Last March, the Southern Miss basketball team qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 21 years, drawing the #9 seed in the West region. Unfortunately, the Golden Eagles got a tough draw in Kansas State, and were out in the first round.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive tackle Demar Dotson, who spent the bulk of his college career on the hardwood at Southern Miss, rather than the gridiron, knows how his alma mater feels. If practice field assignments at the Bucs training camp were a matter of seeding, the pundits would surely say that Dotson got a terrible draw. Every day at practice, Dotson has to go against furious pass-rusher Adrian Clayborn, over and over again, in team drills and one-on-ones.
Clayborn has been of the more noticeable standouts at camp so far this summer, bringing heat snap after snap. The Bucs leader in sacks last year with 7.5 as a rookie, he looks poised to be even more of an impact player in 2012. Clayborn is certainly having an impact on Dotson, helping the talented but inexperienced player hone his game every day.
Told on Wednesday that Clayborn had no sympathy for Dotson or any of his opponents in the trenches, Dotson could only laugh…then add his appreciation for his teammate's work.
"That guy's a battle," said Dotson. "I love going up against him. I think he's real good. It makes me better. If I come out here every day and grind against him, I have no choice but to get better. That's what I intend to do every day."
Dotson will start at left tackle on Friday night when the Buccaneers open their preseason in Miami against the Dolphins. It will be his third career preseason start – he opened the final warm-up in each of the last two summers – but his first at left tackle. Donald Penn is currently sidelined with a calf strain, which means Dotson will be protecting Josh Freeman's blind side for the short period of time the Bucs' starting quarterback is in the game.
That will likely involve stopping Miami pass-rush dynamo Cameron Wake. Fortunately, Dotson has already had plenty of experience this summer against a difficult – and merciless – opponent.