Tampa Bay coach 'impressed' with Taylor
BY RICH KAIPUST
LINCOLN - Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor added a pretty high-profile football mind to his list of believers Friday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden praised Taylor after watching the Huskers' two-hour practice. He said Taylor should be setting himself up for a solid senior season.
"I've seen guys take major jumps in year two as a starter in this system,'' Gruden said. "I think his intelligence, his background, is really going to help him this year. I'm impressed
Observing practice was part of the Nebraska spring football coaches clinic, which includes more than 700 participants. Gruden and former NU defensive coordinator Charlie McBride spoke to the group Friday night, and former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Frank Gansz is scheduled for today.
Gruden liked how Taylor ran the show in what he called a crisp and efficient practice inside the Hawks Championship Center.
"I saw him making all kinds of throws today - moving to his right, moving to his left, from the shotgun, three-step drops,'' Gruden said. "I'm impressed with his toughness. He takes hits, he gets up, he keeps playing.
"He throws a friendly ball. I think the receivers have a lot of confidence in him. He's got a great command of this offense.''
It's an offense that's familiar to Gruden.
Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan was offensive coordinator at Oakland from 1998 through 2001 when Gruden was the Radiers' head coach. Callahan then was head coach at Oakland in 2002 when the Raiders lost to Gruden and Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Their relationship led to Gruden, 42, doing something this weekend he normally wouldn't consider.
"This is the first clinic ever, really, that I've had a chance to speak at,'' Gruden said. "If my wife knew I was here doing this, she'd be awfully mad at me.''
Callahan took the Nebraska job in January of 2004, just as Gruden was trying to bring him to Tampa Bay. But he understands why Callahan answered the Huskers' call.
"I'm proud of what he's doing here,'' said Gruden, who also worked with Callahan on Philadelphia's staff from 1995 through 1997. "I know what he's up against. I know the challenges he has. I'm just excited to see what he's doing with this program and where they're going, and to witness it with my own two eyes was something that was important to me.''
Some other Gruden comments Friday:
• On being impressed with Husker I-back Marlon Lucky: "He looks like a fine player. I just see a guy who's got great energy and quickness and pass-receiving ability.''
• About the NU and Tampa Bay offenses: "There are some similarities, some concepts, that Nebraska probably runs better than we are right now, after watching this practice. So I've got to get home and get back to work.''
• On former NU linebacker Barrett Ruud's rookie season at Tampa Bay: "He's a guy we think eventually will take the torch and become our middle linebacker, but he's going to have to earn that opportunity. He's backing up a guy right now (Shelton Quarles) who's a tremendous player. But he's got a lot of skill.''
Gruden tried to bring Ruud with him, he said, "But he had tickets to see the Grateful Dead in New Jersey. So I'm a little down on Barrett right now.''
• On Monte Kiffin, 66, heading into his 11th season as the Bucs' defensive coordinator: "Monte's going to be around forever, I think.''
Kiffin was NU defensive coordinator from 1973 to 1976.
"Believe me, he's very proud of his roots,'' Gruden said. "I know he talks about this place all the time.''
Thats nice to hear.