TAMPA — During the arduous process of scouting defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, the Bucs analyzed every available inch of videotape.
They learned much about the tandem's ability to rush passers, shoot gaps and pursue ballcarriers with abandon.
But because of the nature of the wide-open college offenses they routinely faced, there was no way to measure what McCoy or Price would do when a pair of behemoth, veteran offensive linemen came barreling toward them — as will inevitably be the case during their NFL careers.
"Every college game we watched of them, I bet we saw a true double team maybe five times for each of them (for the whole season)," Bucs defensive line coach Todd Wash said. "I mean a real hard-core, power double team. We were still wondering if they were going to match up physically."
The first few days of training camp have offered some confirmation. But the full verdict on the rookies isn't complete.
"They're holding their own, but it's a little early for me to put them in the Hall of Fame," said veteran center Jeff Faine, one of Price and McCoy's primary nemeses.
"If they know it's the inside-run drill (in practice) and we're running the ball, it's easy to play the run. I think once we see them in an actual game situation, where it's unscripted and they have to adjust and use their wits, that's when you know they've got the full package."
But Faine agreed the early signs are promising.
As dominant as they were at Oklahoma (McCoy) and UCLA (Price), the Bucs assumed nothing about their ability to make the transition to the NFL power game. Their concerns are a result of the evolution of college football into a wide-open, pass-happy game in which the spread offense is commonplace. Shotgun formations reign supreme for many schools, and defenses have been altered accordingly.
"Both of them come from spread-offense conferences," Wash said. "I don't even know if there's a fullback in the whole Big 12."
McCoy, though the third overall choice in the draft, readily admits there should be questions about his sturdiness against the run and double teams.
"I do have something to prove," he said. "Everybody thinks I'm just a pass rusher, but I can play the run, too. I may not be the best at it, but I will work to be the best. I'll get there. I promise you that. And I plan to be the best interior pass rusher, too."
Said Price, a second-round pick: "(Pass rushing) is a part of my game. God blessed me with that ability, and I'm going out there and showing it. But I can hold a double, too. I know I can do it, but I have to prove a lot. That's why I'm quiet around here and just do my job."
Playing physical will be particularly key for Price, who is expected to line up at nose tackle, often head to head against the center. But McCoy, who will typically line up in the "three hole" between the guard and tackle, will have to deal with similar challenges.
For example, Wednesday's practice featured a goal-line session during which McCoy (Price rested his hamstring) was countered by the likes of massive 325-pound veteran guard Keydrick Vincent.
"During the first couple of days, we learned that they're physical," Wash said. "We played against Vincent at Carolina the last few years. That son of a (gun) is a man. But if we can sit in there and hold the line against Jeff Faine and Vincent and Davin Joseph, then we feel that we can hold the line of scrimmage and be okay against the run.
"Once we get to the pass, we're going to have more athletic ability on the field. At times, we've had a one-on-one pass rush situation and the center didn't even get his hand up in time. I sit there and go, 'Wow!' I love (former Bucs defensive tackle) Chris Hovan to death, but Hovan ain't doing that. It's just young legs. They're athletic, and they're just so eager."
Sure enough, Wash's claims have been backed up by McCoy's and Price's performance during practice. They're lightning quick off the line in passing situations, but they aspire to be more than one-dimensional players.
"You have to be the total package," McCoy said. "(Warren) Sapp did it. He was known for the sacks, but he played the run well, too. You just have to be good at it all. You have to be tough playing in this league."
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]