Cover Corner Stud In Bucs Camp

May 12th, 2009
As loyal readers know, Joe has delivered various perspectives on the Bucs draft picks and rookie free agents,  from parents of the players to sportswriters and broadcasters and coaches, and more. It’s stuff you won’t find anywhere else.

Joe loves the excitement of new blood in Bucs camp, even bust-in-waiting quarterback Josh Freeman, who Joe can’t wait to see compete with the veterans.

Today, Joe reached out to longtime James Madison University head coach Mickey Matthews to talk about Bucs rookie free agent cornerback Evan McCollough, who was a starter at the Division 1-AA school.

Matthews has coached his share of studs over the years, including Champ Bailey when Matthews was defensive backs coach at the University of Georgia.

Joe: Why is Evan McCollough good enough to make the Bucs roster?

James Madison Head Coach Mickey Matthews: “Evan is one of those guys who you think their talents are a better fit in a pro situation than in college. At Georgia, we had Olandis Garry, for example, he was a much better as a pro than in college. And you could see that early on in his development. Evan is a great cover guy, excellent speed, great change of direction, balance, hand-eye coordination. He will be a force to be reckoned with in training camp. He’s an excellent cover corner. And that’s why I say his game is more suited for the pro game. (laughs) We don’t have that luxury in college to have cover corners. We have to have guys protect the run and play differently.”

Joe: You coached Champ Bailey at Georgia. Are there any comparisons to McCollough, in any aspect of their games?

Matthews: “It’s unfair to compare anyone to Champ Bailey. I never had a player like that again. And there may never have been another player like him. …The thing that was different about Champ; He was 6′ 1″ on top of everything else. I’m not comparing anyone to Champ Bailey.”

Joe: Lots of players like McCollough make the NFL for their special teams play. Can he do it on special teams?

Matthews: “I’m sure he’ll be a good special teams guy. We actually played him some at safety, not because his lack of coverage ability, just because he’s a good all-around football player.”

Joe: Were the Bucs in touch with you about McCollough?

Matthews: “There was some contact, but it doesn’t really mean much. Teams might call you 10 times about a kid and then not take him, and another is signed without a phone call. Most teams signing or taking kids at this level do it off film. And I know Evan’s ability stands out on film.”

Joe: Anything fans would want to know about McCollough off the field?

Matthews: “Evan doesn’t say a lot. He’s a very hard worker. We’ve been very pleased the four years. He comes from a great family. He’s got a great mom and dad and he’s been been raised right. He’s never had any kind of off-the-field trouble.”

Joe: When did you know he was a player who could play on Sundays?

Matthews: “You could tell early in our drills that he had the ability …all the earmarks of a great corner. He could flip his hips. He had the acceleration, everything. Like a lot of high school kids, he had to owrk on his phyiscal strength just getting strong enough to play. That was his biggest challenge and he got there. “

Joe: What about the competition at James Madison? What do you say to fans who might see a rookie free agent out of Division I-AA program like JMU and wonder if he’s even played against good competition or if he is ready to play in the NFL?

Matthews: “I hear that a lot. We get that jammed down our throat a lot. That gets overdone. It really does.  Some of those guys at BCS schools, I think many of them are good players because they’re surrounded by so many good players. Some of our guys, and in this league. they stand on their own. A couple of the receivers we played against turned in the fastest times at the combine. …. There’s a lot of great players. There were three rookies who arguably made the biggest impact in the NFL last year, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Tim Hightower, and two of those three were out of our league. Now what does that say. …When guys are surrounded by great players, it’s hard not to look good on film. I’ve seen lots of guys not make it in the NFL, lots of busts from the big programs that couldn’t cut it.” 

Joe: Have you stayed in touch with Evan since the Bucs’ rookie minicamp?

Matthews: “He called me as soon as he got home. He thought he did well and he was real excited to be signed. He will be [at James Madison] this summer training. He’ll definitely put in the work. Everyone is going to like him down there.”

