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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Instincts, Intangibles Made SirVocea Dennis a Top Target for Bucs

The Bucs went back to the Pitt defense to grab another impact player, this time using a fifth-round pick on ILB SirVocea Dennis, who shows off impressive range, football instincts and blitzing ability


It's not quite as pronounced as the Athens-to-Philadelphia pipeline, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have spent half of their first four picks in the 2023 NFL Draft on players who starred for a very good University of Pittsburgh defense last year.

After kicking things off with the first-round selection off Panthers defensive lineman Calijah Kancey, the Bucs went back to that Pitt well in Round Five to nab off-ball linebacker SirVocea Dennis. It marks the first time since 1995 that Tampa Bay has drafted two players from the same college defense in the same year. That one went well, as the duo began with future Hall-of-Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks, who was later joined by Florida State teammate cornerback Clifton Abraham in the fifth round.

"It just happens sometimes that way," said Buccaneers Director of Player Personnel Mike Biehl. "Look at the Eagles taking all those Georgia guys. If you find good players on the same team we're not afraid to pull the trigger on more than one of them."

The Buccaneers have an excellent starting duo of inside linebackers in Lavonte David and Devin White. However, both David and White are currently under contract for just one more season, and David will be going into his 12th campaign. The Buccaneers weren't going to force a pick at that position to plan for the future, but they were more than happy to snag Dennis with the 153rd-overall selection.

"If you go into the draft and just say, 'We're going to take good football players,' and do that, you just follow the board," said Biehl. "At the same time there are positions of need that come up here and there, and when you match up the need with a good football player it works well, and I think we did that."

In Dennis, they found a middle-level defender with some of the same traits that have made David one of the most accomplished players in franchise history, including outstanding instincts and the range to make an impact all over the field.

"As a player, he's super-instinctive, has good athletic ability and he just flies around the field and makes a lot of plays," said Biehl. "He's a little bit like Lavonte, I would say. Lavonte's maybe a little bit bigger but he has the same traits as far as the instincts and the athletic ability and the ability to get sideline to sideline. And if he's a backup initially he should be really good on special teams, which is exciting for us."

The Panthers let Dennis roam in their defense but they also used him to attack the backfield at times. He produced 94 tackles and 7.0 sacks as a senior to earn first-team All-ACC honors, and over his last three seasons has racked up 15.0 sacks and 36.0 tackles for loss. That meshes well with how David and White have been used in Todd Bowles' defense. Those two combined for 8.5 sacks, 10 passes defensed and three forced fumbles to go with their usual high tackle totals last season.

"They used him in some unique ways," said Biehl of the Pitt coaching staff. "They brought him off the edge, they brought him up the middle. They used him in a lot of the same ways that Todd uses our linebackers so it should be a good fit and an easy transition for him, I would think. He's really high on football intelligence. Him and Kancey shouldn't have any issues making the transition to our league."

The Buccaneers didn't bring Kancey or Dennis in for a private meeting and their only contact with Dennis before the draft was over a Zoom call, which allowed them to asses his football IQ and get to know him a bit more as a person. Biehl said the Buccaneers already felt very comfortable with Dennis's character, as was also the case with his teammate, Kancey.

"First of all, he's a great player and he's a great person, too," said Biehl. "He's a great teammate, a team captain, just a high-intangible guy that fits in with the other guys we've taken in this draft."

View pictures of SirVocea Dennis, who Tampa Bay selected in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

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