Schiano Identifies Eric Page As Top Punt ReturnerAugust 12th, 2013
A couple of clean punt returns and a kick return Thursday night have made wide receiver Eric Page the lead dog in the Bucs’ race to find their next Clifton Smith.
Joe asked Schiano whether the returner situation has cleared up at all, and Schiano identified Page this morning.
“I’m not sure it’s cleared up yet. Page is probably the leader right now. We’ll see,” Schiano said. “[Michael] Smith did some good things. You know, Chris Owusu put it on the ground. That doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road. Right. We’ll have our missteps. We’ll just keeping working through it.”
Did you mean Page is the leader for both jobs, coach?
“The punt [job] really,” Schiano said. “The kickoff, I got a lot of guys out there who can do kickoff returns. I don’t mean to minimize the job. But it comes end-over-end. There’s a lot of time. It’s going to hit you when you catch it. The other one, it’s a spiral sometimes, it’s a knuckleball other times, it’s an flip-flop kick other times. And people are going to hit you a lot of times the minute you touch it. It’s a totally different skill set. So kick returner, we’ll figure that out. It’s the punt returner that I have my antennae up on.”
Still just 21 years old, Page was an undrafted player rockstar general manager Mark Dominik and Schiano admitted they were chasing last offseason but lost out to the Broncos, where Page blew out his ACL in training champ. He’s a year and a week out of surgery.
Hopefully, punt returner will be a much more critical position for the Bucs. That should be the case if the Darrelle Revis, Dashon Goldson and the pass rush come to play.
The emergence of Page again reminds Joe that the Bucs keptseven receivers on the 53-man roster out of the 2010 training camp. Joe could see the Bucs leaning that way, especially if Page keeps thriving at punt returner and injuries to Kevin Ogletree and Chris Owusu linger.
In his final season at the University of Toledo (2011), Page returned 18 punts with one touchdown and an average return of 10.9 yards.
Joe has a small piece of advice for Page: Don’t fumble.