(Editor’s note: the photo was changed Wednesday after two readers claimed it was not, in fact, Bucs rookie cornerback Evan McCullough. Who is Joe to argue?)

20 Responses to “Cover Corner Stud In Bucs Camp”

  1. uh Says:

    whats the point of calling Freeman a bust-in-waiting? Just because you disagree with the pick and wanted them to go defense he’s going to be a bust? Honestly Joe you just sound like you want him to fail and that makes you fake Bucs fan.

    Watch these 2 videos and tell me you have seen a Bucs QB with the ability to make the throws that Freeman does.

    The answer is we haven’t had one since the days of creamsicle.

  2. uh Says:

    good interview though

  3. admin Says:

    Joe here,

    Look. Joe just can’t say this enough. Josh Freeman was a bad pick trading up at No. 17, but Josh Freeman probably would have been a good pick in the third round. …That said. Josh Freeman is still the same football player no matter where he was drafted and Joe still roots for him the same way he would anyone else.

    “Busts” in the NFL are defined by their performance in relation to their draft position. Right now, Joe is still stung by the pick and therefore calls him “bust-in-waiting.”

    Joe doesn’t root for anyone on the Bucs to fail. Never has. Never will.

  4. uh Says:

    Freeman in the third round is total bollocks Joe. Gil Brandt had him rated higher then Mark Sanchez, the Vikings and possible Broncos were also interested in him shortly after us. What a ridiculous statement, pretty much discredits your entire point of view.

    Again, watch that video and tell me you don’t see the potential. That video screams 1st round QB to me.

  5. admin Says:

    Joe here – Hardly a ridiculous statement considering I’m only looking at it from the Bucs perspective as a Bucs fan. Freeman in Round 1 at No. 17 made no sense. Several polls, including one here, showed that at least 60 percent of Bucs fans thought it was a poor pick. At RJS, most (sounded like all) fans were shaking their heads when the pick was made. Hardly alone on this one.

    As for the video, a Freeman highlight reel was posted here for all to see and I’ve seen them all. He’s got world’s of potential. More than most at his size. If he realizes it, we’re looking at rings and more rings.

  6. uh Says:

    Joe, fair enough, I’m less concerned about how the fans at RJS felt about the pick then how Morris thinks about him.

    But since I bust your balls I’ll give you a link to UL news story about the Bucs you’ll be sure to find interesting:

  7. uh Says:

    UK not UL

  8. Stick to soccer Says:

    uh, you’re basing josh freeman to be a one of the best players in the nfl draft based on a highlight reel against iowa state??? there are high schools in florida that play better defense than iowa state. that’s a glorified practice.

    tell me why this 21st century version of dan marino couldn’t complete 60 percent of his passes in a shit conference?

  9. uh Says:

    “tell me why this 21st century version of dan marino couldn’t complete 60 percent of his passes in a shit conference?”

    I’ll answer you this one time but please refrain from challenging me in the future b/c you’re completely out of your depth.

    First of all the 60% stat is just that, a meaningless stat. Graham Harrell completed 73% of his passes last year so by that reasoning he should have been a 1st round pick and eventually will be a 1st ballot HOFer. Unfortunately NOT ONE TEAM in the NFL even wants him to even show up to their training camp so that stat holds absolutely zero water. Football is a TEAM game, so there are plenty of factors that play into stats looking at them without the proper perspective is fool-hardy.

    Second of all there are two clips, one game is against Iowa State and one game is against perennial contender OU. While Iowa State is poor, if you broke down tape of Joe Flacco at Delware last year, you’d find the defenses were ever worse then Iowa State and yet he carved out a nice rookie year and looks to be the real deal. Ditto for Tim Hightower at Richmond. How good were the DBs Jerry Rice went against at Missippi Valley State? Just like the 60% stat, the level of competition is overrated. Scouts look at the film and ask the question: can he play at this level or not? The Bucs, with Morris as their head coach, had a better feel for that then anyone.

