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Former Sooner Gerald McCoy eager to learn from new Tampa coach Lovie Smith

By FRED GOODALL , AP Sports Writer Published: June 12, 2014

Smith and Frazier, fired as coach of the Minnesota Vikings after last season, are even more impressed now that they’ve been to see McCoy up close.

The defensive tackle is entering the final season of the $63.4 million contract he signed as a rookie. The Bucs are interested in signing him to a long-term deal.

“He just brings life to the building every day,” Smith said, adding that McCoy has an impeccable work ethic and is a leader off the field as well.

“You want your best player to be a little outspoken. You want to hear him. We hear Gerald. You want him around always. He’s around always — front of the line. I couldn’t be more pleased with what he’s done,” Smith said. “Again, we’re talking about a superstar. It’s no secret he’s getting ready to be able to give all of us a loan.”

The Bucs are coming off a 4-12 finish in their final season under former coach Greg Schiano. McCoy is the centerpiece of a young defense that he believes has the talent to rank among the league’s best.

Tampa Bay used its entire draft to try to bolster an offense that ranked 30th in scoring and last in yards gained. Smith and new general manager Jason Licht helped the defense by signing pass rusher Michael Johnson, tackle Clinton McDonald and cornerback Alterraun Verner in free agency.

“Until you’re the No. 1 defense in the league, you can always take a step. That’s what we’re fighting for,” McCoy said. “The champion of our division (Carolina) is coming in in Week 1. That team runs how their quarterback runs. If we’re going to dethrone them, it’s on the defense. We have a long way to go.”

——— AP NFL website: