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Bucs may lose running backs coach Tim Spencer to Lovie Smith

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Update: Vannini now says Spencer is "weighing his options" and it's not a done deal yet.

According to the generally reliable Chris Vannini of, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are losing running backs coach Tim Spencer to Lovie Smith at Illinois. Spencer's exclusively worked with Lovie Smith ever since he joined him in Chicago in 2004, so the fact that he wants to stay with him isn't necessarily all that surprising.

Losing Spencer in March is bad enough, as finding a new running backs coach isn't going to be very easy at this point in the offseason. Making matters worse is that they're trying to re-sign Doug Martin right now -- and Martin had arguably the best season of his career under Spencer.

Lovie Smith is putting together a pretty impressive staff at Illinois, with a lot of ex-Buccaneers. Most notably, Hardy Nickerson is reportedly joining him as a defensive coordinator. Getting the Bucs running backs coach to follow him helps his coaching staff, but it's also a way to needle the team that fired him.