Lovie Is All About Combine Data

July 16th, 2014
mason foster 1103

Mason Foster may not be Lovie Smith’s ideal middle linebacker

You better jump high and run fast to get Lovie Smith’s attention as an NFL prospect.

That was a one of the more revealing messages to come out of the 30,000 or so words penned on Buccaneers.com chronicling Lovie Smith’s first 100 days in office. And it’s making Joe wonder about Mason Foster’s future.

Here’s a great excerpt:

“Here I get to see Clowney and Mack running through position drills,” said Smith later that evening, after an abbreviated round of player interviews.  “One and then other.  That’s a good comparison.  You see which one has better movement.  You watch all the receivers, one after the other – which ones are running their routes better, to the naked eye?  Which ones can catch the ball?

“We see it now, and when we go back to Tampa, all our coaches can watch all the video from the Combine.  They can slow it down and see everything.  ‘Is the guy looking the ball in?  I thought he looked good during the change-of-direction drills, but now I get a chance to see that on tape, and verify it.'”

This is why Smith won’t downplay the Combine, even if it’s fashionable to do so.  As much as he will rely on videotape to evaluate his own roster, the pending pool of free agents and dozens of potential high draft picks, Smith knows its limitations.  The Combine fills in the gaps that video leaves the evaluator by putting all of the available talent up against each other, just a few yards away from the scouts’ eyes.

“Here’s the thing: Video can lie to you,” said Smith.  “Let’s say I’m watching some college video and I see this wide receiver and he keeps running by the guy on the other side of the line.  The whole game, he’s just blowing right by the cornerback.  And you say, ‘Wow, this guy’s fast.’  Well, as it turns out, that corner trying to cover him runs a 5.1 and the receiver runs a 4.9.  It’s all relative. … …

“I think we’ve got great coaches,” said Smith.  “You can have the best coach around and you can coach up a guy all you want, and we’re going to do that.  But if a guy runs a 4.8, coach him up all you like and you’re going to have a real good guy that’s coached up at 4.8.  But that guy that’s 4.6, if he’s coached up the same way, he’s going to be better than the 4.8 guy.  In the same way, if you have a guy with more all-around athletic ability – because it’s not all about speed – you’re going to be able to coach him up into a better player.”

Actually, there are four sets of numbers that Smith focuses on from the Combine: the 40-yard dash, the 10-yard dash, the vertical leap and the broad jump.  He’s narrowed it down to those four through many  Combine visits and after-the-fact player comparisons.

“That’s what I look at,” said Smith.  “Through the years, I’ve compared what guys have done here and how they’ve turned out and all that.  These are the things that tell me the most about their raw ability. You can work on different things, even your speed, your start and all of that.  The three-cone drill, all of that, you can work on that stuff.  But, again, this is just raw ability.

“I want to know the 40-yard-dash speed.  It’s a comparison with everybody else; I want to know.  Also the 10-yard [run].  The vertical leap.  In the vertical, you can’t move anything.  It’s just boom…an explosion, straight up.  The broad jump…just explosion straight out.  I look at those, and they mean an awful lot.  If you give me a guy with that type of ability and he’s coachable…those are the ones that are going to really hit.  That’s what I’ve seen in my 30 years.  I believe that fully.”

So what’s Mason Foster’s ceiling in the eyes of linebacker maven Lovie Smith?

Foster didn’t have standout measurables at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, with 4.75 speed and a 31 inch vertical leap. The middle linebacker brought in this offseason from New England, Dane Fletcher, a Jason Licht guy from his days there, is a much more explosive athlete (4.6 speed and 36-inch leap).

Lovie told Joe and other reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings that he doesn’t look to sign free agents to be backup caliber in ability and in attitude.

Don’t misunderstand, Joe’s not saying old track times will doom Foster, but Lovie might want more athleticism in his middle linebacker. Keep in mind he was used to watching future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher in the center of his defense.

Foster has dropped weight this offseason in an effort to gain speed (see the photo), and he’ll be taking over the defensive playcalls. The Bucs are hoping for big things. But in a contract year, Foster will have to be strong and consistent to secure his Tampa Bay future.

15 Responses to “Lovie Is All About Combine Data”

  1. BUC4LIFE79 Says:

    Have NO WORRIES about Mase this season. By it’s end, his game tape will show he can more than play the part.

