Intriguing stories among Bucs' undrafted rookie signings
One consistent storyline each year on "Hard Knocks" is the drama of long shots trying to grab the final spots on a team's 53-man roster, and undrafted rookies are usually a big part of that underdog story.
The Bucs don't need a TV show to understand the potential impact of undrafted rookies -- last year's team had them all over the field: RB Peyton Barber, TE Alan Cross, OT Leonard Wester, DL Channing Ward and DaVonte Lambert and DB Javien Elliott.
The Bucs will bring in their six draft picks, the undrafted rookie free agents and a bunch of tryout players for rookie minicamp this coming weekend, and expect some of the tryout players to land contracts as well. Two years ago, that happened with Adam Humphries, and three years ago with Cameron Brate. Here's more information on some of the Bucs' newest additions:
Sefo Liufau, QB, Colorado: The only quarterback reported in the group so far -- that's SEFF-oh LOO-fow. Bucs got him for considerably less than his uncle, Jack Thompson, "The Throwin' Samoan," who Tampa Bay sent their first-round pick to the Bengals to get in 1983 -- it would end up the No. 1 overall pick in the 1984 draft. Thompson played two years for the Bucs, throwing for 20 touchdowns and 26 interceptions.
Liufau was a four-year starter at Colorado, finishing with 60 touchdowns against just 35 interceptions and completing at least 60 percent of his passes in each of the last three seasons, In 2014, he threw for 28 touchdowns -- the Bucs had one of his top receivers, Tyler McCulloch, in rookie minicamp in 2015. He'll compete to be the third QB on roster, though that likely would only mean a practice-squad spot.
Paul Magloire, LB, Arizona: Led the Wildcats with 81 tackles last year and is among four undrafted linebackers challenging for backup jobs and special-teams roles. Magloire started out as a quarterback at Appalachian State in 2012, then played running back there, then switched to safety at an Arizona junior college before shining the last two years at Arizona.
Antony Auclair, TE, Laval: It's not often you see a kid's football highlights in French -- Auclair is one of a handful of Canadian prospects trying to make it in the NFL this year. He's 6-foot-5 and 254 pounds and was listed with a 34-inch vertical leap. He played at the Shrine Game in St. Petersburg and will try to do what Cross did last year, sticking as an undrafted rookie at tight end.
Christian Kuntz, LB, Duquesne: Just a tryout guy, but some ridiculous stats from the I-AA standout -- over the last three years, he has 69.5 tackles for loss, 30.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles. He finished 12th in the voting for the Buck Buchanan Award, which goes to I-AA's top defensive player. Last year, he had 24 TFLs and 11.5 sacks, and as a junior, he had 26 TFLs, along with four INTs, two returned for TDs. Good size at 6-2, 228.
Cole Gardner, OT, Eastern Michigan: Spent his first three years at EMU as a tight end -- caught 10 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. Now he's 6-foot-5 and 301 pounds and was their starting left tackle last season -- like Leonard Wester a year ago, he's a developmental tackle prospect, but one that will get a look among a limited amount of rookie linemen with the Bucs this summer.
Richie Brown, LB, Mississippi State: Led the Bulldogs in tackles each of the last two seasons -- 102 last year and 109 in 2015. Actually lived in Tampa for five months after his family had to relocate from their home in Long Beach, Miss., due to Hurricane Katrina. He's 6-2 and 236 and has good experience on special teams coverage as well.
Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State: Led Spartans with 106 tackles in 2015, also had four sacks. Missed three games with shoulder injury last year, still had 76 tackles. Spent a year at fullback as well -- his brother, father and uncle all played linebacker for Michigan State, and grandfather Hank was a Patriots assistant coach among those credited with bringing the 3-4 defense to the NFL 40 years ago.
Thomas Sperbeck, WR, Boise State: Prolific at Boise, where he left as school's all-time career leader with 3,601 receiving yards. As senior, led conference with 80 catches and had 1,272 yards and nine TDs; as junior he had 88 for 1,412 and eight scores. Ran a 4.47 40 at pro day -- smaller at 5-11, 187 but had 15 100-yard games in college. Threw a TD to Bucs draft pick Jeremy McNichols last fall.
