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Stovall’s Stock Rapidly Rising

Starting the final two games of the ’06 season, Maurice Stovall demonstrated an ability to make extra yards after the catch. “I think every time you catch the ball any player should think to go score,” Stovall said to the St. Petersburg Times. “Why should you go down if the ball is in your hands? You might as well make the most of the opportunity. That’s when the show begins, right?”

Stovall has put on a show so far this offseason. Given every opportunity to become the Bucs’ No. 2 receiver, ahead of former first-round pick Michael Clayton, Stovall’s running with it. At 6 feet 5, 220 pounds with sure hands, Stovall finished his rookie season with only seven catches for 102 yards and two carries for 29 yards. He was limited by a nagging back injury and buried on the depth chart. But those numbers pale in comparison to Clayton’s first pro season in 2004, when he earned rookie of the year consideration with 80 receptions for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns.

But Clayton’s career has spiraled downward, with just 65 catches and one touchdown over the past two injury-plagued seasons, which is why coach Jon Gruden is giving Stovall, 22, and former Chargers and Dolphins receiver David Boston, who hasn’t caught an NFL pass since the 2005 season, ample opportunity to play opposite starter Joey Galloway. “(Clayton) is a good player, but the guys around him are getting good, too,” Gruden said. “It’s going to be very interesting. I love Mike (Clayton). He’s had a lot of injuries in the last couple seasons (and) hasn’t been able to finish the ’05 or ’06 season healthy.

“Maurice Stovall is not here to sign autographs on the sideline. He’s here to play. He’s going to get a great look here during the offseason. David Boston hasn’t caught a pass in the NFL (since 2005). But those are two guys who have really worked their butt off. Mike Clayton, I think, sees that, I think realizes that, and it’ll make for a very competitive situation here in training camp.” By all accounts, Stovall has been a fixture at the Bucs’ training facility this offseason and his drive has never been questioned.

“I’ve always been that way and set high expectations for myself and I try to never be satisfied with where I am, whether it was high school or college, ” Stovall said. “He started for us last year as a rookie; that’s no mistake,” Gruden said. “It’s no mystery, really. He’s 6 foot 5, he’s in great shape, he’s a reliable guy, he’s tough as hell and he wants to play. At least that’s what he’s showing out here every day. He’s a guy that gives us a size factor, I think a physical playmaker and a guy that’s going to make for a real interesting camp.”

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