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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Dungy 'feels good' about Winston

Tony Dungy said he 'feels good,' about the Bucs decision to draft Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Tony Dungy said he 'feels good,' about the Bucs decision to draft Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

Tony Dungy said he 'feels good,' about the Bucs decision to draft Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

Dungy said did his best to sell Bucs coach Lovie Smith on Marcus Mariota. His son, Eric, was a teammate of Mariota's for three years at Oregon and now works in the Bucs data systems department. But Dungy is convinced the Bucs thoroughly researched both quarterbacks and chose the one that best fit their team and the offense.

"I talked to Lovie (Smith) way back a couple of months ago and I know they were going to research those two guys,'' Dungy said. "And I told them about Marcus and the experience I had with him and they looked at everything and were very thorough and got the guy they felt was the best for their offense and their attack. I feel good about it because I know how much they researched. I’m a Mariota guy because I saw him up close for three years and I saw what he did in that program and I know him personally. He’s the kind of kind of guy I would bet on. I was selfishly hoping it would be Marcus but I think Jameis is going to do well and I’ve talked to Marcus. I  know he’s excited about going to Tennessee.'' …

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Bucs on Twitter: Which players have the most followers?

It's that time of year again -- after the draft, we track which Bucs players have the largest followings on Twitter. There's obviously significant turnover from last year's top 20, with Dashon Goldson, Da'Quan Bowers, D.J. Moore (remember him?) and Adrian Clayborn gone from last year's top 10.

Twitter followings can reflect a number of things -- overall popularity, coming from a college with a passionate fanbase and just being active on Twitter and interactive with fans. It's a good time to remind fans that we keep a list of all active Bucs players on Twitter -- there are 76 guys on our current 2015 list -- you can subscribe and follow all 76 on one timeline. (Full disclosure: Garrett Gilkey isn't there because you can't include someone blocking you on one of your Twitter lists).

So here's the new top 20 -- to no surprise, rookie QB Jameis Winston tops the list with more than 200,000 followers, and fellow rookie Kenny Bell jumps in at No. 4 with a big boost from Husker Nation. New defensive tackle Henry Melton has picked up many Bears and Cowboys fans in his short NFL career. …

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Bucs' Evans has high praise for rookie DB Deshazor Everett

Texas A&M defensive back Deshazor Everett, a versatile defender, could compete for a backup spot at nickel or cornerback.

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Texas A&M defensive back Deshazor Everett, a versatile defender, could compete for a backup spot at nickel or cornerback.

The Bucs' rookie minicamp is this weekend at One Buc Place, and while much of the attention will be on QB Jameis Winston and the team's other six draft picks, it will also be the first look at 13 undrafted rookie free agents who will have a shot at cracking the Bucs' fall roster.

One of those is Texas A&M defensive back Deshazor Everett, a versatile defender who could compete for a backup spot at nickel or cornerback. Former teammate Mike Evans, now a second-year Bucs receiver, had high praise for Everett when asked about him Tuesday.

"Me and him had a lot of battles. We came in together, Class of 2011," Evans said. "That boy is a baller. I think he will have a real good shot at making the team. He works hard. He can play safety, nickel or corner. He'll do the dirty work. He'll get on special teams. He'll do whatever it takes. I'm excited about having him here." …

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Dotson says Bucs offense will be uptempo

Starting tackle Demar Dotson talked has been impressed by the tempo the Bucs will have this fall.

AP photo

Starting tackle Demar Dotson talked has been impressed by the tempo the Bucs will have this fall.

The Bucs aren't saying too much about how their offense will be under new coordinator Dirk Koetter, but starting tackle Demar Dotson talked to reporters Tuesday and has been impressed by the tempo they'll have this fall.

"He loves fast-tempo, loves to get the ball up the field, loves to go a lot of no-huddle," Dotson said when asked his initial impressions of Koetter, who came to the Bucs after stints with the Falcons and Jaguars. "That's going to be something that's more different than what we're used to. We're going to have a lot of uptempo stuff. That's something he loves doing. It's got its ups and downs but I'm looking forward to being a part of it."

