Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Joe Smith and Greg Auman

Without a coach in place, Bucs adjust scouting approach

18

January

The Bucs, as you might expect, have been scouting prospects practicing in St. Petersburg for Saturday's East-West Shrine Game college showcase at Tropicana Field.

As they do annually, the team's college scouting staff and personnel director Dennis Hickey have been in attendance since Monday, evaluating a field that includes mostly mid- to late-round draft picks as well as many rookie free agents. There are some intriguing players taking part in the game, and the Bucs have selected Shrine Game participants in the past.

But here's where things deviate from the norm: Because the Bucs are still without a head coach and coordinators, scouting future Buccaneers becomes a bit trickier. Right now, it's less clear which players are better suited for the types of offensive and defensive schemes the Bucs will run. We don't yet have an idea what those schemes will look like and what elements will be emphasized. Therefore, the team is having to cast a wider net in its scouting efforts, at least for the time being.

To be clear, we should point out that the Bucs' regional scouts do this anyway. They scout players of all kinds from just about every school and report back to Hickey and general manager Mark Dominik. But in a perfect world, you'd like to start zeroing in on certain players at this time of year, especially with the Senior Bowl upcoming next week.

Instead, the Bucs say they'll continue making their broad evaluations for now, noting players' strengths and the kinds of systems they will excel in. Then, once the coaching staff is in place and it becomes clear what kind of offense and defense Tampa Bay will utilize, the scouting staff will begin eliminating prospects who aren't good fits for the types of schemes the team is going to run.

It's not an unprecedented scenario -- and the Bucs aren't the only team currently in this position -- but it's not ideal, either.

At the NFL level, good players generally can play in just about any system. But that doesn't mean they aren't better suited for one versus another. For example, if a certain player is clearly projected as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but the Bucs continue using their 4-3 base defensive front, such players aren't necessarily a great fit for Tampa Bay. But given where things stand right now, no player can effectively be ruled out until there's more clarity on what the Bucs will be doing going forward.

So, as you begin paying attention to draft prospects and listening to the various evaluations of players that will commence in the coming weeks, keep in mind some of the challenges before the Bucs that will remain until this coaching search (finally) ends.

[Last modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 11:47am]

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