Aug 8, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Daryl Smith (51) tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Brian Leonard (30) during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers Connection Might Finally Pay Off For Greg Schiano and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Coach Greg Schiano has a habit of stockpiling players and coaches from his former employer, Rutgers University. Personally I don’t really care about the coaches. I know good teams have good coaches, but I’m more of a players’ guy. And honestly, the Rutgers pipeline of players has always bugged me. Just because a player is familiar with the coach doesn’t mean he’s going to succeed in his system.

The Buccaneers currently have 10 players on the roster from Rutgers. The next most from one school is three, from Stanford, Pittsburgh and Arizona State.

I understand why Schiano does this though. He knows that he can trust these guys to come in and give the effort they know he expects. They are guys he’s seen play, and during most of his time at RU had success with.

But 10 guys (really 8 because Jeremy Zuttah was here already and Marvin Booker is hurt) is a bit crazy. However, I think we finally may have struck gold with one of them. And his name is Brian Leonard.

Leonard was excellent in the preseason opener Thursday and after Peyton Hillis‘ injury and Mike Smith’s ineffectiveness, he seems like a lock to back up  Doug Martin come September 8th.

He’s got the Rutgers’ characteristics: hard-nosed, smart, not necessarily the most talented, but he seems to be a perfect fit for what the Buccaneers were missing. They needed not only a change of pace guy, but also some one who can smash it in from inside the five, and someone who can be relied upon to pick up blitzes.

I know, it’s only been one game, but Leonard showed himself to be all of that during his time on the field. My hope is that this Rutgers’ product is the diamond in the rough we’ve been waiting for. The guy who no one gave a chance, and now his college coach, who knows what he can do, is going to be able to get the most of out him.

Now let’s just hope this isn’t just a flash in the pan during camp and early preseason. Otherwise, I’ll have to keep complaining about the random Rutgers players until the Ray Rice connection finally pays off.

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