Gruden excited about draft class
Published: Monday, May 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
TAMPA - Jon Gruden conceded he probably sounded like every other coach in the NFL.
He's excited about the 10 players the Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquired in this year's draft, confident the team addressed areas where improvement is needed to stay on top of the NFC South and go deeper into the playoffs.
"This is a good day for Tampa Bay," Gruden said Sunday. "I do believe that."
After drafting two offensive linemen (Davin Joseph, Jeremy Trueblood) and a receiver (Maurice Stovall) on the first day of the draft, Gruden turned his attention to the defense with the selection of Penn State cornerback Alan Zemaitis in the fourth round and Stanford end Julian Jenkins in the fifth.
Zemaitis has been a fan of the Bucs the past few years, is familiar with the accomplishments of Tampa Bay cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly and - more importantly - is no stranger to the team's "Tampa 2" defensive scheme because Penn State also runs it.
"I feel like I've got a lot of playmaking ability, similar to Ronde at the NFL level. I feel like I'm just the kind of player that the Buccaneers would love," Zemaitis said. "A guy that can hit, that has pride in what he's doing out there, willing to stay after to learn more and just be ready to compete."
Zemaitis overcame head injuries suffered in an automobile accident three years ago to have an extremely productive career in college. He had four interceptions as a sophomore, two as a junior and six as a senior.
Bolstering depth at cornerback was a priority with Barber entering his 10th season and Kelly approaching his ninth.
"His will, his determination is one thing that's really the story here today. He's going to add a lot to our football team," Gruden said. "I'm counting on him coming in here and being a player for us."
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin called Zemaitis is a natural fit for the Bucs.
"He's tough, he can tackle, he can play outside. He can play some nickel, like where Ronde plays when we move him inside," Kiffin said. "We love guys that are fast and can cover, but they have to tackle, too."
Toledo quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and North Carolina State tight end T.J. Williams were selected in the sixth round. The Bucs added three more picks in the seventh - Oregon cornerback Justin Phinisee, Clemson defensive end Charles Bennett and Michigan tight end Tim Massaquoi.
Gradkowski, who completed 68 percent of his passes for 9,225 yards and 85 touchdowns vs. 27 interceptions at Toledo, will compete with Tim Rattay and Luke McCown for backup spots behind Chris Simms.
"It's tough, but wherever you go, you are going to have (competition). ... I'm going to come in there and compete, and just do what I can," Gradkowski said. "We will see if it works out."
In all, the Bucs drafted six players on offense and four on defense. The picks included two offensive linemen, two tight ends and a pair of cornerbacks - all areas the team hoped to address.
"We were able to accomplish most of our goals," general manager Bruce Allen said. "For that, we're pleased."
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