For the third time in five weeks, Keith Tandy steps up today as the Bucs' starting safety, filling in for the suspended Dashon Goldson. Tandy held his own in his last stint as starter, getting a goal-line interception against Seattle. He sat down with the Times' Greg Auman to talk about going up against his current coach and other college rivalries.
Have you gone back at all to West Virginia since you joined the Bucs?
I went back twice last year. Once right after the season and once for the spring game.
Is it normal for you yet to have West Virginia in the Big 12?
It's definitely strange for me. I miss all the rivalries with Pitt, Rutgers, Cincinnati, coming down to South Florida. I miss all those games. It doesn't look right when you see the West Virginia colors playing against, like, Oklahoma or Texas. Something doesn't look right.
Who have you kept in touch with best of your West Virginia teammates?
The main one is (ex-Bucs linebacker Najee Goode). We were roommates. We did pretty much everything together in college. You saw one of us, you saw both of us. We've been in a group text message with a bunch of our roommates just texting back and forth every day. He had a touchdown on a blocked punt (for the Eagles) then he had a sack last week, too.
You were a corner throughout college, but you've been a safety in the NFL. What's the difference in mentality?
There's a big difference. I have to remember to bend my knees every play. Something about playing safety, you want to stand up tall to see everything, and it creates bad habits. As far as playing, the first difference is the angles. When you're a corner tackling, you're coming outside in but you're inside out as a safety; though the guy has two ways to go. You're in control of the defense. You've got to make the calls. "Rip! Rip! Rip! We're going this way!' and deciding who's blitzing.
That aspect of quarterbacking the defense, how much more comfortable are you having started two games when Dashon had his injury?
Whenever you make a play, it gives you that confidence. The second time you do something, you know what to expect. You know how fast you have to make the calls on the field. Whenever Dashon's here, he's always in your ear. Whenever the (backups) go in, he's like "Tandy, let 'em know something!" like alerting guys to motion, what we're going to play.
Has Dashon helped you the most in terms of learning how to be a safety?
Last year, I was behind Ronde (Barber), and he was actually learning how to play safety, too. We were learning together. But Dashon — all of our other safeties are young — he's teaching all of them. You see how he goes about doing things and think, "That makes a lot of sense."
You had a great academic background in college, studying forensics and science. Who are the smartest guys in this locker room if you want to talk science with someone?
(Receiver) Chris Owusu. He's a Stanford guy. We talk a lot. If you want to get into more political stuff, talk to like Eco (long snapper Andrew Economos) or (quarterback) Dan Orlovsky.
Back to West Virginia. Are you talking more back and forth with the old Big East rivals in the locker room or the new Big 12 guys?
It's a little of both. It's mostly the guys we played against. Me and Gerald (McCoy) had a discussion today because the year I redshirted, we played Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and beat them. So we go back and forth. We have so many Pitt and Rutgers here, so we go back and forth. (Special teams coach) Dave Wannstedt is always giving me a hard time about when they knocked us out of the national championship game.
Do you have vivid memories about going up against Greg Schiano at Rutgers?
Yeah. My senior season, they had us beat (at Rutgers). And it was snowing, probably 10 inches of snow. They were shoveling, but they wouldn't clean the field all the way. We considered ourselves a speed team, and at halftime, they were up (31-21), and they cleared the field. Schiano was (angry). Next thing I know, I see Tavon Austin running up the sideline for a long touchdown, see Shawne Alston run for a touchdown, and it's 41-31. We won.
Do you miss snow? There's a chance you'll get some in Detroit — not at the game, obviously, but while you're up there.
I thought I missed snow last year. I was home in Kentucky, drove to West Virginia after the season. I got stuck in Morgantown because of the snow, and I realized I didn't miss it.
I have memories of driving down from Pittsburgh in snow to cover USF-West Virginia games, and it's scary stuff, seeing cars on the side of the road at all angles from sliding on the ice.
The house we lived in in college was on a hill. I saw three or four wrecks right in front of my house; people sliding down. One went into my yard. You'd have a bad snowstorm, and school would get canceled for three days. It's the only time I've seen a university cancel classes.
We do word association every week. First words that pop into your head. Mark Barron.
The head man.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.
One word? I always just think about wide-open offenses.
Rams rookie receiver Tavon Austin.
Jets rookie QB (and ex-Mountaineer) Geno Smith.
Always wanted to be the best every day in practice.
Have you seen a change in this locker room, getting two big wins after an 0-8 start?
I don't really think things changed that much. Going into the Miami game, we were pretty loose. But when it came time to be locked in, we were. I guess guys are a little more confident about the game plan going in, but you never really saw anything bad in this locker room. You didn't see guys down. You saw guys coming in ready to work the next day every time after a loss. We were trying to get that first victory. It was encouraging. It kind of surprised me. You see everybody staying up and energetic, it makes you the same way.
Age: 24 (born Feb. 12, 1989)
Hometown: Hopkinsville, Ky.
College: West Virginia
Acquired: Sixth-round pick (174th overall) in 2012