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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Round 4 pick Mike Williams has talent, troubled past

TAMPA — The first two days of the draft, Bucs general manager Mark Dominik played it pretty safe.

Saturday, he brought dice, a deck of cards and lottery tickets.

The Bucs used their fourth-round pick on Syracuse receiver Mike Williams, an enormous talent who missed all of one season and part of another because of off-field issues.

But as gambles go, Dominik said this one was low risk, high reward.

"I don't think anybody spent more time with him than the Buccaneers did," Dominik said. "And I think we're going to reap the rewards for it."

The Bucs hope to get lucky with a few of their low-round picks.

In the sixth round, they chose Virginia Tech punter Brent Bowden. In the seventh, they took Cody Grimm — who played linebacker at Virginia Tech but projects as a safety and is the son of Hall of Fame guard Russ Grimm — Florida State linebacker Dekoda Watson and Stanford defensive end Erik Lorig.

They traded two seventh-round picks, Nos. 225 and 232 overall, to Denver for a fifth-rounder in 2011.

By far, the most intriguing player is Williams. The 6-foot-2, 221-pounder missed all of 2008 after he was caught cheating on a test.

In 2009, a car crash in which Williams was a passenger resulted in him missing the rest of the season.

Williams and teammates Torrey Ball, Antwon Bailey and Andrew Tiller were in a Ford SUV that was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer at 5:30 a.m. Nov. 1. No alcohol was involved, and the truck driver was charged in the accident.

Ball, Bailey and Tiller were suspended for violating curfew. And because it was Williams' second curfew violation, he faced a multi­game suspension. Instead, he left the team with five games left.

Williams said Saturday that he left because of a "miscommunication" with coach Doug Marrone and is bothered by the perception he quit.

"If anybody knows me, even Coach Marrone would tell you, I'm not a quitter," Williams said. "If I was a quitter, when I got suspended because of my grades, I would've quit Syracuse then. That's not a word that I even use."

After becoming academically ineligible for cheating, Williams said he worked hard to remain at Syracuse.

"I was doing bad in school," the Buffalo, N.Y., native said. "My grades weren't okay.

"The exam didn't even start. But I did bring the notes in my class. They saw my notes, and they were like, 'Those notes would get you a 100 on the test.' I didn't write anything down on the paper, so they just pulled me out of the class right there. I feel bad for the situation. But … all my problems weren't off-the-field issues. They were school issues."

Williams has shown on-field talent.

In 2007, he caught 60 passes for 837 yards and 10 touchdowns. Last season, he had 49 receptions for 746 yards and six touchdowns in seven games before leaving the team. USF fans became very familiar with him after he scorched the Bulls with 13 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-20 loss in October.

"I believe as a scouting staff and an organization, we put the most time into this player; more than anybody because it was that important," Dominik said. "He was one of the 30 visits to this organization so we could spend a full day with him. I had multiple conversations with Doug Marrone. And at the end of the day, I feel very good about this selection, about the talent he brings.

"I think there's a balance between everything. This kid, when you go back and do your research and take a look about what's really in his past in terms of any aggravated assaults, the only thing I can tell you right now is he had a speeding ticket."

Williams said he's excited about the opportunity to play — and possibly start — as a rookie and prove he is worthy of the Bucs' trust.

"Everybody tells me I'm a great guy, and I want people to realize that," Williams said. "When people start bringing up these off-the-field issues and things like that, I feel like that's not me. I don't know who you're talking about. I've got to go out there and work hard and let these people know … who I really am."

The Bucs entered the draft looking for new weapons for second-year quarterback Josh Freeman and didn't disappoint. Williams was the second receiver drafted by the Bucs in as many days. Friday, they took Illinois' Arrelious Benn in the second round.

"(Freeman) got a lot better," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "He got some more bodies; some more guys to run around for him; some more guys to catch balls and make him look better when they catch the balls and make plays.

"As a quarterback, that's what you look for."

Dominik said the Bucs are out of the receiver market other than undrafted free agents for training camp.

"I'm excited about the two young guys," he said. "Obviously, it was a position we were concerned about going into the draft a little bit or we wouldn't have addressed it the way we did.

"But taking a second- and fourth-round pick, two guys we believe are potential starters, that made a lot of sense for us."

Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected]

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Round 4 pick Mike Williams has talent, troubled past 04/24/10 [Last modified: Sunday, April 25, 2010 11:12am]
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