The Buccaneers finished No. 1 in the NFL against the run last season with defensive tackle Roy Miller playing a key role holding his ground in the trenches while engaging multiple blockers. Miller played through knee tendinitis in 2012 and signed with Jacksonville as a free agent in March prompting the Bucs to launch a quest for the next Roy Miller. When the fourth round of the 2013 draft rolled around Tampa Bay landed Illinois defensive tackle Akeem Spence - younger healthier and perhaps even stronger than his powerful predecessor. Three months later Spence labeled "a weight-room warrior" by NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock coming out of the draft is trying to clean-and-jerk the vacant nose tackle job away from his competition led by eight-year veteran Gary Gibson. "Akeem's a confident kid" Bucs defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said. "He's not going to come in here and take a backseat to anyone just because he's a rookie. This guy is really powerful. He's not only physically strong but he can generate power. He holds up at the point of attack and he can move the point." Spence 21 impressed NFL scouts in the bench press at the combine reeling off 37 reps at 225 pounds. At 6-foot-1 and 307 pounds this dynamic fireplug has similar size to the 6-2 310-pound Miller who was tabbed as one of the strongest players available in the 2009 draft. "There's not too many short guys around like me" Spence said. "It looks like they're trying to get rid of us. I'm trying to make it for the short guys in the league." Like Miller Spence's forte is clogging up the running lanes. If he wins the starting job next to Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy Spence figures to play the first two downs before being lifted for a more formidable pass rusher.
Bucs DT Spence making early impression
Tampa Tribune | Jul 27