The signing of Eric Legrand last year got the Tampa Bay Buccaneers some good press. It should have. It was an inspirational story and proved to the fan base that beneath the tough guy exterior, new coach Greg Schiano was a "good guy". It was a classy move and earned the new coach instant respect with his fan base.
Bucs Nation's own Sander Philipse wrote an interesting article a few months ago, in which he stated the Rutgers-Buccaneers connection wasn't as pervasive as some make it out to be. He stated that while many of the players on hand during training camp may be from Rutgers, it wasn't really an issue since the majority of them were unlikely to make the roster.
I happen to disagree with that sentiment and here's why: Are the Buccaneers really doing their due diligence in fielding the best team possible when they are giving up 10% of the training camp roster to just one college's players? As of right now these are the players on the Buccaneers roster:
Howard Barbieri, Guard
Andrew DePaola, Long Snapper
Gary Gibson, Defensive Tackle
Ka'lial Glaud, Linebacker
Brian Leonard, Running Back
Tiquan Underwood, Wide Receiver
Tim Wright, Tight End
Jeremy Zuttah, Center
While Sander is correct in his assessment that Zuttah, and perhaps Underwood and Gibson are the only ones likely to make the 53 man roster I think we need to be asking ourselves if the depth is being hurt here.
Are there really no better free agent linebackers out there to challenge for a roster spot than Ka'lial Glaud? Is Andrew DePaola really the best guy out there to be challenging Andrew Economos for the long snapper job? When is enough enough and how many more years are we going to see Rutgers guys get preferential treatment by getting shots that more deserving players may be entitled to?
As a fan, I would like to think our scouting department extends past draft day and guys Greg Schiano coached or coached against in college. Aside from the player's listed above we can also cite the selection of both Keith Tandy and Najee Goode in last year's draft. We have the free agent acquisition of Jonathon Casillas (heavily recruited by Schiano at Rutgers) and the over-drafting of Mike Glennon (also heavily recruited by Schiano out of high school).
I both understand and appreciate loyalty. I respect Schiano for giving guys that sweat and bled for him a shot at living out their dreams, but at the same time I think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be suffering for it. I was willing to sit idly by last year while this happened, but if this is going to be a recurring theme in camp I am not going to be as patient.
I also wonder where Mark Dominik is in all of this. How much power has he lost since Raheem Morris got the boot? Is he unwilling or unable to tell Schiano no on some of these guys. You have guys like Derrick Roberson being brought in last year (who hadn't played a down in the NFL since 2010), and this year's Howard Barbieri, a guard who hasn't ever played a down in the NFL since leaving Rutgers a couple years ago. These are clearly favors being bestowed upon these players.
Camp bodies for the most part are camp bodies. Some may not see it as a big deal that Schiano chooses to fill the roster with former players. For me though, this is costing the team two things. It's bringing down the overall level of competition and it may also prevent them from finding a true diamond in the rough who deserved a legitimate shot at that roster spot.
Either way, in this writer's opinion. Enough is enough.