Trimmer Stephon Tuitt ready for combine

BRADENTON, Fla. -- When Stephon Tuitt arrived at IMG Academy in early January, he had the build of a defensive tackle.

That’s why a visitor was shocked to hear it was Tuitt -- and not a linebacker -- going through speed drills Monday afternoon.

“He’s transformed his body since he’s been here,’’ IMG director of football operations Chris Weinke said.

Tuitt, who played defensive end at Notre Dame, said he’s dropped about 25 pounds in the six weeks he’s spent at IMG Academy preparing for the scouting combine. He currently weighs a little over 300 pounds.

“Right now, I’m at my ideal weight,’’ Tuitt said.

Tuitt said he played at about 325 pounds last season. That was heavier than he wanted to be, but he said surgery for a hernia prevented him from conditioning the way he normally had. The extra weight might have slowed Tuitt down a bit last season as he had 7.5 sacks after recording 12 sacks in 2012. There’s been some talk about Tuitt moving to defensive tackle in the NFL. Tuitt said he wouldn’t be opposed to such a move, but believes he’s ready to show the world he’s a defensive end.

“When I go to this combine, I want to show everybody that I’m not some slow defensive lineman,’’ Tuitt said. “I’m a very athletic defensive lineman. I want to show everybody I can be one of the best to play this game. Just give me a chance and an opportunity.’’

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be a team that’s willing to give Tuitt a chance and an opportunity. The Bucs need help at defensive end and Tuitt could be available to them. Most draft gurus have Tuitt projected as a second-round pick. But Weinke thinks a team would be getting a bargain with Tuitt in the second round.

“He’s about as good as I’ve seen at this stage in terms of raw athletic ability, ability to make adjustments and his explosive power,’’ Weinke said. “His hands are as good as I’ve seen on a big guy. If you look at him, he’s chiseled. Depending on where he goes and what scheme he goes into, you’re going to be able to do some stuff with him.’’