Buccaneers might like this mighty mite

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are desperate for help in their return game. Could this mighty mite from Appalachian State, the former Sports Illustrated cover boy, be the answer? He thinks he could be. Get the scoop on Dexter Jackson, App State's hybrid star, and how he thinks he fits into the NFL, right here.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are desperate for help in their return game. Could this mighty mite from Appalachian State, the former Sports Illustrated cover boy, be the answer? He thinks he could be. Get the scoop on Dexter Jackson, App State's hybrid star, and how he thinks he fits into the NFL, right here.

Normally, players from Appalachian State don't go to the podium at the NFL Scouting Combine. But few have come to the combine with Dexter Jackson's pedigree.

A national championship in Division I-AA, plus App State's monumental upset of Michigan, put the school and the 5-foot-9, 182-pound wide receiver on the map.

Now, Jackson doesn't look the part of a tough wide receiver. But he does look the part of a guy that can help a team on special teams, and he knows it.

"It's real big for me being 5-fot-9 and just being able to be fast and make people miss, and make them pay and take it to the house," Jackson said.

He's already got an endorsement from former NFL coach Dick Vermeil, who told Jackson at the East-West Shrine game that he likes players his size that can run.

He said he models his game after a pair of smaller wide receivers that have known NFL success — Santana Moss and Steve Smith.

With App State last year he caught 30 passes for 470 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also returned 30 punts for a 12.3-yard average and two touchdowns. He played mostly in the slot at App State.

While the Bucs typically use larger receivers in the slot, it's Jackson's punt return numbers that could make him a viable mid-round selection for the Bucs. The Bucs are in dire need of more explosive play in the return game, and Jackson is certainly that. He is expected to run a sub-4.3 40-yard dash this weekend.

If the Bucs are serious about adding more explosive talent on offense, Jackson could be a consideration. He's already drawn meetings with a dozen teams and has the New England Patriots on his schedule for Saturday. He was unsure whether the Bucs were on the list.

And he sees his versatility as an asset.

"A lot of teams said were looking at special teams guys and receiver position," Jackson said. "(They see me as) being able to fit in and be like a third- or fourth-round guy at a receiver position, but being able to return the ball moves me up higher."

That would make him a perfect fit for the Bucs, who were woeful on punt returns after the season-ending injury to Mark Jones and are in need of more speed on offense.

And Jackson doesn't appear concerned about his size at the pro level, as players like Wes Welker and Brandon Stokley are proving that size doesn't matter in the slot.

"I really do especially in this year's draft," Jackson said. "In the slot, you've got more mismatches on safeties who really cant run that fast on smaller receivers who are faster.

"A lot of times they (long catches) were mismatches and pick routes to get me open, get free and get open."


Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.


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