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UCLA EDGE Laiatu Latu Would Fit Right In With Bucs

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By: Adam Slivon

With the Bucs announcing Tuesday that they would be releasing outside linebacker Shaq Barrett at the beginning of the 2024 league year, it makes finding another talented pass rusher a more pronounced team need. It is a position that they could address with their first-round pick in the 2024 Draft at No. 26, and one potential player to watch is UCLA’s Laiatu Latu.

Pewter Report caught up with the talented pass rusher at the NFL Combine this week in Indianapolis and asked him if he met with Tampa Bay and how he would fit in with the Bucs, among other things.

Laiatu Latu Formally Met With Bucs, Would Love To Play With JTS

At the NFL Combine, Laiatu Latu revealed that he did meet with the Bucs and thinks it went well.

“I have met with the Bucs, yeah, I think it went great too,” Latu said. “Especially my boy Joe Tryon-Shoyinka over there, I’d love to play alongside him. It went great.”

Bucs OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and UCLA EDGE Laiatu Latu – Photo by: USA Today

Latu went out of his way to mention Tryon-Shoyinka, who was his teammate at Washington in 2019 when he was a freshman and Tryon-Shoyinka was a sophomore. Tampa Bay has shown a propensity for acquiring former Huskies, whether that’s Tryon-Shoyinka, Vita Vea, Cade Otton, or Greg Gaines.

He did later clarify that it was a formal meeting with the Bucs and spoke on how he would fit in Todd Bowles’ defense.

“They got Vita Vea inside, a really good nose tackle,” Latu said. “I feel like I’d fit in well, I’d get those one-one-ones on the outside and especially playing with Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, he was a big bro to me when I was at Washington — taking me under his wing, showing me what success looks like. To be there with him would be inspiring as well as motivational.”

Back in 2019, Latu was just getting his feet wet, appearing in eight games and notching half a sack. He then would go on quite a journey to get back to playing college football.

Laiatu Latu Does Not Take Anything For Granted On The Football Field

Heading into his sophomore season, Laiatu Latu suffered a serious neck injury and in 2021, he medically retired from football. After being cleared to resume his playing career, Latu chose to stay on the West Coast and transfer to UCLA.

When discussing his path to get here, he spoke about the time when he had to sit out from the game he loved.

UCLA EDGE Laiatu Latu

UCLA EDGE Laiatu Latu – Photo by: USA Today

“I never let it get the best of me,” Latu said. “I continuously worked out, got stronger, worked on my pass rush moves, and stuff like that. Really just locked in and never gave up on my dreams. I had dreams of being in this moment, being in the NFL as a kid and I never gave up on that. God was with me through it all and He blessed me to be here in this moment.”

Since returning to action, Latu has been a menace for opposing offensive tackles and the quarterbacks who attempt to escape his grasp. In 2022, he recorded 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles before increasing his sack output to 13 last year while adding two forced fumbles and interceptions apiece.

He approached each game like it was his last, keeping in mind not to take any part of his experience for granted.

“I didn’t develop the saying but there’s a saying, ‘Like your last,’” Latu said regarding his mindset. “I take that into the classroom, I take that into the meeting room, I’m writing at the top of my notes — really just reminding me to do everything like it’s your last. Not even just playing football, but when I’m studying and stuff like that, just know that this could be my last opportunity to do it and this could be my last time doing it. Give it all you got.”

Laiatu Latu’s Moves, Production Should Intrigue Bucs

With how he has fared getting his football career back on track, plenty of teams should be interested in the 6-4, 261-pound edge rusher. That includes the Bucs. The only thing that may knock him down the board is the concern surrounding his neck injury, and if he were to fall within the range, Tampa Bay could select him, it would be a no-brainer adding him to a young outside linebacker room.

Bucs GM Jason Licht

Bucs GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Adam Slivon/PR

While general manager Jason Licht sounded comfortable about the in-house options on the roster, a rising pass rusher with double-digit sack potential is hard to ignore. Laiatu Latu sees his career continuing to trend upward.

“Just the fact that I keep on rising as a player, as a person, as a man on and off the field,” Latu said. “That you continuously see me get better and hit those double-digit sacks every year.”

One look at his film or highlights showcases how he can be successful. He has superb bend and is able to use his finesse to beat offensive linemen and get to the backfield in a hurry.

“It’s my bending ability at the top of the rush,” Latu said when asked about his best abilities. “Being able to get under those tackles made it hard for them to counter back and block me at the top of the rush. It’s the euro chop and then the bend is me just getting under the tackles and kind of launching myself towards that quarterback, getting as tight to the ground as I can.”

As is the case with some of the other young star Bucs’ defensive players, Laiatu Latu still has a lot of room to grow and develop. It is not surprising that the team formally met with him, and he is one name to keep in mind in the weeks leading up to the 2024 NFL Draft.

The post UCLA EDGE Laiatu Latu Would Fit Right In With Bucs appeared first on Pewter Report.

Originally posted on Pewter Report