    Forget the competition on the tape. Look at his arm. Look at this size. Look at his touch on the short throws. Look at his speed when he runs and how he used his blockers. Look at his sophomore season when he played with a 2nd round pick in Jordy Nelson, his numbers were very good. Look at how he played against Texas his freshman and soph years when he was surrounded with some better talent. Look at the throw against OU on that tape when he rolls to his left and throws, across his body, 60 yards downfield in the air, could any QB in Bucs history make that throw? Maybe someone like Doug Williams from the Creamsicle days but no one in recent memory.

    Why might his completion numbers have been low? Well he had massive numbers against OU but the K State D gave up 55 points at the half. When you’re down that big at half time you’re going to throw the ball a lot right? Well, defenses know that too, so they sit in nickel and dime coverages and try to keep everything underneath. Only problem is that K State keeps taking shots downfield to put up quick points and when you take shots downfield against a defense sitting on those routes with poor talent at WR you’re going to struggle. Do you honestly think that if Freeman was the QB at OU or UF that he wouldn’t complete 60% of his passes? I bet this really boils down to the man-crush you have on Tim Tebow.

    Then again, I don’t expect to apply logic like this; its far easier for you to just parrot everything that Joe or Steve Duemig says then actually thinking for yourself. It would probably be easier for you if you just moved on and supported the Panthers; that way you can hate on Freeman without getting taken to the mat by someone that actually knows what he’s talking about.

  10. Nick Says:

    sick burn

  11. Mr. Lucky Says:

    Boy uH you have an ego the size of Dan Silly-O but I know that you aren’t Dan – you an actually MAKE a point without shouting – but you do that insulting of others just like Dan.

    Josh Freeman has a lot of POTENTIAL I doubt anyone would disagree about the POTENTIAL usage – the problem is this – how many QB’s selected in the draft have great POTENTIAL but are NFL busts? Over 60% of all QB draft picks are “busts”.

    For every Matt Ryan you’ve got 2 or 3 Ryan Leaf or Joey Harrington’s.

    Calling Freeman a bust-in-waiting (BIW) at this point in his career is more likely than calling Freeman a potential pro bowler (PPB) – unless you have some “potential” fetish.

    Mr Lucky says – Josh Freeman was a “wasted pick” and I would much rather had Everette Brown – but it is what it is….

  12. kmattin Says:

    Could it be rightly said that ALL players drafted in the NFL are a bust-in waiting? I think so, no one knows how these kids will do until they suit up and play. Get off the man’s back. It’s his site, he can write what he wishes.

  13. Stick to soccer Says:

    LOL you fail uh!

    the critical component of a quarteback is how he reads defenses. doesn’t matter how hard he can throw (kyler boller) or how fast he can run (michael vick) or how big he is (dan mcguire). in football you are not drafting a power forward.

    by your standards joe montana would be a fifth round pick. dan marino a third round pick.

    only a fool would use a highlight reel against iowa state as evidence the guy should have been picked in the first round.

    do some research on this site about quarterbacks who didn’t throw for 60 percent completion percentage their final year of college, or even how quarterbacks drafted in the first round after their junior seasons have done.

    it isn’t pretty. unlike a highlight reel against iowa state.

  14. uh Says:

    “only a fool would use a highlight reel against iowa state as evidence the guy should have been picked in the first round.”

    Only a fool would argue that he knows more then the rest of the NFL that had Freeman rated as a 1st round pick.

    Mark Dominik has worked for the Bucs for 10+ years; I think he and Raheem have a far better idea of what makes a QB then a moron like you.

    I decimated your 60% argument and yet you still cling to it like a baby holding his blanky. If completion % is the only indicator of success then Graham Harrell and his 73% should be better then Tom Brady if a team ever invites him to training camp.

