Buccaneers-Rutgers connection not as intimate as numbers suggest

Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a Rutgers connection, but it's not nearly as extensive as a quick glance at the numbers suggests.

Here's a fun fact: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have eight Rutgers players on their roster, tied with the New England Patriots for most Rutgers players on any NFL roster. In fact, according to NFL.com, that's more players from the same college than any other NFL/college team connection. That's a bit surprising for a small team like Rutgers, but it makes some sense. Greg Schiano, of course, coached at Rutgers and became good friends with Bill Belichick, in part because his son played Lacrosse at Rutgers.

There's a striking difference between the Patriots' investment in Rutgers players and the Bucs', though. The Patriots have used lots and lots of draft picks on Rutgers players. Devin McCourty was the highest draft pick until this year, when the Patriots used three draft picks on Rutgers players, two of them in the third round. That investment pales in comparison to the Bucs' investment in Rutgers players, which mostly consists of cutting them after training camp.

Aside from Jeremy Zuttah, who was drafted four years before Greg Schiano became the team's head coach, every other Rutgers player on the roster was an exceedingly cheap free agent. Most of them are unlikely to make the final roster. Indeed, aside from Zuttah only one other Rutgers player made the final roster last year in Gary Gibson, although Tiquan Underwood was re-signed two weeks into the season.

There's little reason to think this year will be different. Andrew DePaolo is fighting long-time longsnapper Andrew Economos for a roster spot. The two undrafted rookies Ka'lial Glaud and Tim Wright have many players to beat out to be on the roster at linebacker and receiver respectively. Brian Leonard has to compete with Mike James and Michael Smith for a backup spot at running back. Desmond Wynn is fighting for a backup spot at offensive guard. Even Gary Gibson who played well at nose tackle last season is far from guaranteed a roster spot, as he faces competition from Akeem Spence and Derek Landri. It shouldn't surprise anyone if the Buccaneers start the season with Jeremy Zuttah as their only Rutgers player on the roster.

In all, the Buccaneers haven't invested much in their Rutgers players and the connection here is one we see more often among college coaches who come to the NFL: they like to give their former players a chance, but that chance won't get them very far if they don't perform. That's what we saw with Pete Carroll in Seattle, too, who gave a lot of his former players a chance -- and then promptly cut them. The Seahawks currently have four USC players on the roster, with only Anthony McCoy being more than a special teamer.

Casual observation says that college coaches instead take a liking to players who beat or spurned them in college. At least, that's what we can see with Greg Schiano so far, who drafted two West Virginia players last year after he was never able to beat West Virginia in college - not once in over a decade of games. The Bucs drafted Mike Glennon this year, and Schiano repeatedly talked about how he tried (and failed) recruit the quarterback in college. Of course, I can't prove this theory beyond drawing a few lines -- but I still like the theory.

Read more:

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