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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' rookie Michael Smith enjoys whirlwind draft

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 05:21 AM
TAMPA -

Once Michael Smith arrived at Tampa Bay Buccaneers headquarters for Friday's start of rookie minicamp, he was in constant motion.

A 5-foot-9 blur who set rushing records at Utah State, Smith was on a mission to impress Tampa Bay coaches and prove a seventh-round draft pick who shared the running load in college can make an impact in the NFL.

Besides, Smith had already taken a memorable knee the previous week.

Smith waited until the first day of the NFL draft to pop the question to Alice Coddington, a professional basketball player from Australia. The two met on the Utah State campus and Smith said a wedding is planned for next year.

"She knew it was going to come eventually,'' said Smith, who finished as Utah State's career leader with an average of 7.1 yards per rushing attempt. "We got engaged and I got drafted, so everything worked out. It was a plus and a plus.''

Aggies teammate Robert Turbin was selected by Seattle in the fourth round with the 106th overall choice and Smith's name was called by the Bucs with pick No. 212, doubling his pleasure.

"I didn't have a side bet with Turbin about who would be drafted first, but we have a bet on who's faster,'' said Smith, who is unlikely to lose that wager.

"Michael Smith is probably the fastest kid I've ever coached,'' said Utah State's Gary Andersen. "If he got the crease, no one at the Division I level was going to catch him. He's going to hit the hole violently, and he's going to hit it at top speed.''

Smith roomed over the weekend with fellow running back Doug Martin, a first-round pick out of Boise State. They will compete for a roster spot in training camp and hopefully push for playing time with third-year pro LeGarrette Blount.

Neither Blount nor Martin can match Smith's burst.

In 2011, Smith reeled off five runs of more than 50 yards and averaged 11.3 yards on 16 receptions.

"I feel I'm a combination of two guys – Darren Sproles and Ray Rice,'' said Smith, whose 211-pound frame is surprisingly strong. "I feel I can catch the ball, run good routes and run between the tackles.''

Smith is likely to first make his mark on special teams, perhaps as a kickoff returner, but his game-breaking speed could give him opportunities as a change-of-pace back.

The Bucs posted only six runs of 20 yards or more all of last season, while Tampa Bay's defense yielded 28 runs of at least 20 yards.

"Michael will find his niche at the next level,'' Andersen said. "He's an awesome kid with a great work ethic and he'll be terrific in the Tampa Bay community.''

If new Bucs head coach Greg Schiano uses Smith as a situational back this fall, it won't be a new role for the offensive MVP of the inaugural Players All-Star Classic.

"I'm very confident in my speed and I was OK with being in a rotation at Utah State,'' Smith said. "I use my speed to my advantage. I hit them before they hit me. I'm here just trying to get on the field any way I can. I want to play on all the special teams and this is a great opportunity. I want to seize the moment.''

According to Andersen, Smith is destined to win Schiano over.

"I went to Rutgers about four years ago and watched Coach Schiano conduct an off-season workout,'' Andersen said. "He wants kids to be tough-minded and physical. Michael fits that perfectly. He is the grinder of grinders.''


ikaufman@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7833

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