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Bucs second-day selections

By PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 23, 2001


JOHN HOWELL, 117th pick overall

JOHN HOWELL, 117th pick overall

SCHOOL: Colorado State.

POSITION: Free safety.

HT./WT.: 5-11; 196.

HOMETOWN: Mullen, Neb.

KEY STATS: Registered 210 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and nine sacks the past two seasons. Had two interceptions in 2000.

LOWDOWN: He figures to be an immediate fixture on kick coverage: He has a reputation for being a sure tackler who plays with reckless abandon. Despite playing in the secondary, he led the Rams in sacks last season. Is a workout demon.

OUTLOOK: With incumbent free safety Damien Robinson an unrestricted free agent, Howell could find himself competing for playing time with veteran backups Dexter Jackson and David Gibson.

FIRST WORD: "He knows our system, and he's a pretty big hitter." -- Bucs general manager Rich McKay.

* * *

RUSS HOCHSTEIN, 151st pick overall

SCHOOL: Nebraska.

POSITION: Guard.

HT./WT.: 6-31/4; 288.

HOMETOWN: Hartington, Neb.

KEY STATS: Consensus first-team, All-Big 12Conference selection the past two seasons. First-team All-American by the Sporting News in 2000. Graded out at 83.9 percent the past two seasons.

LOWDOWN: A vintage Nebraska lineman. Redshirted his first year and scarcely played as a freshman before becoming a starter late in his sophomore year and blossoming into an All-American as a senior. Squats 505 pounds, specializes in drive blocking. Can play left or right guard.

OUTLOOK: Will compete for a roster spot as a reserve behind Cosey Coleman and Randall McDaniel. Could be used as a short-yardage specialist.

FIRST WORD: "He's the typical Nebraska guy, very much a fiery guy." -- Bucs coach Tony Dungy.

* * *

JAMEEL COOK, 174th pick overall

SCHOOL: Illinois.

POSITION: Fullback.

HT./WT.: 5-91/2, 227.

HOMETOWN: Miami.

KEY STATS: Started 10 games last season, rushing for 215 yards on 49 carries (4.4 average). Rushed for 526 yards on 116 carries (4.5 average) in three years. Caught 34 passes last season and 64 in his career.

LOWDOWN: Was a halfback his first two years at Illinois, so he has good running skills for a fullback. Is a strong inside runner (bench-presses 405 pounds, squats 500) with a low center of gravity. Considered good at run blocking and blitz pick-up.

OUTLOOK: Will need to be versatile to make the team. Has experience on special teams, blocks well and is a good receiver, all of which will help his cause.

FIRST WORD: "He's a little bit undersized, but he's very tough and has very good hands." -- Dungy.

* * *

ELLIS WYMS, 183rd pick overall

SCHOOL: Mississippi State.

POSITION: Defensive end.

HT./WT.: 6-21/2; 279.

HOMETOWN: Indianola, Miss.

KEY STATS: Recorded 10 career sacks, five as a junior and three as a senior. Had 85 tackles the past two seasons and 11 tackles for loss as a senior.

LOWDOWN: A strong pass rusher with a variety of moves who started two seasons for the Bulldogs. Played some defensive tackle in college but will be an end for the Bucs initially.

OUTLOOK: Will compete for a backup position on the defensive line. If he also can hold his own at tackle as well as end, it could help his chances of making the team.

FIRST WORD: "We needed a guy that could play both (end and tackle). That's what we got." -- McKay.

* * *

DAUNTAE' FINGER, 205th pick overall

SCHOOL: North Carolina.

POSITION: Tight end.

HT./WT.: 6-3; 255.

HOMETOWN: Newton, N.C.

KEY STATS: Caught 15 passes for 138 yards and one touchdown in college. Best season statistically was his junior year (1999), when he caught 10 passes for 81 yards.

LOWDOWN: He was overshadowed in college by Alge Crumpler, a tight end for the Tar Heels who was a second-round pick this year. Considered a top-notch run blocker with the potential to be a capable receiver.

OUTLOOK: Like almost all low-round draft choices, his chances of making the team will improve if he can play well on special teams. Will compete for a back-up position behind Dave Moore.

FIRST WORD: "He's a big guy who's physical at the line of scrimmage." -- Dungy.

* * *

THAN MERRILL, 223rd pick overall

SCHOOL: Yale.

POSITION: Safety.

HT./WT.: 6-2; 220.

HOMETOWN: Fresno, Calif.

KEY STATS: Made 69 tackles as a sophomore and a team-high 77 as a junior. Had four interceptions as a junior.

LOWDOWN: Played one year at Stanford before transferring to Yale. Was a quarterback his redshirt season at Stanford and a backup safety as a freshman. A big safety in the mold of the Bucs' John Lynch, who also went to Stanford as a quarterback before switching to safety.

OUTLOOK: Will be competing with fourth-round pick John Howell, among others, for a backup safety position.

FIRST WORD: "He will not look like an Ivy League guy. He's a very physical, solid guy." -- Dungy.

* * *

JOE TAFOYA, 234th pick overall

SCHOOL: Arizona.

POSITION: Defensive end.

HT./WT.: 6-31/2; 258.

HOMETOWN: Pittsburg, Calif.

KEY STATS: Started 38 games over four seasons, totaling 165 tackles, 49 tackles for loss and 24.5 sacks. Registered 10 sacks as a junior and 18 tackles for loss as a senior.

LOWDOWN: Extremely productive in college but will have to overcome his lack of size to make it in the NFL. A high-energy player who is quick off the line of scrimmage and goes all-out from snap to whistle.

OUTLOOK: Will be competing with sixth-round pick Wyms, among others, for a spot on the roster.

FIRST WORD: "He's a very energetic guy who plays hard." -- Dungy.

- Compiled by Pete Young.

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