Eight small-school prospects on Bucs' draft radar
It stands to reason that after the success of guard Ali Marpet out of tiny Hobart College last year, the Bucs' front office should only have more confidence in their ability to not only identify small-school talent in the draft but also to develop it at the NFL level.
As we've worked to track down players that have drawn interest from the Bucs this spring, there's definitely been a small-school lean to their travels, not necessarily for the No. 9 overall pick in the first round, but more for later in the draft. Here are eight names they've been associated with between pro days and private workouts and so on. (We're not counting EKU's Noah Spence, since he spent time at Ohio State).
Will Ratelle, FB, North Dakota: As we wrote earlier this month, the Bucs sent running backs coach Tim Spencer clear to North Dakota's campus to work out Ratelle, an intriguing college linebacker whose size will force a move to fullback at the NFL level. Ratelle's measurables are wild -- 4.54 seconds in the 40 at 251 pounds, with a 36-inch vertical and 36 reps in the bench press at 225 pounds. With Jorvorskie Lane unsigned, the Bucs don't have a fullback, so they'll likely address it during or after the draft.
Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina State: Lots of NFL teams are on Hargrave, and defensive tackle is almost certainly a position the Bucs address in the draft, with only three proven DTs back from last year's roster. Hargrave is shorter than most DTs at 6-2, but is a solid interior pass rusher --- new Bucs DC Mike Smith has talked about how his pass rush can also come from the inside as well.
Moritz Boehringer, WR, Germany: Not exactly small school, but what about the possibility of drafting a player who didn't play American college football? The Bucs had a scout at the 6-4 Boehringer's pro day as a guest at Florida Atlantic, then had two coaches on hand Friday as he did a second workout to help his stock. He's raw, but brings a rare combination of size and speed -- could he be an eventual successor to Vincent Jackson opposite Mike Evans?
Antwione Williams, LB, Georgia Southern: It's actually a I-A program now, but the Bucs sent linebackers coach Mark Duffner up to Georgia to work out Williams, who could be a late-round match if the Bucs seek to add a strongside linebacker to pair with veteran Daryl Smith. Williams is scheduled to take a top-30 visit to One Buc Place on Wednesday, so the 6-3, 245-pound prospect will get another closer look from the Bucs.
Miles Killebrew, S, Southern Utah: New Bucs defensive backs coach Brett Maxie went to Cedar City and was the first NFL assistant to work out Killebrew, who turned heads at the Senior Bowl in January. He's dropped weight since his season to be closer to 220 -- was used well as an in-the-box safety in college but is good in coverage as well.
Hakeem Valles, TE, Monmouth: The Bucs sent tight ends coach Jon Embree to New Jersey to meet with Valles, who played receiver his first three years on campus. He has good size at 6-5, 260 and caught 40 passes over the last two years. Embree went to dinner with Valles the night before his pro day, and he's a good possible match as an undrafted free agent.
Ryan Smith, CB, N.C. Central: The Bucs had a visit lined up with Smith, who turned heads at the NFL combine with speed (4.47 seconds) and coverage skills. If the Bucs address their defensive line high in the draft, he's an option in the middle or later rounds.
LeShaun Sims, CB, Southern Utah: While the Bucs were in Cedar City to work out Killebrew, they also had Maxie work out Sims, who led SUU in pass breakups and had two interceptions last season.