By Tom Krasniqi
You walk into One Buc Place and you can immediately sense a different vibe in the building. The atmosphere is noticeably more relaxed and so are the people that work there—including the new assistant coaches.
New head coach Lovie Smith’s staff consists of 19 coaches and on Wednesday, his assistants met with the media for the first time. They were waiting in the dining area and many of them are so unrecognizable that the team’s public relations staff placed name cards in front of their seat.
Many of these assistants were just hired by Lovie and are still just settling in—not just into a new job, but into a new area like Tampa and for some, it was a welcome change.
Some of Lovie’s assistants were guys he worked with up in Chicago. Right now, it feels like 10 degrees in Chicago. Just yesterday, it was 77 here in Tampa.
“It’s definitely warmer here,” joked assistant defensive line coach Mike Phair. Phair spent the last three seasons in blustery Chicago as the Bears defensive line coach.
There were two prevailing themes that emerged from Wednesday’s gathering—for starters, many of the assistants are in the early stages of the evaluation process so they couldn’t go into detail in terms of evaluating personnel. Secondly, every coach lobbied for more depth in their position group.
New running backs coach Tim Spencer was one assistant who didn’t complain about depth at his position. Spencer is enamored with the likes of Doug Martin, Mike James, Bobby Rainey and Erik Lorig.
“Pretty strong,” Spencer said when asked to assess his group.
Here are some other highlights of what was said by the new assistants:
- Former Bucs linebacker Hardy Nickerson drew the biggest crowd at his table. Nickerson is thrilled to be back in Tampa Bay and says Lovie talked him into a coaching career a couple of years ago. Nickerson is the new linebackers coach.
- Much has been made about what type of role CB Darrelle Revis will have in Lovie’s version of the Tampa 2. No need to worry—new CBs coach Gill Byrd says the new defense will have “multiple schemes” and that will require players to have the skills to play those schemes. Byrd believes Revis will fit in nicely. I asked Byrd if Revis can fit any scheme, Byrd replied: “In one word, yes.”
- New QBs coach Marcus Arroyo seems knowledgeable and detail-oriented. When asked for a quick evaluation of Mike Glennon, Arroyo said: “He stands in the pocket well…Think he delivers the ball. He’s got a long inventory of passes he can throw, he’s got a strong arm….he seems cerebral.” Sounds like the new coaching staff likes what they see from Glennon so far but I still believe the team will draft a QB.
- New special teams coach Kevin O’Dea puts a heavy emphasis on having a big time return specialist: “That guy is a high priority.” Expect the Bucs to pursue someone like Devin Hester or Largo product Dexter McCluster in free agency. McCluster makes more sense since he’s younger and can fill two needs—slot WR and return specialist. Makes so much sense.
- Can defensive linemen flourish later in their career? New defensive line coach Joe Cullen believes so. Cullen says most defensive linemen start to blossom in their 3rd season and he thinks DE Da’Quan Bowers is about to emerge. Injuries and a questionable work ethic have hampered Bowers but the talent is there: “He’s big, powerful and strong. Those are great qualities,” Cullen said of Bowers.
- Tight end is certainly a position of concern for the Bucs and new tight ends coach Jon Embree is well aware of it: “It’s a young group, a raw group….we have a lot of work to do.”
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