There was talk of the Bucs implementing a more uptempo offense last summer, but that was scuttled when offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford had to take a leave of absence with heart problems. With no offensive coordinator, the Bucs struggled to establish any offense, let alone an uptempo one -- they finished 31st in the NFL with just 58.6 offensive plays per game. That was their lowest plays-per-game total since at least 2003, according to Teamrankings.com. …

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Coach: LB Kwon Alexander can make quick impact for Bucs

Kwon Alexander could be challenging veteran Danny Lansanah for the starting role at strongside linebacker.

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Kwon Alexander could be challenging veteran Danny Lansanah for the starting role at strongside linebacker.

John Chavis has been coaching college football since 1979, and the former LSU defensive coordinator says the Bucs found a playmaker in Tigers linebacker Kwon Alexander, a fourth-round draft pick who could make an impact this fall even though he's still only 20 years old.

"He's a very talented young man. The reason he's going to play early is he's very powerful, he can change direction with the best of them and he has tremendous speed," said Chavis, now at Texas A&M after serving as Alexander's linebackers coach for all three years.

Chavis said Alexander started as a true freshman at strongside linebacker, missing half of the year with injury, and as a sophomore, the Tigers moved him to weakside linebacker to make sure he was on the field as much as possible.

"We were not going to take him off the field," Chavis said. "He was too good a player to take off the field in nickel situations. He took to that and really mastered the position, the technique and understanding the position." …

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Rookie in at left tackle, Dotson told he's back on right

Demar Dotson has two years remaining on a contract that will pay him $2.5-million this season.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Demar Dotson has two years remaining on a contract that will pay him $2.5-million this season.

After a three-game audition at left tackle at the end of last season, Demar Dotson spent the offseason training as if that were his future position, but the Bucs' drafting of Donovan Smith in the second round Friday means he's moving back to right tackle.

"When I left, there were indications that I was going to come back and start off on the left, so I did train myself, prepare myself to come back and play left," Dotson said. "Shortly after we got back (April 20), they said it depends on who we draft. Then after we drafted the kid from, I'm not sure where he's from, but the kid, Donovan kid, they said they were going to put me back to right and perhaps put that kid on the left."

While being a left tackle can be the more lucrative end of the offensive line, Dotson has played almost exclusively at right tackle, so the move there is a move back to his comfort zone. Dotson has two years remaining on a contract that will pay him $2.5-million this season. …

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Bucs' Evans preferred Winston because he stays in the pocket

Bucs receiver Mike Evans says he preferred Jameis Winston, pictured, to Marcus Mariota because he delivers the ball from the pocket.

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Bucs receiver Mike Evans says he preferred Jameis Winston, pictured, to Marcus Mariota because he delivers the ball from the pocket.

Bucs receiver Mike Evans says he preferred Jameis Winston to Marcus Mariota because he delivers the ball from the pocket, even though he caught passes from scrambling quarterback Johnny Manziel while the two were at Texas A&M.

"Out of him and Mariota, I liked Winston more,'' Evans saId. "He doesn’t run as much. With that being said, I think he’ll come in and do well for us. He can sit in the pocket and deliver the ball. That’s more opportunities for the receiver. (Marcus) Mariota can play ball as well.

When reminded Evans caught passes a year ago at Texas A&M, Evans didn't budge.

“I did my time with a mobile quarterback and that was fun,'' Evans said. "It was fun, it got me more opportunities for more balls on scramble rules and stuff like that. But in this league, it’s tough to scramble. I think Jameis will be fine.''

But Evans didn't seem ready to name Winston the starting quarterback.

“You don’t know if he’ll be throwing to us for sure,'' Evans said. "But he’s a No. 1 pick and he’s a great player. I watched him throughout his college career and he can hang in that pocket and deliver the ball.''

 

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Bucs decline 2016 option for RB Doug Martin

Doug Martin is tackled by Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Sam Barrington in the third quarter of the Dec. 21 game at Raymond James Stadium.

[Getty Images]

Doug Martin is tackled by Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Sam Barrington in the third quarter of the Dec. 21 game at Raymond James Stadium.

The Bucs will not pick up their fifth-year option for running back Doug Martin, meaning he will become an unrestricted free agent after the upcoming season.

Martin, who rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie, has been limited by injuries the last two seasons. Backup Bobby Rainey was the team's leading rusher last year until the final week of the season, when Martin passed him. 

