrewer
Reply to  muvlodge
5 years ago

It would help to have depth/ rotation if OUR team’s O can’t sustain a drive, but the other team running no-huddle makes subs/ rotation more difficult for our D

76Buc
76Buc
Reply to  chetthevette
5 years ago

All right. I’ll be the one. Chetthevette, what the hell are you smokin? I think 45-50 would be a stupendous leap over recent years and (barring a collapse by Winston) put us in the hunt.

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  76Buc
5 years ago

I like a good Cohiba, sometimes a Arturo Fuente with a strong expresso.

76Buc
76Buc
Reply to  chetthevette
5 years ago

Tampa cigars rock!

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  76Buc
5 years ago

Not a football comment, but, the cigar bar at the Columbia is awesome. Good smokes and great coffee. I’m tea totter. Also good looking bartenders, if you know what I mean. GO BUCS

seat26
seat26
5 years ago

I hope it happens for him this year. Lord knows we need it. IF We can get our DL working this year, who knows how good this team can be ? It would really help our secondary too. It ll starts up front in the trenches. If we can get to the opposing team’s QB, We will have a great year.

beardmcdoug
beardmcdoug
5 years ago

Good article Eric

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

I don’t see Gholston as a 10 sack DL but if he can get his numbers up to 7 or 8 he will be a valuable commodity.
I think Joe Cullen really helped him out last year. I remember a couple f stories back then where Cullen was riding him pretty good and Gholston was mature enough to realize Cullen was only trying to make him better.
His play improved considerably last year and if he can continue his ascent, maybe even jongruden will give him some kudos.

owlykat
owlykat
5 years ago

I have seen Gholston’s potential from the start, and it has been great to see his growth last year. Don’t forget Bennet after three years only had seven sacks, but then really blossomed to a double digit sacker at Seattle and was always good as a run stopper. Gholsten should start at LDE for first and second down then bring in Spence as a speed rusher on third down. I think Used that way Gholsten will help shut down the opponent’s running game and still get seven sacks this year. If Licht will quickly give him an extension, he can… Read more »

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

Love his attitude if he keeps it in check.

surferdudes
surferdudes
5 years ago

“My history has been we’re going to roll guys through, keep people fresh and just keep coming after people in waves”. When ever waves are mentioned, you have Surferdudes attention! Last weekend with no football, can’t wait to get this season started.

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

Gholston is an average rotational DL, but he is no fast pass rusher. He will be on the team and play, but three years of average play says alot. I had high expectations for him when he first arrived, but now I see him as an average player and is a valuable back up. Go Bucs!

fredster
fredster
5 years ago

Good run stopper, average pass rusher. His value is that he can play DT too I guess. Love to see him become more of a force in passing game, but I don’t think he’s fast enough really. Strong guy though. Good bull rush. To get 10+ sacks you can’t be a one trick pony. Need several moves and a very fast first step. Don’t think he’s really had either? Anyways go Buc’s!

fredster
fredster
5 years ago

Owlykat Gholdron is not and will never be Bennett. Letting Bennett go for 5 million then overpaying Johnson and other bums to try to get D.E. Production was one of the dumbest things done here last 10 years. –
And Bennett is not flourishing because he’s in Seattle he is a damn good DE.

76Buc
76Buc
5 years ago

‘…if he can continue his ascent, maybe even jongruden will give him some kudos…’ ‘What are you smokin’,drdneas?

jme0151
jme0151
5 years ago

He has turned into a good rotational player. Hope he keeps improving and we do resign him.

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

76Buc, I know, I know. But I remain the eternal optimist in regards to human behavior. I know it’s character flaw but I believe in the old therapists joke, “How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb. Answer: Only one but it has to want to change.”

chetthevette
chetthevette
5 years ago

Not a comment On VG. PFF actually put our receivers in the top 10. That must mean we are in the top 5 seeing that PFF hates us.