TAMPA — DT Gerald McCoy has seen the Bucs add what they hope will be key contributors to the defensive line in DE Michael Johnson and DT Clinton McDonald. But he's also excited about the progress he saw at the end of last season from rookie DE William Gholston.
"Especially in this defense, Will is one of those rare guys with his size and ability," McCoy said. "He has potential. He can do things he doesn't even realize he can do."
Gholston, a fourth-round pick from Michigan State, had just two tackles in the Bucs' first seven games and eight in the first 11. But he had 22 in his final five, including 1½ sacks against the Bills.
"I had to tell him last year: 'Hey, man, you know if you try this, nobody can stop it,' " McCoy said.
"Then he'd go do it and (say), 'Aw, man, you were right.' "
McCoy made a flattering comparison for Gholston, saying he reminds him of former Panthers and current Packers DE Julius Peppers, who played for new Bucs coach Lovie Smith with the Bears from 2010-12 and totaled 30½ sacks.
Peppers is 6 feet 7, 287 pounds while Gholston is 6-7 and 275, and both have the versatility to rush from the outside or hold their own on the interior.
"I always say he looks like Julius Peppers in his pads and how he moves when he wants to," McCoy said. "I say, 'Man, you could be that guy.' Pep plays inside sometimes, plays outside. When he wants to get to the quarterback, he can. He's a physical specimen, and that's Will."
Gholston likely enters camp as the No. 3 end behind fourth-year pro Adrian Clayborn, who is expected to start at left end opposite Johnson. The team could add a pass-rusher in the draft with some mock drafts pairing it with a defensive end as high as the second round.
MORE Changes: While much has been made of the offseason overhaul, with Smith and GM Jason Licht signing 23 players and cutting veterans, the team has been busy behind the scenes as well.
Tampa Bay will have a new lineup of physicians and surgeons. John Zvijac, head orthopedic surgeon for 16 seasons, did not return. Replacing him is Chuck Nofsinger, a team physician at USF since 2006 and an assistant professor and director in the university's College of Medicine Orthopedic.
Also new as orthopedic surgeons are David Leffers, a USF team physician since 1984, and Seth Gasser, who has worked as a team physician with the Lightning, Storm, Rowdies and USF.
The team said the changes have nothing to do with last year's MRSA infections that sidelined K Lawrence Tynes and G Carl Nicks, and hit rookie CB Johnthan Banks.
THIS AND THAT: The same day WR Mike Williams was traded to the Bills, one of his biggest fans, St. Petersburg's Travis Grandlienard, died. Grandlienard, 28, battled ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis, but had a memorable visit with Williams in 2010 — including attending practice and receiving a framed, autographed jersey — special enough that it was mentioned in his obituary. … The team should have dates for its 2014 opponents this week. Profootballtalk.com reported the league will announce schedules as soon as Tuesday.