Smith or Marpet? Which lineman stars first?

by Gary Shelton on May 11, 2015 · 0 comments

in general

Smith (76) and Marpet (74) hope to end line questions./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Smith (76) and Marpet (74) hope to end line questions./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Monday, 6 a.m.

TAMPA

Yeah, but who makes it  big it first?

They are both large. They are both strong. They are both agile. And the future depends upon them both.

Donovan and Ali. Ali and Donovan.

Which one will start first? Which one will star?

Oh, if you are a Bucs' fan, the easy answer is “both of them.'' Because the Bucs need for both of them to come through on an offensive line that is neither very solid nor very reliable. Face it: last year's offensive futility was largely an exercise in trying to play around a porous offensive line. As bad as the quarterbacks were, as bad as the running backs were, as bad as the lack of an offensive coordinator was, the line was worse.

And so the Bucs went to the well twice in the second round of the draft to try to

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They drafted tackle Donovan Smith of Penn State. Then they traded up to get Ali Marpet from Hobart. The idea is that they'll have two young linemen to grow up with quarterback Jameis Winston.

Smith believes he's a left tackle./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Smith believes he's a left tackle./ANDREW J. KRAMER

But if you had to pick one, which one will be the bigger deal?

Which one will last the longest?

Which one will shine the brightest?

It's an interesting conversation. Smith was drafted first. But they traded up to get Marpet. Smith plays the tougher position. Marpet will usually play head up against the less impressive athlete. Smith played against a higher class of opponent in college. Marpet is changing positions. When Smith makes a mistake, it will be in the open in front of everyone. Marpet is

Marpet must adjust to speed of the NFL./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Marpet must adjust to speed of the NFL./ANDREW J. KRAMER

making the bigger jump in competition.

And so the debate goes. The left tackle vs. the right guard. Big school vs. small school. Tomorrow's answer vs. tomorrow's answer.

“We've improved our athletic ability in a lot of areas,' said Bucs' coach Lovie Smith. “Donovan Smith, we're going to put him at the left tackle position. For us to do that is saying an awful lot. You know the type of athletes he'll be blocking. He's got good size, long arms – smart player with a bright future ahead. As does Ali. I didn't know who Ali was and didn't know much about where Hobart was until he started playing football. He said he went to the Senior Bowl and there were a lot of guys from a lot of major schools and after the first day, he went to his room and said “Hey, I can block these guys and I can play at this level. We think in time he's going to be a good football player. It's going to be fun to see some of our young linemen grow together.''

The goal, of course, is that they are ready right out of the box, and that their presence will make Logan Mankins look younger, Evan Deitrich-Smith look more powerful and Demar Dotson more experienced. Why wait?

Say this: Both guys sound pretty good. Of course, the pads aren't on yet.

Smith, for instance, will tell you that he sees himself as a left tackle. He doesn't seem to doubt it.

“I have the power,'' he said. “The feet, the skill set and the athleticism to play left tackle. I'm very smart as well. You have to have an attitude to play on the offensive line in general, but I think there is a little extra (on the left tackle) because you are protecting the blind side of the quarterback. You have to have a little more attitude and confidence.''

Of course, it would be easier to feel confident in Smith if we had not seem so much waste at left tackle for the Bucs since the days of Paul Gruber. Last year's import to fix the left tackle position, Anthony Collins, isn't even in a jersey this spring.

Then there is Marpet, who turned heads with his work during the Senior Bowl. Marpet did well enough to convince him that he belongs, but he knows the adjustment will be huge.

“It's definitely a big difference,'' he said. “It's definitely going to be a big challenge, but I think I can adjust to it. I think I have the physical tools, and I have the ability to get better. I guess it could be the start of something special.''

Say this for the Bucs. They seemed to turn over every stone trying to find a player this off-season. Look at their rookies. Hobart, Idaho, Brown, Towson, Tusculum, Jones County Junior College. The scouts had to drive a few back roads this time.

This time, the goal is for the offense to do a little driving of its own.

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