The Bucs drafted Charles Sims in the third round in 2014, and Sims and Martin are likely to compete for the starting role entering the 2015 season, with Bobby Rainey and Mike James returning as backups. The Bucs would still have the chance to sign Martin to an extension before free agency opens next spring.

It's the second year in a row the Bucs have opted not to extend a fifth-year option on a former first-round pick -- they chose not to with defensive end Adrian Clayborn last season, and Clayborn signed with the Falcons in free agency in March after missing most of 2014 with injury.

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New names join growing list for Bucs rookie minicamp

The Bucs haven't released an official list of the undrafted rookie free agents they've signed, but one by one, we've pieced together quite a few names -- 30 and growing -- expected in for the rookie minicamp at One Buc Place starting Friday.

First, here's our notes from Monday's paper, leading with the wild coincidence of one of the Bucs' tryout players, Cal Poly LB Cameron Untko, sitting next to Jameis Winston at a bible study for athletes while both were training in San Diego this spring.

That starts with eight draft picks, of course, and we've identified 14 players believed to have signed as free agents, along with another eight prospects coming in as tryout players. There are others we're working to confirm and you could easily have 40-plus players expected by the time Friday rolls around.

Signings? We reported 10 of them on Saturday night -- Towson DE Ryan Delaire, Kansas DE Michael Reynolds, Tusculum DE Caushaud Lyons, Kansas LB Quinton Alston, Boston College LB Josh Keyes, Texas A&M CB Deshazor Everett and TCU S Chris Hackett on defense, plus Louisville RB Dominique Brown, UCF WR Rannell Hall and Heidelberg WR Donteea Dye. …

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Bucs get quick start on undrafted rookie free agents

Bucs general manager Jason Licht said Saturday he was excited  for the "eighth round" -- the frenetic courtship of undrafted rookie to sign free-agent contracts immediately after the draft.

The Bucs were busy Saturday night, with at least 10 players either tweeting or being reported as signing with the Bucs -- there's room for 14 signings beyond Tampa Bay's seven draft picks before they reach the roster maximum of 90 players.

Here are quick looks at the newest Bucs additions:

S Chris Hackett, TCU: First-team All-Big 12 selection led conference, tied for third nationally with seven interceptions.

LB Josh Keyes, Boston College: Four-year starter had 42 career starts, 16.5 career tackles for loss with Eagles.

LB Quinton Alston, Iowa: Had 94 tackles in breakout senior season, with six TFL and two forced fumbles.

DE/OLB Michael Reynolds, Kansas: Had 7 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss for Jayhawks in 12 starts as a senior.

CB DeShazor Everett, Texas A&M: Second on the Aggies with 73 tackles, including 16 in game against Arkansas.

DE Ryan Delaire, Towson: Had 11 sacks and three forced fumbles as a senior for Tigers. …

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Bucs finish draft with Hawaii fullback Joey Iosefa

Joey Iosefa averaged better than 100 rushing yards per game, finishing the year with eight touchdowns.

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Joey Iosefa averaged better than 100 rushing yards per game, finishing the year with eight touchdowns.

Many Bucs fans had hoped Tampa Bay would open the draft with a player from Hawaii, but the Bucs instead finished their draft there, taking Hawaii fullback Joey Iosefa with their seventh-round pick to round out a seven-player class.

Iosefa, 6 feet and 245 pounds, was limited to six games as a senior due to injury and a three-game suspension following a DUI arrest. He averaged better than 100 rushing yards per game, finishing the year with eight touchdowns.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht said Iosefa will have a chance to compete for the starting fullback job -- the Bucs return last year's primary fullback in Jorvorskie Lane. Six of the Bucs' seven draft picks came on the offensive side, a year after the Bucs used all six picks on offense in 2014.

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Bucs use sixth-round pick on Utah WR/returner Kaelin Clay

Utah receiver Kaelin Clay led Division I-A with four total touchdowns on returns last fall.

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Utah receiver Kaelin Clay led Division I-A with four total touchdowns on returns last fall.

After going through four different return specialists in 2014, the Bucs took a big step toward finding an answer on special teams, using their sixth-round pick Saturday on Utah receiver Kaelin Clay, who led Division I-A with four total touchdowns on returns last fall.

Clay, a 5-foot-10, 193-pound receiver, returned three punts for touchdowns and scored on a kickoff return as well, also catching 43 passes for 523 yards and four scores. In two years of junior college football at Mt. San Antonio College, he had six touchdowns on returns, including five on kickoffs.