    Since you’re so concerned about evidence what evidence do you have that his decision making is poor?

    How many K State games did you watch or did you just look at his stats again? Being down by 20 to 30 points most games would cause even Joe Montana and Peyton Manning to force some throws.

  15. uh Says:

    “Could it be rightly said that ALL players drafted in the NFL are a bust-in waiting? I think so, no one knows how these kids will do until they suit up and play. Get off the man’s back. It’s his site, he can write what he wishes.”

    Sure but apparently I am free to comment too.

    I just take issue with the constant negativity. We fire Gruden and yet we still have fans who complain about anything and everything; it just shows some people can’t be pleased.

    You’ve inspired me though man — lets just move onto the next level — since everyone dies eventually and the odds of Freeman dying are higher then him being a bust how about we call him Josh “Dead-Man-Walking” Freeman?

  16. Mr. Lucky Says:

    Mr Lucky is on record saying that he is happy Jon is gone! Woo Hoo.

    Mr Lucky is happy the Bucs signed Derrick Ward and yes even Winslow

    Mr Lucky is happy that Antonio Bryant was retained but would like to see a longer contract.

    With regard to Josh Freeman – he was a Round 1 pick because the 2009 QB crop was crap. That’s why Sanchez & Freeman came out early.

    Is Freeman a BIW? I HOPE not but then again I HOPE he is not rushed and allowed to sit, practice, mature, learn etc., instead of being thrown to the Lions (like we’ll see with Stafford)

  17. uh Says:

    “Is Freeman a BIW? I HOPE not but then again I HOPE he is not rushed and allowed to sit, practice, mature, learn etc., instead of being thrown to the Lions (like we’ll see with Stafford)”

    Barring injury he will sit this year unless he outplays McCown and Leftwich and if thats the case then more power to him!

    In terms of the QB crop being weak — there have been plenty of times where the 3rd QB drafted turned out to be the best in the group — lets hope thats the case here.

    Since everyone has been parsing what makes a successful QB — how about this one — QB’s who are at least 6’5″ 240+ lbs and came from a non-traditional football powerhouse:

    -Ben Roethlisberger
    -Joe Flacco
    -Dante Culpepper
    -Bryon Leftwich

    Pretty decent list for 4 names I pulled off the top of my head 🙂

  18. DukesFan Says:

    Great interview but I don’t think that’s Evan McCullough in the photo. I believe it’s Rockeed McCarter, a senior wide reciever.

  19. BigMacAttack Says:

    Friends don’t let friends watch K State football games.

    Freeman was an extremely risky pick, especially with the 2010′ QB class that blows this one away. If Freeman comes through for Rah it will be great. I like him better than Stafford or Sanchez, who both suck. Both of those QB’s will be grossly overpaid where Freeman will not…hopefully. Stafford & Sanchez both played on powerhouse teams that underachieved which they were partly to blame. Of the 3, Freeman should be the best with the most long term potential. Dante Culpepper was similar to Freeman in size and ability, and I’d say he has pretty much been a bust in the NFL, and now he may back up Stafford. So it’s hard to say what Freeman will do. Michael Oher, Ayers, Maualuga & Harvin were all on the board when Freeman was picked. I think of all of those payers Maualuga has the most upside, tremendous leadership ability, and he could have been the future leader of the Buc’s defense. I am with Sapp on this one, you have to build your defense first, and build it to last. Oh btw, I wouldn’t have picked Gaines Adams either with Adrian Peterson on the board. So much for defense.

  20. dukeswr Says:

    Dante Culpepper a bust? You’re lost.

    3x pro bowl, 2x all-pro, cover of madden 2002, 4th all-time for qb rush yards per game
    his career has been on a long downturn and he will never put up numbers like he did in 2004 (4,100-37-11) but you can’t call him a bust.
    also he has a career qb rating of 89.0 and his career td/int margin is +46. i suggest you work on your definition of ‘bust’