MOBILE, Ala. — For the average NFL coach watching prospects practice here at the Senior Bowl, familiarity often consists of what little they absorb from scouting reports read on the plane ride to town.
In the midst of 100-hour work weeks, NFL coaches can't lounge around watching college football on weekends. And they certainly don't spend their entire existence studying prospects like full-time scouts. The Senior Bowl can be their first exposure to the incoming class of NFL players.
But Bucs coach Greg Schiano, in a way, is a rare exception.
Oh, he has been plenty busy. And he didn't spend Saturdays watching college tripleheaders.
But being just a year removed from an 11-year stint as a college coach, Schiano saw plenty of familiar faces during his brief time in town. In some cases, he recruited the very players he scouted. And in the case of Rutgers linebackers Steve Beauharnais and Khaseem Greene, playing for the North on Saturday, Schiano has years' worth of details.
But where Schiano's information is most helpful to general manager Mark Dominik and director of player personnel Dennis Hickey isn't the most obvious area.
"You do have some idea of where they come from: what they did in high school, what sports they played," Schiano said. "More information can't hurt. I don't know how much it helps, but it can't hurt."
While Schiano might downplay the role of his contributions in draft evaluation, Dominik happily emphasized their value.
"I think the important thing is that he's been in quite a few of these kids' living rooms or been on the phone with them or texting them trying to stay in touch with them when he was recruiting them," Dominik said.
That matters when teams are making, in some cases, multi-million dollar commitments to kids barely old enough to order a beer. Given the scrutiny and emphasis placed on the character of players during the pre-draft process, having a personal history with them can be priceless.
"Those are things we rely upon and talk about in our draft meetings," Dominik said. "We talk about those things sometimes one on one here on the sideline. We'll talk about this guy or that, and (Schiano will) say, 'Yeah, I remember this guy is from so and so. Here's how his family life was. I remember his father was really influential in his life.'
"Those are always good elements, and you can never have too much of that information. It's king at this level."
The Eagles have a similar advantage in coach Chip Kelly, hired last week from Oregon. The Ducks recruit a large percentage of the elite players on the West Coast, some of whom he saw in Mobile.
"There are definitely some guys I'm more familiar with," he said.
Another member of the Bucs staff in Mobile is special assistant Butch Davis. He, too, has an advantage because he coached North Carolina before joining the Bucs last year.
Dominik also mentioned offensive line coach Bob Bostad, formerly of Wisconsin, as offering contributions because of his history with certain players.
Aside from Schiano's intimate knowledge of select players, he will be more of an asset to this draft simply because he has the time.
At this time last year, Schiano had not been hired. After he was brought on board Jan. 26, he immediately was thrust into the lengthy and complex process of hiring a coaching staff, which took several weeks.
Now Schiano gets to scout, part of the job he loves. And he'll be playing a major role: "I'm really looking forward to it.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]