TAMPA - Only a week into training camp, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are finding out that rookie nose tackle Akeem Spence is a far more diversified player than originally thought.
The Bucs drafted Spence in the fourth round out of Illinois in April thinking he would likely serve as a two-down run plugger much the way his predecessor, Roy Miller, did.
The Bucs have quickly discovered, however, that the former Florida prep weightlifting champion could prove to be almost as good a pass rusher as he is a run stopper.
"He definitely is a better pass rusher than I thought he was off of tape," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "He's not seasoned by any means. He's got to really work to get the technique down, but he's got some first- step quickness that I didn't see in his college tape.''
Spence recorded only 3.5 sacks in 38 games as a collegian, so it wasn't just his game tape that left scouts questioning his pass-rush skills. Since joining Tampa Bay, however, he's flashed talent the Bucs didn't realize he had.
"It may be that he has now been with our (coaches) Randy (Melvin) and Brian Cox for a seven-week rookie program and in this training camp, and that he's just improved," Schiano said.
"But there were also some stance things that were a little out of whack that he's improved on, too. Not that what he was doing was wrong, that's just what they wanted him to do at Illinois. But by tweaking a few things, he's performed better."