TAMPA — The Bucs expected a lot out of rookie S Mark Barron when they drafted him seventh overall this year, penciling him into a starting spot.
But with a toe injury keeping Barron out of last week's preseason opener against the Dolphins, they haven't been able to fully see what the former Alabama standout can do.
That will change Friday night, when Barron is expected to make his NFL debut against the Titans at Raymond James Stadium.
"I'm very excited," Barron said Wednesday. "I was looking forward to last week, but unfortunately, I wasn't able to play. Those same feelings are carrying into this game. I'm ready to get out there and get a feel for the game."
Barron, whose specific injury wasn't disclosed by the Bucs, doesn't know how many snaps he'll get Friday but said the toe won't limit him. He said though he has missed time, he has been able to grasp the defensive scheme. "At this point, I pretty much know everything," Barron said. "It's a thing where you've just got to focus in on every play and make sure you're doing your assignment."
Barron said with the limited contact rules in camp, which ended Wednesday, it was hard for a safety to stand out. And coach Greg Schiano said he is looking forward to evaluating him in a game setting.
"It's hard to say what kind of camp he's having because he hasn't participated enough to really draw a conclusion," Schiano said. "Mentally, I think he's grasping the defense. But how do you know until you're under pressure and have to perform? It's one thing to master the defense in the air-conditioning, and it's another to do it when you've got your pads on and you've got to hit somebody.
"I think we'll see that more as he plays more. I'm confident he will (do well). But like anything else, until you do it, it's talk."
GATOR BAIT: Schiano acknowledged the team is interested in Jeff Demps, a former Florida running back who earned a silver medal at the Olympics last week as part of the U.S. 400-meter relay team.
Demps' agent, Daniel Rose, said Wednesday the Bucs are among the front-runners to sign him. Every team has inquired about Demps, Rose said.
"It's nice that he's an Olympian," Schiano said. "That's a great achievement. But we play football. So if he wasn't a good football player, it wouldn't matter to me. But he happens to be a good football player as well.
"He just happens to be a very good track athlete as well. I don't know how it's going to end up. We had discussions even before he went over to the Olympics. If it's meant to be, it'll work out."
Last season for the Gators, Demps ran for 569 yards and six touchdowns, caught 16 passes for 172 yards, and averaged 25 yards and scored a touchdown on 10 kickoff returns. He hopes to make a decision by Monday, his agent said.
LEANING LEFT: Demar Dotson has been given a big opportunity filling in at left tackle for the injured Donald Penn (strained calf). And Schiano said the tackle, who has appeared in 22 games (two starts) during his two seasons, did a solid job Friday against the Dolphins.
Dotson didn't give up any sacks but said he believes there's room for improvement. "I think I did pretty well, but obviously I have to keep getting better and getting in my playbook and better with my assignments," he said. "I think I had two or three mental errors that I just can't have. There's no excuse for it. I just have to get out there and play better for myself. I hold myself to a pretty high standard. By my standard, I didn't have a great game."
MISCELLANY: TE Luke Stocker missed his second straight practice with an undisclosed injury. … CB E.J. Biggers remains out indefinitely with a broken left foot sustained July 27, Schiano said.
Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report.