TAMPA – Bucs head coach Greg Schiano wrapped up his first minicamp at the helm with a feeling of optimism Thursday, and instantly began turning to his attention to next week’s NFL Draft.
His parting message to the team after the three days of drills was simple.
“Just that we have to come together as a team, and this time now is the time we lay the foundation for the 2012 team,” he said. “We’ve kind of laid the foundation of what’s important programmatically. And the relationship part is what I think formulates now. We’ve added some free agents. We’re going to add some draft picks. … As those relationships form, that really is what makes your team.”
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Overall, Schiano said he couldn’t have been happier with the outcome of the first building block toward the season.
“As a coach, you never get done what you want to get done – there’s not enough hours – but I was really encouraged, mostly by the attitude of our guys, the energy level they brought to work every day,” he said. “If we continue to grow that, all the other stuff will grow with it.”
Schiano touched on a handful of specific topics in his final minicamp briefing:
• Linebacker Dekoda Watson impressed him with his versatility and power. “He’s an explosive athlete. Where he’s going to play I don’t know. We’ve worked him at the linebacker positions, different ones. He certainly has all the skills to be a tremendous special teams player as well. He can rush the passer. There’s a lot of different things Dekoda can do. I talked to the squad about it – it’s not only enough to get the right guys on the bus, but you’ve got to get them in the right seats. And that’s one of the things we’re trying to work very hard at: who sits where in our scheme.”
• Mason Foster worked exclusively in his familiar middle linebacker position this week and Schiano liked what he saw. Foster was thrown into the middle last season as a rookie replacement for Barrett Ruud and had to learn on the fly, and there’s been recent speculation he might be moved to the weak side. While Foster appears to be the man in the middle for now, Schiano isn’t committing. “I thought he had a good three days, and I’m not sure where all those linebackers will land. Mason played the “Will” (weak side) when he was in college (at Washington). And he played “The Mike” (middle) last year. I may go back and watch more of his college tape just to get a better feel.”
• The impact of play-making wideout Vincent Jackson could have a positive ripple effect throughout the squad. “I think (he) is going to have a really good impact on everybody,” Schiano said. “He’s a pro. He works very hard. He trains very hard. He practices very hard. And he’s very good. I like having him on our team. He brings an energy to the practices as well as his play-making ability.
• Schiano plans to continue working closely with GM Mark Dominik as the draft nears and in the “war room” next Thursday through Saturday. “Mark and I from the beginning have made it really clear – we’re just going to work together,” he said. “And we have done that along with (director of player personnel) Dennis Hickey, spending countless hours watching tape and talking about it. Our whole coaching staff and scouting staff has made evaluations. I think it very quickly has become a real good relationship between the scouting staff, the coaching staff and Mark, Dennis and I working at it.
“So I’m very comfortable with it. And we formulate our opinions and then we run it by ownership and together we make organizational decisions. We know the kind of young men we want to bring here, not only as football players but as people. And we’re going to get Buccaneer men as we say – guys who do the things we expect them to do and the talents to give us win championships.”
Don’t expect any specifics from Schiano, especially on the topic of the Bucs’ fifth overall draft pick – or whether they might be leaning toward Alabama tailback Trent Richardson or LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. He even passed on discussing his draft philosophy.
“Anything I say publicly about that puts us at a disadvantage,” he said. “I’m gonna tell you the truth if I answer the question, which I’m not going to – and this way I’m not going to put us at a disadvantage. So I’m not going to comment on draft stuff.”
The one thing Schiano will say is how much he’s looking forward to it.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s exciting stuff. And we’ve put a lot time and effort into it, so you like to see that come to fruition and get the players here.”