How will Bucs RBs share load in '09?
First-year running backs coach Steve Logan is still figuring out how a talented group of backs might best complement each other in the Bucs offense this fall. One thing he likes from the position is a common background of overcoming adversity in the NFL -- aside from former first-round pick Carnell Williams, the rest of Tampa Bay's key running backs have had long paths to their pro success.
"The room is made up of men who have really earned their way through the league," Logan said. "Earnest (Graham) is a young man who just continued to prove it, and Clif (Clifton Smith) is the same way, another guy who had to work his way in. You go down the list: B.J. Askew has to earn it every day, Jameel Cook earns it every day. None of these guys were superstars, other than Cadillac. Derrick Ward is included in that. He's another guy who knows the meaning of hard work."
Graham and Smith went undrafted out of college, and Ward was a seventh-round pick in 2004 who was cut by the Jets before he landed with the Giants, and even then, totaled just 123 rushing yards in his first three NFL seasons. Askew, a fullback, didn't get a touchdown until his sixth NFL season last fall, and Cook has carved a niche as a pass-catching fullback, with more career catches (84) than career rushing yards (43).
So how will the Bucs' backs split up the carries this fall? Here's what Logan had to say:
"I think Earnest, everybody, the fans and coaches know what Earnest is and what he can do. I think Derrick is going to give us a good change of pace from Earnest. Earnest has a lot of power and is very quick in short spaces. I think Derrick has a little more speed, for lack of a better word, and might give us a little bit more plays outside the tackles. I see a nice complement between those two.
"Clif is going to be the joker that can give us some really different things. ... Clif may have a more expanded role in this offense, rather than just as a punt returner. ... Right now, we're just doing the base offense, getting everything installed, but soon, we've talked to the kids about these last four OTAs, we're going to begin to try to focus on who brings what to the table, and then we'll exploit that as coaches. That's our job."
Logan has a long history with current Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, who worked under him for seven seasons at East Carolina, including when Logan was head coach from 1992-96. Logan worked as Jagodzinski's offensive coordinator at Boston College the past two seasons, winning 20 games, before joining him with the Bucs.
And as it turns out, Logan wasn't the first person in his family employed by the Bucs -- his son Vincent worked in the Bucs' ticket office for two seasons, but is now getting a Master's degree from Boston College. "We just swapped places," Logan said.
-- Greg Auman, Times staff writer