TAMPA — Bucs receivers coach P.J. Fleck, a bright, up-and-coming member of the staff, will end his brief tenure when he leaves to become the coach at Western Michigan.
The school confirmed the hire Monday and plans to introduce Fleck today in Kalamazoo, Mich. Fleck, 32, will be the youngest coach in Division I-A.
Fleck has employed his enthusiastic hands-on coaching style to help Vincent Jackson (1,226 yards) to a career year, while pushing third-year player Mike Williams to resurrect his career after his struggles of 2011. Also, under Fleck's tutelage, journeyman Tiquan Underwood has had his most productive season as a pro after three years of struggling to stay on rosters.
Coach Greg Schiano declined to confirm the news Monday, but underscored Fleck's importance to the staff.
"Let me just say that P.J.'s an excellent football coach," Schiano said. "And like a lot of guys on our staff, in years to come, people are going to come after them to be head coaches, whether it be in the NFL or in major college. We'll deal with each one as it comes down the pipe."
Fleck, a former standout receiver at Northern Illinois (also a member of the Mid-American Conference) and a member of the 49ers for two seasons, takes over a program formerly led Bill Cubit, who was fired last month.
Before joining the Bucs, Fleck's coaching experience had come entirely at the college level. He was a grad assistant at Ohio State and receivers coach at Northern Illinois and Rutgers. Fleck was named offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois in February, resigning after one day when Schiano offered Fleck his current post with the Bucs.
INTO THE DEEP: TE Dallas Clark didn't take a bow for catching a game-high eight passes in Sunday's 41-0 loss to the Saints.
It wasn't anything to celebrate, he said.
He seemed the go-to target for QB Josh Freeman because that's all the Saints gave Tampa Bay's offense. With the score 24-0 by halftime, the Saints predictably went to a deep zone coverage, keeping everything in front of the defense and preventing the deep shots the Bucs have executed well this season.
"You had to take a lot of checkdowns and a lot of things underneath," Clark said. "That's exactly what they wanted: to keep me inbounds and milk the clock. It just got lopsided in such a hurry that that was our only shot."
The Bucs' longest completion of the game was a 24-yard hookup between Freeman and Williams.
OVERSHADOWED: Eclipsed by the loss in New Orleans was what the Bucs hope is the start of good things to come from rookie SS Mark Barron.
Schiano, speaking on his weekly radio call-in show, said Barron had his best game "in a while," notching a career-best 10 tackles — eight solo.
Barron, who added a pass deflection, has been under some scrutiny for a lack of splash plays despite his status as the seventh overall pick in April's draft. The Bucs say Barron has had a solid season, though he clearly has had some sporadic issues when in coverage.
TIDBITS: With many reserves playing late in Sunday's game, WR Chris Owusu and QB Dan Orlovsky saw action. Owusu made his first career catch, gaining 24 yards, and Orlovsky played for the first time this season. He was 4 of 7 for 51 yards.