Bucs Select Michigan WR Marquise Walker

April 20 - The days of the small, speedy wide receivers are over in Tampa Bay. With the selection of Michigan WR Marquise Walker in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft and the presence of big WRs Keyshawn Johnson and Joe Jurevicius, the Buccaneers now field one of the largest and most physical group of receivers in the league. Walker is expected to compete for the third or fourth wide receiver position and contribute on special teams.

After 10 long hours since the 67th NFL Draft began on Saturday, April 20, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally emerged from the war room with a selection: Michigan wide receiver Marquise Walker, who was selected with the team's third-round pick (86th) overall.

"He's another big receiver," Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said immediately after drafting Walker. "He was really the go-to-guy at Michigan. Marquise Walker is a guy that can come in immediately and compete. He's a very good special teams man. I believe he's blocked four, five or maybe even six kicks.

"He has size and speed and a very big upside. He was clearly the go-to-wide receiver at the University of Michigan. He's been on very good football teams."

Gruden appears intent on acquiring large targets for his quarterbacks to throw to, and the 6-foot-2, 213-pound Walker is a big, strong, physical receiver in the mold of Keyshawn Johnson (6-foot-4, 219 pounds) and newly acquired receiver Joe Jurevicius (6-foot-5, 230 pounds).

"I know this, we've got the biggest wide receivers in the league, and that's going to be exciting," Gruden said. "Marquise Walker is a guy who scored touchdowns. He stepped up in big games and will be another legitimate big body, big target for us to throw to."

Walker is a very muscular athlete whose poor times in the 40-yard dash at the Indianapolis Scouting Combine and at his personal workouts at the University of Michigan caused him to slip in the draft. He was timed in the high 4.6's in the 40-yard dash, which dropped his stock from the second round to the third round.

"I think I might do well making big plays when it's necessary. I think that I fit well in Tampa Bay," Walker said. "I don't worry about my speed. I just worry about making plays and just getting the job done."

While he is not a burner, Walker's physical presence allows him to outmuscle defenders for the ball, and his rangy size and wingspan allows him to catch the ball at its highest point. He doesn't outrun cornerbacks, but gets yards after the catch by breaking tackles and using his unique body control to weave through the secondary.

In 2001, Walker set school records with 86 catches for 1,143 yards (13.3 avg.) and 11 touchdowns, surpassing the efforts of predecessor David Terrell, who had 1,130 yards in 2000. He holds the Wolverines' career record with 176 catches, topping the previous mark held by Anthony Carter (161).

Walker stood out in big games his senior season when he became the primary receiver after Terrell's departure. He had a Michigan-record six 100-yard receiving games, starting with the season-opener against Washington in which he recorded a school-record 15 passes for 159 yards, including 5- and 20-yard touchdown receptions. Walker also blocked a punt for a safety and returned a punt for 15 yards.

Walker matched his 15-catch performance against Ohio State later in the year, accumulating 160 yards and scoring touchdowns from 11 and 21 yards. He also had 100-yard days against Illinois, Michigan State and Tennessee.

"Very productive player at a big school, against "big time" competition," Bucs general manager Rich McKay said. "First of all, we like his toughness and competitiveness. I think he helps us on special teams. He should be able to help us in the pass game, but I think our expectations aren't too high. we don't need to push him."

McKay and Gruden lauded Walker's ability to play special teams, noting his five blocked punts for the Wolverines and his ability to return punts in a pinch. Walker returned a punt 41 yards for a touchdown in 2000.

New Tampa Bay quarterbacks coach Stan Parrish was on the Michigan coaching staff last year and strongly recommended him to the Bucs' scouting and personnel staff. Walker was thrilled to be team up with Parrish again in Tampa.

"I think it is going to be exciting," Walker said. "I'm very happy that I can be on the team where I can showcase my skills and be reunited with Coach (Stan) Parrish, who is the quarterbacks coach. I think it is going to be great experience."

McKay noted that the Bucs probably wouldn't address the receiver position again in the draft, but might still consider adding a receiver after June 1.

"We potentially will talk about other receivers, even as we get to June," McKay said. "But the nice thing is, in the event that we don't get another receiver in June, Marquise will be, I think, ready to go."

Jacksonville's Keenan McCardell and Kansas City's Derrick Alexander are among the names that have been linked to Tampa Bay pending their expected release from their current teams. Both receivers have been coached by current Bucs receivers coach Richard Mann.

The drafting of Walker was the only excitement on the Buccaneers' draft day, which was spent celebrating the signing of Pro Bowl running back Mike Alstott and trading for Gruden.

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