The Bucs have used five of their six draft picks on offense, after using all six draft picks last year on offense. Clay's selection came after the Bucs used their fifth-round pick on Nebraska receiver Kenny Bell, so that's four picks on receivers in two drafts, with only one pick used on defense.

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Bucs take Nebraska Cornhuskers receiver Kenny Bell in fifth round

Kenny Bell, right, was a first-team all-Big Ten selection last season and was the most prolific receiver in Huskers history.

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Kenny Bell, right, was a first-team all-Big Ten selection last season and was the most prolific receiver in Huskers history.

The Bucs gave rookie quarterback Jameis Winston another offensive weapon, drafting receiver Kenny Bell out of Nebraska in the fifth round (No. 162 overall).

Bell is a 6-foot-1, 197-pound athlete. He was a first-team all-Big Ten selection last season and was the most prolific receiver in Huskers history. He broke school records with 181 career catches and 2,689 receiving yards.

Bell, a Boulder, Colo. native, already has some ties to the Bucs. He said tight end coach Jon Embree (a former University of Colorado head coach and assistant) is a close family friend, and he was a college teammate of linebacker Lavonte David.

“I loved everything about the Bucs’ staff…” Bell said. “I can’t really explain how excited I am to be a Buccaneer. It’s a dream come true, to say the least.”

Bell could take snaps at slot receiver for the Bucs and should be a contributor on special teams. He led the Big Ten with 26.5 yards per kickoff return as a junior and had a 99-yard touchdown return at Penn State.

His father, Ken, was a former running back and receiver with the Broncos.

“It means everything to me to be able to follow my dad’s footsteps,” Bell said. “Obviously I’m very excited to be a Buccaneer.”

 

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Bucs trade up for LSU linebacker Kwon Alexander

Kwon Alexander, left, celebrates a defensive stop against Alabama with LSU teammate Davon Godchaux, right.

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Kwon Alexander, left, celebrates a defensive stop against Alabama with LSU teammate Davon Godchaux, right.

The Bucs have their first defensive draft pick in nearly two years.

Tampa Bay traded away a seventh-round pick to move up four spots in the fourth round Saturday, dealing up to land Kwon Alexander, a 6-foot-1, 227-pound linebacker who led LSU in tackles last year. Alexander, who left after his junior season, is only 20 years old and won't turn 21 until August, after the Bucs have reported to training camp. 

"I feel great. I can't wait to get up there, have fun and do my job and get a championship with the Bucs," Alexander said by phone after the draft.

Alexander started two years at outside linebacker at LSU, with a team-high 90 tackles last year, including 7.5 for losses. He described himself as "an aggressive linebacker. I love to hit. Smart linebacker, play fast. I love to play the game."

Bucs general manager Jason Licht said the team had identified Alexander as one of the top outside linebackers in the draft and will give him a shot to compete for the starting strongside linebacker job, which Danny Lansanah was in line for after last season. …

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Penn State coach: Bucs rookie Donovan Smith a 'dancing bear'

  DonovanSmith was drafted by the Bucs with the second pick of the second round, and general manager Jason Licht made it clear he'll be given the opportunity to be the team's starting left tackle.

Icon Sportswire via AP Images

DonovanSmith was drafted by the Bucs with the second pick of the second round, and general manager Jason Licht made it clear he'll be given the opportunity to be the team's starting left tackle.

The Bucs' new offensive linemen, drafted in the second round Friday, are known for their athleticism, and Penn State coach James Franklin said Friday night raved about the way tackle Donovan Smith moves for a player his size. 

"He's a first-round talent. I don't think there's any doubt," Franklin said. "There's just not too many guys out there with his measurables, his athleticism, his power and strength. He has a rare combination of skills that not too many guys have. He's charismatic, he's articulate, he's intelligent, he has all the things necessary to be successful and we're really rooting for him in State College, Pa."

Smith was drafted by the Bucs with the second pick of the second round, and general manager Jason Licht made it clear he'll be given the opportunity to be the team's starting left tackle, charged with protecting the blind side of rookie quarterback Jameis Winston. Franklin said his footwork makes him able to seem light while carrying the power of his weight on the field. …

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