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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers obviously don’t know what they have in Josh Johnson at quarterback. But they’ll learn the hard way as soon as some

NFL general manager is smart enough to make a move to pick up the former University of San Diego star.

A year ago, with John Gruden as the head coach, the Bucs took Johnson in the fifth round. Teams that did their homework knew how far ahead of the curve Johnson was at reading defenses, the hard-to-teach skill that separates potential from performance.

But with Gruden fired after last year’s late-season defensive collapse left the Bucs out of the playoffs, Tampa Bay and new coach Raheem

Morris used their first-round pick on Kansas State quarterback Josh

Freeman.

The 6-foot-5, 248-pound Freeman has size on Johnson (6-2, 201), but can he read defenses? At the NFL’s most important position, sometimes the intangibles are worth more than the tangibles.

When Johnson played at USD for former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh, now

Stanford’s head coach, he said if there was an SAT for quarterbacks,

Johnson “would be off the chart.”

Last year the Bucs went with veteran Jeff Garcia at quarterback for his experience, although Garcia threw costly interceptions down the stretch, including in a loss to the Chargers. Then they dumped Garcia at the end of the season.

Johnson, as a rookie, could have thrown those interceptions Garcia tossed and it could have been blamed on inexperience. But Garcia couldn’t have thrown the strong-armed passes Johnson might have completed if he had been given the chance — an opportunity that Freeman will receive as a first-round pick.

There isn’t time for an NFL team to groom two young quarterbacks, so Johnson is available.

Reading defenses is what matters most in the NFL. That’s how Tom Brady went from seventh-round draft pick to NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP with the New England Patriots.

As for the Chargers, they addressed every area of concern from the 2008 season with a player that will add depth this year and promise for the future.

The Bolts’ need a better pass rush, and they used their first-round pick on Northern Illinois linebacker Larry English, a 6-foot-2, 255-pounder that recorded 31.5 sacks in his career.

Other areas of concern are right guard, Texas Tech’s offensive lineman

Louis Vasquez; defensive end and nose tackle, Western Ontario’s Vaughn

Martin, backup center, Auburn’s Tyronne Green; power back, Colorado

State’s Gartrell Green; cover cornerback, Oregon State’s Brandon Hughes; and strong safety, USC’s Kevin Ellison.

As for San Diego State, what does it say about the future of the Aztecs that Ball State had two players drafted before SDSU had one?

Ball State offensive tackle Robert Brewster was taken in the third round as the 75th player overall by the Dallas Cowboys and Ball State quarterback Nate Davis was selected in the fifth round with the 171st pick overall by the San Francisco 49ers.

SDSU’s only draft pick was offensive lineman Lance Louis in the seventh round by the Chicago Bears. He was the 246th pick overall, just 10 from the final pick of 256.

Brewster and Davis played for Brady Hoke at Ball State before Hoke took the San Diego State job this year. The Cardinals were 12-0 and nationally ranked before losing the Mid-American Conference championship game and their bowl game.

SDSU was 2-10 in Chuck Long’s third and final year playing with Tom Craft’s last two recruiting classes as his veterans.

— TOM SHANAHAN

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