Noah Spence 'lightning-quick' for Bucs' pass rush, trainer says
TAMPA -- Former NFL defensive end Chuck Smith trains pass-rushers by trade these days, and he spent eight weeks this spring preparing defensive end Noah Spence, who went to the Bucs in the second round on Friday night.
"He's lightning-quick off the ball, he has passion and he loves the art of pass rush," Smith said by phone from Orlando after the pick. "He's really a disciplined football player that listens to coaching, and I think he's going to be a great fit with Mike Smith, an awesome coordinator. He couldn't have a better defensive line coach than the great Jay Hayes."
Chuck Smith knows those coaches well -- by coincidence, the former Falcons pass-rusher was a neighbor to Mike Smith throughout his seven seasons as Falcons head coach. What's more, he is close friends with Hayes and trained Hayes' son, Jesse, a pass-rusher from Wisconsin, alongside Spence at times this offseason.
"He's the best pass-rusher in this draft. No one else is even close, and he'll show it this year," said Chuck Smith, who worked with Will Gholston this offseason and trained Akeem Spence during his draft year. "I'm so proud they gave him this opportunity."
Smith said he understands why there were questions about Spence's off-field problems, both at Ohio State and last spring after transferring to Eastern Kentucky. He said Spence has been accountable and open about his past and knows he'll be judged by his actions moving forward.
"He accepted it. He owned it," he said. "You can't run away from your past. ... I think only time will prove what kind of person he really is."
The Bucs, perpetually searching for a pass-rusher capable of getting double-digit sacks in a season, now have a second-rounder to learn from veteran Robert Ayers. Smith, who had 58.5 sacks and played for the Falcons from 1992-99, said he's excited to see what Spence can do, especially knowing the coaches he'll be working with.
"This is the perfect fit for Noah Spence," he said. "I'm ecstatic that he's going to get a chance to play under Mike Smith and Jay Hayes. I can't wait til he comes into that Dome in Atlanta. I'm a former Falcon, but I'm going with Tampa these days."