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Tampa Bay Bucs waiting for No. 1 receiver to emerge

TAMPA — Bucs receivers coach Eric Yarber was asked if he could put together a depth chart of his unit right now, and he said he couldn't. Asked who his starters might be, he said he didn't know. Asked whether a true No. 1 would eventually emerge, he couldn't guarantee it.

But if you think he or his colleagues are stressing one iota over this litany of unanswered questions, think again.

It was never the Bucs' intention to have a hard-and-fast pecking order at receiver coming out of this week's minicamp. Though the offseason is in the books — Tampa Bay put the finishing touches on it Tuesday when it completed its mandatory minicamp at One Buc Place — the heavy lifting at receiver lies ahead.

For this unit, perhaps the youngest on the team, the offseason has been mostly instructional. Too much teaching, developing and growing had to be done for the Bucs to worry about matters such as who might be the starting split end.

But the next time the Bucs convene, at training camp in late July, such questions must be tackled.

"Right now," Yarber said, "we just need an idea of the hierarchy. And we have an idea of what we're going to have going into camp. But camp is where they're going to really separate themselves. Not here."

This time a year ago, the Bucs knew Antonio Bryant was projected to be their No. 1 receiver. But he signed a free agent contract with the Bengals in March, and now seven of the Bucs' 11 receivers are first- or second-year players.

It's a lot to expect any of them to emerge as a successor to Bryant, a player defensive coordinators spent hours plotting to stop. But if their collective production is what the Bucs hope it can be, the organization believes it can have success at receiver without an obvious first option.

"I really believe you can spread the wealth around," coach Raheem Morris said. "Actually, that can make you somewhat more of a dangerous football team. Really, I'm enjoying the competition. You have somebody making a play here, there, here, there. Now it puts you in a situation where you're going to go to camp and everybody is going to be fired up because they see the light and they see opportunity. … You'll have a bunch of driven, motivated guys."

Said Yarber: "You would love to have a clear-cut No. 1, but you can win without a guy who (the defense) is always going to double. Other people just have to pick up the slack."

There is still time for a No. 1 receiver to identify himself.

"These guys are not battle tested," quarterback Josh Freeman said. "It's going to be interesting. But I have a really good feeling that through the heat and the struggles, once we make it through (training) camp, we'll have a really good idea. If not by the end of training camp, we have four preseason games to figure it out."

There are some No. 1 candidates after the past several months of on-field work.

There is universal agreement that fourth-round draft pick Mike Williams has distinguished himself, largely because of his ability to learn the offense quickly. Still, he's a rookie, so he continues to share first-team reps in practice with a number of teammates.

The Bucs have used numerous combinations with their starting offense, including Williams and Arrelious Benn, Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall, and Sammie Stroughter and Micheal Spurlock.

Yarber said Williams has done a good job making contested catches but he is struck mostly by Williams' coachability and that "he wants to be great."

Williams senses a chance to step up.

"If we do it as a group, then fine, we do it as a group," he said. "But it's an opportunity, and I want to take it like everybody else."

But for the most part, not much separates the receivers in this group. Each has looked impressive at one time or another.

"From where I'm sitting right now, I'd feel really comfortable with anybody," Freeman said. "I just love the group as a whole."

Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.

The Bucs' receivers

Arrelious Benn

• 6 feet 2, 220 lbs., rookie

Chris Brooks

• 6-2, 215, rookie

Reggie Brown

• 6-1, 197, 6th year

Michael Clayton

• 6-4, 215, 7th year

Terrence Nunn

• 6-0, 195, 2nd year

Preston Parker

• 6-0, 200, rookie

Michael Spurlock

• 5-11, 200, 3rd year

Maurice Stovall

• 6-5, 220, 5th year

Sammie Stroughter

• 5-10, 189, 2nd year

Mario Urrutia

• 6-6, 232, first year

Mike Williams

• 6-2, 212, rookie

Video report

St. Petersburg Times staff writers Rick Stroud and Stephen F. Holder discuss the Bucs' wide receivers and Sean Jones' bid to supplant Sabby Piscitelli at safety in a video report at bucs.tampabay.com.

Tampa Bay Bucs waiting for No. 1 receiver to emerge 06/22/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 9:22pm]
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