Tampa Bay Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin shares some words of wisdom with the South squad defenders
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' coaching staff eagerly accepted the invitation to coach the South squad in the 2005 Senior Bowl, knowing it would give them a chance for hands-on evaluation of some of the nation's best college players.
Well, Monday they finally get their hands on.
The South squad players met their coaching staff at an orientation session on Monday morning, then worked through two rounds of meetings before hitting the practice field at 2:45 p.m. The approximately 50 college all-stars who make up the South squad may need a few outings to get used to Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden and his intensely-motivated staff, but Gruden took an instant liking to his Senior Bowl crew.
"We're really encouraged by what we saw," said Gruden. "This is a very talented South team."
Some players, like Thorpe Award-winning Carlos Rogers, the Auburn cornerback, need only to show that they can excel at their natural position against top-notch competition. Others, like Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones, may be auditioning for a new role in the NFL. All of them can help themselves by proving how quickly they can adapt to a professional routine.
"You get a chance to see how quick they grasp this system, how much they compete," said Gruden. "Being in the huddle and in the meeting room behind the scenes is a great evaluator, at least for us, and we're going to take full advantage of that.
"Some of these guys playing in this all-star game won't play the position all the time that they're accustomed to playing. So there's a lot of newness here, just familiarity with our system, the terminology. Sometimes, it's a new position, it's a challenge. We're going to work hard to put them in the best position possible to look good and make a statement for themselves."
Jones and Auburn running back Cadillac Williams were two of the early focal points on the South squad, the former because he's potentially learning a new position and the latter because he might have more at stake, in terms of prime draft position, than any of his teammates.
Jones had a good first day with the Buccaneer coaching staff, which will do its best to display all of his talents. The Bucs have even assigned a specific coach to help with his progress this week.
"He's a great kid," said Gruden. "Kyle Shanahan is one-on-one with him from morning until dusk. I give him credit – the pressure's on. Every personnel man in football is at this game, coaches, everybody's watching. But he's eager. He's got athletic talent, you can see that. Whether it's at quarterback, tight end or wide receiver, we're going to try and showcase him at all three positions."
Williams has been mentioned as a top-10 talent, which obviously adds to the undertone of the week, given that the Buccaneers have the fifth pick in the upcoming draft. Of course, the Bucs won't be divulging any draft strategy this week, but they also can't deny Williams' talent.
"He's a Cadillac," said Gruden. "They don't call him that because he's not one. He's a flashy back and a very talented, charismatic kid. I'm not the only guy who likes him, I can promise you that."