Saturday, April 21, 2018
Sports

Bucs journal: Jeremy McNichols hopes to continue NFL success of Boise State RBs

TAMPA — Jeremy McNichols, the Bucs' fifth-round pick, sounds a lot like another Bucs running back from Boise State — he and Doug Martin are both 5 feet 9 and from California, with prolific careers for the Broncos.

But McNichols drew a comparison to another promising Boise State running back: Jay Ajayi, who was a fifth-round pick two years ago after leaving school early and rushed for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns last season with the Dolphins.

"I feel like he was as ready as Jay when he came out," said Boise State coach Bryan Harsin, who played quarterback for Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter when Koetter coached at Boise.

McNichols had huge numbers in the past two years at Boise — 1,709 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2016, after 1,337 yards and 20 scores as a sophomore. Add 88 receptions in the past two years, and he shows why he earned a nickname.

"As a player, he brings that versatility — how you use him, we called him 'The Weapon,' " Harsin said. "He was a guy we could do a lot of things with."

McNichols had surgery this spring to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, but Koetter said he's hopeful he will make a healthy return by the start of training camp.

"He can do a little bit of everything," Koetter said. "Really good pass blocker. Every running back in college, that's their Achilles' heel. … Just a solid, three-down player."

Big addition

Even in the seventh round, the Bucs can draft with urgency, and they sent next year's seventh-rounder to move up 14 spots and draft former Utah and USC DT Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, a massive 348-pound prospect.

Tu'ikolovatu, 26, is one of the draft's more colorful characters. He started his college career in 2009, spent three years on an LDS mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints then spent two months living in his car in Los Angeles last summer after transferring to USC for his final season.

"He's a productive player, a run-stuffer," Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. "We went through a patch (last season) where we felt like we needed to get bigger inside. We've addressed that."

That last name isn't too hard to pronounce: TOO-ee-koe-loe-VAH-too. Or "Stevie T," to make it easy.

Another trade

Late Friday night, the Bucs traded up into the third round, dealing their fourth- and sixth-round picks to the Jets to land LSU LB Kendell Beckwith, who was a three-year starter with the Tigers but is recovering from a torn ACL suffered against UF in November. The Bucs had great luck two years ago in drafting in the fourth round LSU LB Kwon Alexander, who has started 28 games in two seasons. Beckwith could be healthy around the start of the 2017 season and is expected to compete for the Bucs' strongside linebacker job.

Still busy

After the draft, the Bucs stayed active, lining up at least a dozen undrafted rookie free agents to join the 90-man roster. Tampa Bay has a ton of long-shot success stories — TE Cameron Brate, WR Adam Humphries and RB Peyton Barber in recent years.

New names signing with the Bucs: Antony Auclair, TE, Laval (Canada); Riley Bullough, LB, Michigan State; Maurice Fleming, CB, West Virginia; Korren Kirven, OL, Alabama; Christian Kuntz, LB, Duquesne; Sefo Liufau, QB, Colorado; Greg Mabin, CB, Iowa; Paul Magloire, LB, Arizona; Jonathan Moxey, DB, Boise State; Thomas Sperbeck, WR, Boise State; Jesus "Bobo" Wilson, WR, Florida State.

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