Jesus "Bobo" Wilson, WR, Florida State: Played with Jameis Winston in 2013-14 -- in 2014, had 42 catches for 524 yards and four scores. Modest numbers this past season, but is also dangerous on returns -- had an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown against Charleston Southern. Smaller at 5-10, 184 pounds, ran a 4.57 at pro day.
Korren Kirven, OG, Alabama: Interesting prospect -- spent three seasons as backup defensive tackle at Alabama, then switched to offensive line, with one start at right tackle in 2015, then six starts at right guard in 2016. Good size at 6-foot-4, 311 pounds, but limited experience -- reasonable to think he could show enough upside to land a practice-squad spot if he progresses this summer.
Deondre Gardner, OLB, Southern Illinois: Florida ties here, as he went to Cocoa High and started his college career at UCF before spending the last two seasons with the Salukis. Broke out as a senior, with 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and 38 total tackles. At 6-2, 242, another that could get a look for the SLB job.
Maurice Fleming, CB, West Virginia: Spent four seasons at Iowa -- with fellow Bucs signee Greg Mabin -- and played sparingly before transferring to West Virginia for last season. Had 48 tackles and one INT last season for Mountaineers -- ran a 4.52 at his pro day, and Bucs don't have a ton of depth at cornerback.
Jonathan Moxey, CB, Boise State: One of three Broncos rookies joining the Bucs -- three-year starter at corner, ran a 4.53 40 at pro day, had 13 pass breakups as a senior along with 50 tackles. Smaller at 5-10, 185 so could be in the mix at nickel -- he's from West Palm Beach and played at Dwyer there.
Greg Mabin, CB, Iowa: Played opposite Desmond King at Iowa, starting most of the last three seasons. Missed end of senior season with a broken ankle, but went home to Fort Lauderdale and worked out with former NFL corner Sam Madison preparing for draft. No interceptions last season but went into senior year as a likely draft pick.
Alex Gray, S, Appalachian State: Started three of four years for Appalachian -- 46 tackles and one INT as senior, 53 and two INTs as as junior. Good size at 6-2, 219, ran a 4.61 40 at pro day. Tough odds at safety with rookie second-rounder Justin Evans and Wilcox, Conte and Tandy back, plus Isaiah Johnson back from practice squad last season.
Drew Williams, LS, South Carolina: Snapped for four years for Gamecocks, earning himself a scholarship after coming in as a walk-on. Bucs will have a new long-snapper for 2017 as Andrew DePaola recovers from ACL surgery -- that's likely NFL veteran Garrison Sanborn, who was the Bills' snapper for past eight seasons before being released.
Darious Cummings, DT, Florida: He's a tryout player -- last played in college in 2014, spent one week with Panthers as an undrafted rookie in May 2015. He was suspended from his final game at Florida, and it's likely related to a Dec. 2014 arrest in Gainesville for possession of marijuana and drug equipment. He entered into a pre-trial diversion program and charges were dropped after completion of that program.
Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga, LB, Maine: Here's the best backstory of the group -- born in Congo, moved to Belgium, raised in Canada, playing hockey as a defenseman. Good size at 6-1, 245 and prolific as a tackler -- at least 95 tackles in three of his four years with the Black Bears. Just a tryout player, but certainly an intriguing one ...
Cole Freytag, WR, UTEP: Tryout player led UTEP as as senior, finishing with 36 catches for 520 yards and five scores.
Tyquwan Glass, CB, Fresno State: Tryout player had 57 tackles and two INTs for Fresno as a senior. Spent two seasons with Bulldogs after playing at Mount San Antonio Junior College in California.
JaMichael Winston, DE, Arkansas: Tryout player had two sacks for Razorbacks as a senior and part-time starter. Listed at 6-4, 254 pounds but ran a 4.93 40 at Arkansas pro day.
Kyle Avaloy, G, Illinois State: Tryout player was a three-year starter at left guard for the Redbirds. Has played at 330, but was 6-3, 310 pounds at his pro day ...
Max Halpin, C, Western Kentucky: Tryout player went to college as a walk-on but started four seasons at center for Hilltoppers -- he's 6-3, 295.
Casey Blaser, T, Duke: Tryout player was a three-year starter for Blue Devils at right tackle for three years -- 6-5, 290.