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Friday, May 3, 2013

Illinois football: What experts are saying about Akeem Spence's future in the NFL

When Akeem Spence was selected with the third pick in the fourth round (150th overall) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, many believed that his new NFL team had found an immediate starter on the defensive line.
Spence, a 6-foot-1, 307-pound defensive tackle, can take over the vacant nose tackle spot left behind by Roy Miller. Miller signed a deal with the Jaguars on March 15.

Spence joins a Tampa defense that runs a 4-3 scheme, meaning he should not see too many double teams.

NFL scout guru Mike Mayock believes Spence will be an immediate presence for Tampa Bay, especially in its scheme. The biggest weakness, though, is his strength. At the NFL Combine, Spence did 37 reps on the bench press. That ranks fourth among defensive linemen this season, with Dontari Poe (44), Margus Hunt (38) and Brandon Lee (38) sitting in front of him.
"He's got a lot of talent and a lot of size. He tested well for his size. He's as strong as they come. He's a weight-room warrior. Now, I didn't always see that strength turn into functional strength on the field. I like him. For Tampa Bay, he'll be a good player. But I want to see that weight-room strength transfer to the field." -- Mike Mayock
During his career at Illinois, Spence had 186 tackles, which included 16.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Despite Spence's ability to clog the middle, the Illinois defense still ranked 11th in the Big Ten in rushing defense with 240.8 yards given up per game.

Those team numbers will not be acceptable in Tampa. The Bucs led the NFL in rushing defense last season and they will expect to do the same with Spence now in the middle.

Tampa Bay writer Justin Pawlowski believes Spence can be the run stopper the defense needed after losing Miller.