When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed undrafted free-agent Bruce Anderson from North Dakota State University it took me back a little bit to when the team signed Peyton Barber out of Auburn, also as an undrafted free-agent.
Barber has since turned into the team’s starting running back and impressed his new coaching staff to the point they didn’t draft another player at the position in this year’s NFL Draft and haven’t brought in any other new additions beyond Andre Ellington.
So, the last time Bucs fans got excited over an undrafted running back, it turned out fairly well, at least to the point where most believe this team has the running back(s) necessary to win games.
But just what is Tampa Bay getting in Anderson? To find out I spoke with current North Dakota State University head coach, Matt Entz who called Anderson an “Unbelievable Leader”.
Of course, this falls in line with what the Buccaneers were coveting among their rookies this off-season, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise. In fact, both North Dakota State UDFAs (Anderson and Jalen Allison) were captains on the team during their Senior seasons.
Expanding on Anderson’s impact as a leader for the Bison football team during his four years on the squad, Entz said, “On both sides of the football when Bruce spoke, everyone knew that he was talking and that we needed to listen.”
But leadership alone isn’t going to help Anderson make the Bucs roster. Fact of the matter is, he’s undrafted and these players don’t typically become instant starters, no matter what Phillip Lindsay says.
In fact, most of these guys have to prove they can contribute in their roles and on special teams to get a crack at making the final 53-man roster. Something Anderson has experience with, “I can remember back, his freshman year, his coming out party was probably the quarterfinal playoff game where he had an unbelievable kick return for a touchdown. Might have been back-to-back games he had a kick return for a touchdown as a true freshman.”
Special teams is something the new coaching staff has wanted to focus on as a point of improvement for the 2019 NFL Season. Whether Anderson ends up as the team’s return man or not, it’s good to know the team has a young leader willing to answer the call if needed.
What’s got many fans excited though is Anderson’s running style. Physical with the ability to take advantage of open space, he’s drawn comparisons to David Johnson who excelled under coach Bruce Arians while both were with the Arizona Cardinals.
I asked coach Entz to recall one signature moment or play from Anderson’s career, and he quickly recalled a play which epitomizes what Bucs fans are hoping to see when the pads start popping later this summer into the fall, “There’s a play in our semifinal game this last year with Bruce against South Dakota State...it was a run play and he got into the open and a safety tried to come down hill and tackle him and he utilized the stiff arm. And I think that wrapped up his running style in a nut shell.”
Since signing with Tampa Bay, fan buzz has been consistent with many looking forward to seeing what he can do when the pads go on and the hitting starts.
And as far as the Bison head coach is concerned, the optimism is well placed, “He’s a great talent and I can see why the Buccaneer fans are excited about him.”