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Draft week

Bucs on the clock

By RICK STROUD
Published April 28, 2007


Bucs on the clock

The Bucs have issues. Corners Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly are in their 30s. Plus, safeties Will Allen and Jermaine Phillips had forgettable plays last season. Safety is more of an issue than corner because the Bucs re-signed Phillip Buchanon. A nice pick might be Florida's Reggie Nelson if the Bucs can move down.

Top 10 prospects

1 LaRon Landry

(6-1, 210) S, LSU, First one off the board.

2 Leon Hall (5-11, 193) CB, Michigan Shaky finish to career.

3 Darrelle Revis

(5-111/2, 202) CB, Pittsburgh

Fast and skilled playmaker.

4 Aaron Ross

(6-1, 195) CB, Texas

Tough, physical with return skills.

5 Reggie Nelson

(6-0, 198) S, Florida

Favorite of Gators coach Urban Meyer.

6 Michael Griffin

(6-0, 205) S, Texas Will knock your block off as a headhunter.

7 Eric Wright

(5-11, 190) CB, UNLV

Transferred from Southern Cal then missed three games with a knee injury.

8 Brandon Meriweather

(5-11, 194) S, Miami

Stock might be falling.

9 Chris Houston

(5-10, 185) CB, Arkansas

Thrives on confidence.

10 Tanard Jackson

(6-0, 198) CB, Syracuse

Under-the-radar talent.

In focus

LaRon Landry

What price can you put on a safety? Increasingly, NFL teams value the position as much or more than cornerback.

That's why LSU's LaRon Landry is expected to be the third safety in four years to be the first defensive back taken in the draft. It's a group that includes the Redskins' Sean Taylor and the Raiders' Michael Huff.

Landry says he patterns his game after Ronnie Lott, having watched DVDs of the 49ers Hall of Fame safety.

But if he needs a closer role model, he has one at home. His brother Dawan had a solid rookie season with the Ravens. The fifth-round pick from Georgia Tech emerged as a starter at safety and recorded 69 tackles, three sacks and five interceptions.

Being competitive started at an early age for Landry.

"It started way before high school, " Landry said. "I have an older brother, too, Derick. He played defensive end at Vanderbilt. So it's always been competitive in the household growing up. I always had to have self-motivation."

Landry is a two-time All-SEC selection who had plenty of daily battles at LSU with receiver Dwayne Bowe, a possible first-round pick.

"I'm a complete safety, " Landry said. "I'm very fast, physical. I communicate well. I'm able to read offenses. I can play the middle of the field, man to man. I have great technique. I can play down in the box, fit the runs, take on pulling guards. I just have a passion for the game.

"I give 110 percent effort, and I make the players around me work to try to match my intensity."

Defensive backs

Thumbs down

Brandon Meriweather At one point, Meriweather was being compared with another Hurricanes safety, the Ravens' Ed Reed. But he had a disappointing senior season, including a one-game suspension for the brawl against Florida International.

Thumbs up

Reggie Nelson

The Florida star might be a little undersized for an NFL safety, which could cause him to slip a bit in the first round. However, Nelson also has the ability to play cornerback at the pro level and can be a dangerous return man. Carolina at No. 14 is a possibility.

Under the radar

Eric Weddle

One of the most versatile talents in the draft, the projected safety played both ways for Utah. As a senior, the two-time Mountain West defensive player of the year had 203 yards and five touchdowns on 44 carries. He also can return kicks and punts.

Extra points

Bad finish: Michigan cornerback Leon Hall had a great career, but he doesn't care for the way it ended. He gave up touchdowns to Ohio State's Ted Ginn in the regular-season finale and Southern Cal's Dwayne Jarrett in the Rose Bowl, above. "I learned from them, definitely, " Hall said. "I went back and watched the film. Those are the type of plays you don't want to have."

Family scar: Virginia Tech safety Aaron Rouse has some hurdles to make it big in the NFL, but that's nothing compared to the personal obstacles he has faced. Rouse's father, Tim Newby, is serving time in a Virginia prison for murder. "This past year is the first time I've seen my father in about eight years, " Rouse said. "I actually went to the penitentiary to visit him to get some things off my chest this past year before the season started. It's not difficult anymore. It's kind of awkward but not difficult."