  2. RCH Says:

    He was half our offense against the Saints last year.

  3. The_Buc_Realist Says:

    I think we will see a drop off in Sacs, and Tackles for loss for the linebacking core as Lovie’s D is not as Linebacker attacking as Schiano’s was.
    The question of Foster is pass coverage, that is his weakness. I know if I was an opposing offensive coordinator, I would have TE and crossing routes aimed at the middle.

  4. biff barker Says:

    Lovie’s metrics would get you a Sabby, Geno Hayes, Quincy Black or another Dekota Watson. I have little faith in his ability to draft.

    Leave the scouting work to Licht.

  5. OB Says:


    It is still a team, GMC can’t do the line by himself and neither can the LBs, what does LVD and the other side LB bring to the table for Foster? What about the DL and DBs? Speed is one thing, but instinct starts it faster.

    Nine days and we can see what is taking place since they should improve during the preseason. I hope you have all the Joe’s eyes and brains up to speed so you can tell us what you all are seeing.

  6. Mumbles Says:


    The saga continues.GMC just produced twin DTs for the 2035 season! The Bucs will draft them! Lol.

  7. Louis Friend Says:

    Foster will be fine. As it clearly illustrates in the article – Lovie puts an incredible amount of importance in game tape – and the kid has plenty of very good game tape. With Hardy coaching him, he’s going to have every ounce of potential squeezed out of him.

  8. Louis Friend Says:

    @OB – we’re still in the dog days of football summer – the bottom of the bucket is now being scraped for any possible shred of an article worth writing. I commend Joe for giving bucaholics these cheap drinks til we all make it to the oasis of training camp.

    Hang in there Joe, the crazies are still around clicking away on your site. Myself included.

  9. Gus Says:

    I think he would have went looking for a new middle linebacker if he didn’t think Foster could handle the role. Yes Foster is replaceable. If someone comes along that he feels can play the position better than yes I’m sure Lovie will upgrade

  10. Hawk Says:

    You can’t always go by stats alone. Brad Culpepper and Hardy Nickerson are two recent examples of brains over brawn. If the numbers are close, I’ll take the player with a chip on his shoulder.

  11. Atlanta Buc Says:

    Hopefully Licht will thoroughly vette all these players first, before Lovie makes his workout eye-test evaluation! I have to disagree with Lovie, out of context, these measurables don’t mean much, unless the player’s football ability, intelligence and “want-to” is documented as well. The tape does not lie, especially if you take the time to look at a player’s complete body of work and not just one game. Look at Vontaze Burfict, who had plenty of great college tape, but an extremely slow 40 time and horrible combine performance in general, he is a flat-out free agent stud and is currently a starter at OLB for the Bengals; I think they are negotiating a big new deal for him currently.

    Football has been littered with speed and workout warriors with natural physical skills, that did not often translate into NFL football success, even with great coaching. It is nice when it coincides with raw ability, but there is so much more needed at the NFL level. If this philosophy is what steers Lovie, hopefully it is only for separting players with proven outstanding football skills once Licht’s department has thoroughly evaluated and determined their talent and fit for out team. If it bears more weight than that in future personell decisions, then I think we could miss out on some very fine players in the future due to a bad forty or verticle jump. I think Ronde, Jerry Rice, Tom Brady, Wes Welker and quite a few others would agree with me.

  12. tickrdr Says:

    What about the speed of a QB’s fastball??? Don’t forget that Lovie. I heard somewhere that Glennon couldn’t even throw faster than 60 MPH!?!!! /sarc

    Plus it must count somewhere how good a QB looks in his uniform or a nice white suit, doesn’t it?


  13. squadupbuc Says:

    Mason is a athletic played RB back in the day for the people that’s doubting Mason’s athleticism go and watch his interceptions for TD’s last yr in Schiano’s first season the first four or five games Mason was lights out so he’ll be fine he’s also one of four players on defense I think Lovie will make pro bowlers out of including Banks, Barron,and W.Gholston along with GMC, Verner, and pro bowler in my book L.David. Mason is now in the perfect system to shine under Lovie and he will they all will. SO SQUADUP!!! GO BUCS!!!!!

  14. db Says:

    Brooks ran a 4.67 at the combine. How fast was he at game time.

  15. Brandon Says:

    I’ve always said Foster was not athletic enough to play the Mike in the T-2 and that Fletcher was brought in to hopefully replace him.