The Bucs took steps towards adding depth to its offensive line on Sunday when the team used both of its fourth-round draft picks to select West Virginia tackle Lance Nimmo and Northwestern center Austin King.
"We felt like this was the year we had to retool the offensive line a little bit," said Bucs general manager Rich McKay. "We knew we were going to do it in the draft, and we thought we would be able to do it in free agency, also."
Tampa Bay used its first fourth-round pick (No. 130 overall) to select Nimmo, who was a All-Big East Conference first-team choice as a senior.
One of the reasons the Bucs and Muir had interest in drafting Nimmo was because of Rick Trickett, who served as Nimmo's offensive line coach in college. The Bucs are convinced Nimmo was well-coached Trickett, who has produced the likes of Wayne Gandy, Willie Anderson and Victor Riley. Those three players were all recent first-round selections.
"He's a guy driven a lot by an offensive line coach," McKay said of Nimmo. "(Offensive line) Coach (Bill) Muir was given the task of trying to find a tackle, a left tackle specifically, that we can develop. He has liked this guy from day one. He does not like the fact that the guy had to in a two-point stance the last two years based on scheme. This is the scheme in which they used a lot of no huddle, a lot of four-wide receiver sets. He is often times in a two-point stance. We are tired of watching tape of the guy. I think we've seen every game, every play for the last two years. It was tough on him playing in that scheme because you don't see a lot of run blocking because they don't do a lot of running. But he is a guy we are very comfortable with that can come in and compete and will line up from day one at the left tackle position. That's where he'll take his reps."
Nimmo was excited about Tampa Bay's decision to draft him and he feels he'll be a good fit on Tampa Bay's offensive line.
"Obviously, Coach Gruden is a legend at such a young age," said Nimmo. "When I got the opportunity to work out for (offensive line) Coach Muir, he fits the personality of a line coach that I'm used to as a player. Along with the rest of my teammates that have won a world championship, I think it's just a great opportunity for myself."
The 6-foot-5, 303-pound Nimmo has above average balance and quickness. Regarded as a good drive-blocker, Nimmo is better in pass protection than he is in run support.
"I really think my pass protection has been solid for me ever since I got in college, so I think that should still continue to be a strength," said Nimmo. "I don't know if I'd call it a weakness, but I'd really like to polish up my run blocking some."
Nimmo was a two-year starter and played primarily at left tackle for the Mountaineers. Both Nimmo and the Bucs feel he could play at right tackle if needed.
"I think so," Nimmo said when asked if he can play both left and right tackle. "In my college career I have never played right tackle, but it's just a different foot back and kicking back the same way. I think all it takes is a little coaching and a little effort, and I don't think it will be a problem playing either side."
Nimmo is expected to add competition to the tackle spot behind starting LT Roman Oben.
"He has the characteristics of a lot of the successful left tackles in the league," said Muir. "Obviously, a fourth round pick, he is what he is. I think he is an excellent candidate and he increases the competitiveness of our offensive line roster, which is exactly what our intent was."
With the Bucs lacking depth at the tackle position, Nimmo likes his chances of securing a roster spot as a rookie.
"Anytime there are openings on the depth chart, that makes it all the more better for a person to come to a football team," said Nimmo. "If there wasn't an opening, I'd have to come in with the attitude that I would have to create one. But with an opening already being there, that's just all the more reason to come play."
After they landed Nimmo, the Bucs then used the compensatory pick (No. 133 overall) it received last month for the loss of running back Warrick Dunn to select King.
"I'm extremely excited about that and just glad to have the opportunity to play for the Super Bowl champs," said King. "I'm almost speechless. It's a great deal, and I'm really excited."
The 6-foot-3, 299-pound King is expected to compete with first-year center Jason Scukanec for the backup spot behind John Wade, who is expected to take Jeff Christy's place as the starting center.
"We just like the center," said McKay. "He is a very athletic center, extremely smart. I think he kind of blew the Wonderlic (test) away. He's a very bright guy from Northwestern that has been a starter and a productive player. I don't think he played as well this year as he did last year, but we like the kid a lot. We like the athlete and had a position open in that we really did not have a backup center. We wanted to bring somebody in that was young that we could develop at the position. We had a couple of guys to choose from, but we just felt most comfortable with him."
A All-Big Ten Conference honorable mention in his senior year, King is regarded as a pure center and started 43 of the 46 games he played in with the Wildcats. He possesses good upper body strength, he's physical with his hands and he has impressive awareness. While he has some impressive traits, King feels he has plenty of room to grow as a player.
"My main strengths would have to be intangible things," said King. "I would like to consider myself someone with a good attitude and a hard worker. I think there are always technique things I have to work on. I can always work on getting strong and learning the game more."