TAMPA — It’s one thing to hear Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith or general manager Jason Licht rave about their players, especially at this time of year, when everyone is playing the equivalent of flag football.
It’s quite another when an accomplished third party talent evaluator with no ties to the organization says the Bucs have something special, which is what longtime NFL scout Greg Gabriel has done.
A veteran of 29 NFL seasons, including 16 with the Giants and nine as the director of college scouting with the Bears, Gabriel now pens columns for the National Football Post.
In one such column posted last week, Gabriel looks at the second-year players whom he pegs for breakout seasons in 2014, and the Bucs player he’s projecting big things for is defensive end William Gholston.
“I’ll admit, I’m guessing here, but in Lovie Smith’s defense, Gholston has the physical traits to be a star,’’ Gabriel writes. “Gholston has always looked, but never played the part.
“He is tall with long arms, athletic, and has a burst. His play at Michigan State and his first year in Tampa has been up and down. He has flashed but hasn’t put it all together.
“(Bucs defensive line coach) Joe Cullen is one of the best defensive line coaches in the business and is the perfect coach to help Gholston reach his potential.
“Last year Gholston played in 12 games and finished with 30 total tackles and 2.0 sacks. In Smith’s defense, Gholston should get 7+ sacks and 50+ total tackles. He has the talent to do it. Now it is up to him to get it done.’’
Most of the talk about the Bucs defensive line centers around two-time Pro Bowl tackle Gerald McCoy, right end Michael Johnson and the move of former starting right end Adrian Clayborn to left end.
Gholston has a chance to change that. Come training camp, he’ll be fighting with Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers for the starting reps at left end, which will make their position battle a must watch for all.