Bucs coach Lovie Smith, speaking to reporters for more than an hour Wednesday morning at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, reiterated that all positions are on the table for the No. 7 overall pick in May's NFL Draft, but he's on his way to Texas for Thursday's pro day for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
"I had time to watch quite a few games, had a chance to watch him a lot," Smith said. "To be able to talk to people that you trust that know each player, you use every tool you can to make an evaluation, not just on that player but all players. I want to see how he handles a different environment. He's played in front of big crowds, but he hasn't had to perform on one day like ... this is a big day for him coming up."
Smith and general manager Jason Licht attended UCF quarterback Blake Bortles' pro day last week and saw "a guy with a lot of potential, poise ... who has a bright future ahead of him." Smith was asked about Manziel's ability to translate his success at the next level and he seemed optimistic.
"I think there are mixed opinions on just about every player," he said. "I think most outstanding players in college, a lot of them, end up being very good football players in the NFL. Football really is football. I know he's not your typical prototype quarterback, drop back into the pocket, but there are a lot of quarterbacks doing very well in the league that aren't your protypical quarterback."
NOT THAT OLD: Smith defended quarterback Josh McCown, who he's made clear is his starter going into the season, saying the 34-year-old played last year exactly the way he wants a quarterback to play and that he has plenty of good football left in him.
"There are a couple of other quarterbacks in their 30s doing a pretty good job right now," Smith said. "I don't think you're ready to be put out to the pasture yet when you get into your 30s. I feel pretty good and confident of the type of play we're going to get from him."
SPEED IN SPACE: Smith said he's talked to running back and track star Jeff Demps about using him creatively on offense, potentially at receiver, and is eager to see his elite speed in person in practice.
"I said 'I've never had a chance to coach the fastest guy in the NFL,'" Smith said. "He loves track, but he considers himself a football player. He's anxious to get started with whatever position we ask him to play, whether it's running back, receiver, returning kicks."
COMPETING FOR A JOB: Smith had praise for recent free-agent signing Mike Jenkins, saying he remembers the cornerback from his USF days and sees him competing for a starting job, whether as a top-two cornerback or the nickel defensive back job.
"He has all the skills. Excellent speed, quickness, he'll tackle," Smith said. "He was excited about coming back home. Gill Byrd, who coaches our cornerbacks and has played the game at the highest level, can't wait to get his hands on Mike."
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THIS AND THAT: Smith said free-agent signee Michael Johnson will be his starting right defensive end, and "odds are" Adrian Clayborn will start at left end, with second-year pro William Gholston also in the mix. ... Smith said he'll dress five receivers for games next year, so the team will be in position to draft a receiver and/or still sign a solid player in free agency. ... Smith said he expects free-agent signee Dane Fletcher to compete for the middle linebacker job, challenging Mason Foster.