DE Jarriett Buie was one three former South Florida players to sign contracts with the Buccaneers on Monday
It's a quick hop down I-275 from the University of South Florida campus to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' headquarters near Raymond James Stadium. For three recent products of the rising USF football program, that short trip could be the beginning of a longer NFL journey.
The Buccaneers conducted a three-day rookie mini-camp this past weekend, filling out the roster with roughly three dozen prospects who participated on tryout contracts. On Monday, the team announced that it had signed seven of those tryout players to its 80-man roster, and three of the seven are former Bulls: defensive end Jarriett Buie, offensive lineman Marc Dile and wide receiver Amarri Jackson.
Also making the most of their mini-camp opportunities were Louisville wide receiver Pat Carter, Hofstra running back Kareem Huggins, James Madison cornerback Evan McCollough and Southern Miss tackle Demar Dotson.
Buie, Jackson and Carter are also former Bay area prep stars. Buie played his high school ball in Seffner (Armwood), Carter in St. Petersburg (Lakewood) and Jackson at Sarasota High.
The signing of those seven players put the Buccaneers at their maximum number of 86 players for the offseason. The NFL has an offseason and training camp roster limit of 80 men, but the six 2009 draft choices do not count against the limit until they have signed their first contracts. To adhere to the limit, Tampa Bay also released three players on Monday: tackle Andre Douglas, cornerback Greg Fassitt and wide receiver Paris Warren.
That puts to 15 the number of undrafted rookie and first-year free agents the Buccaneers have signed since the end of the 2009 NFL Draft on April 26, though one (Douglas) has since been released. Before the rookie camp, Tampa Bay also signed Douglas, Iowa center Robert Bruggeman, Georgia safety C.J. Byrd, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Rashaad Duncan, Florida International cornerback Marshall McDuffie, Mississippi guard Maurice Miller, Richmond running back Josh Vaughan and Tennessee cornerback DeAngelo Willingham.
Despite slipping through the draft this year – or in the cases of some, such as Jackson and Huggins, last year – these 14 newest Buccaneers now have a legitimate opportunity to make it to training camp and potentially onto the practice squad or even the 53-man roster. Last year, tryout participant Clifton Smith took that a step further, not only making the active roster but also performing well enough to end up in the Pro Bowl as the NFC's kick return specialist.
Other recent undrafted free agents who have made the team and contributed significantly include cornerback Elbert Mack, Byron Storer, Anthony Davis and, of course, Earnest Graham. Sometimes, such players fall short of making the Buccaneers' roster that season but use that opportunity to catch on elsewhere in the NFL; recent examples include fullback Carey Davis and running back Andre Hall in 2006.
Jackson has actually now used the Buccaneers' rookie mini-camp to his advantage twice. As a rookie a year ago, Jackson received a tryout invitation from the Buccaneers and was one of the standout performers in the team's post-draft mini-camp. That earned him a spot on the 80-man roster, and though he was released prior to training camp he obviously impressed the Buccaneers enough to get another call this spring.
Jackson's former Bulls teammates, Buie and Dile, are more recent graduates of the USF program, both having completed their college careers in 2008. Buie and Dile were starters for a squad that produced an 8-5 record in 2008 and finished the year with a 41-14 win over Memphis in the magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl.
The 6-5, 202-pound Jackson played three seasons of basketball at Hillsborough Community College before joining the USF football team. He played three years for the Bulls and amassed 70 catches for 891 yards and four touchdowns. He missed the last four games of the 2007 season due to injury but still finished with 22 receptions for 256 yards and two touchdowns, helping USF rise as high as second in the national rankings at one point.
Buie (6-4, 249) played in 38 games with 26 starts over three seasons with the Bulls, opening all 13 games last year and producing a career-high five sack. He finished his collegiate career with 74 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, seven sacks and two passes defensed. All five of his sacks came in the Bulls' last eight games.
Dile (6-4, 275) became a fixture on the Bulls' offensive line after first moving into the lineup as a freshman. He opened five games in his first college season, playing both right and left tackle. Dile never missed a game during his four seasons, persevering through a groin injury to make seven starts as a sophomore and then opening 25 of 26 contests over the last two years. He continued to help the team on both sides of the line in 2008 and finished with a total of 51 games played, tying a school record. Dile was born in Orlando and played his high school football in Miami.
Carter, a 6-3 and 215-pound speedster, finished his college career at Louisville after starting at Georgia Tech in 2004. After performing mostly as a return man for Georgia Tech, he sat out the 2005 season due to his transfer to Louisville and then played in nine games for the Cardinals in 2006. He started twice as a junior, catching five passes for 68 yards and adding 18 punt returns for 107 yards (5.9 avg.) as well as a 21-yard touchdown pass. After catching 26 passes for 395 yards and five touchdowns as a senior in 2007, Carter signed as an undrafted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens.
As Buccaneers.com mentioned in last Friday's roundup of the tryout players invited to camp, Dotson played only one season of football at Southern Miss after spending four years playing collegiate basketball. After starting on the junior college level, he transferred to Southern Miss in 2006 and appeared in 53 games with 12 starts over the next two years. The Golden Eagle football coaches tried Dotson on the defensive line, where he played in seven games with one start and contributed four tackles and a forced fumble. The Buccaneers are working Dotson, a native of Alexandria, Louisiana, at offensive tackle.
Huggins (5-8, 189) had a tryout with the New York Jets last spring after capping his Hofstra career with a team MVP season in 2007. He played in 41 games for the Pride and amassed 2,178 yards and 21 touchdowns on 428 carries. He also returned 70 kickoffs for 1,596 yards and two scores, ran back 45 punts for 405 yards and caught 30 passes for 304 yards and a touchdown. As a senior, Huggins rushed for 957 yards and nine touchdowns despite missing two of Hofstra's last three games due to an ankle injury and also scored twice on kickoff returns. Huggins shares a hometown with Buccaneers Head Coach Raheem Morris: Irvington, New Jersey.
McCollough (5-10, 190) was a starter on the James Madison defense for three years, as well as part of his freshman campaign. He appeared in a total of 44 games and racked up 220 tackles, four interceptions and 14 passes defensed. Last year, McCollough helped the Dukes win the Colonial Athletic Association and advance to the semifinals of the FCS Division national championship playoffs by posting a career-high 83 tackles, two interceptions and seven passes defensed. He hails from Springdale, Maryland.