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Tampa Bay Buccaneers pick Alex Van Pelt to work with Josh Freeman

TAMPA — Josh Freeman won't have to explain to new Bucs quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt how difficult it was to change offensive coordinators days before the start of the regular season.

He lived it.

Van Pelt, as Bills quarterbacks coach, was asked to take over playcalling duties from fired offensive coordinator Turk Schonert at the end of the 2009 preseason.

It's the same hand Greg Olson was dealt when the Bucs fired offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski 10 days before the regular-season opener.

Van Pelt, 39, was hired as the Bucs quarterbacks coach Monday. The Bucs are expected to make a formal announcement this week.

The appointment of Van Pelt is considered vital to the development of Freeman, a priority in the offseason.

With Olson pulling double-duty, Freeman went 3-6 as a starter, throwing 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. But Olson wasn't able to devote as much one-on-one time to Freeman, the team's first-round pick.

Van Pelt played quarterback for the Bills from 1994 to 2003. He had coached with the team since 2006, first as a quality control coach and later as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. He was fired along with the rest of former coach Dick Jauron's coaching staff in January.

Under Van Pelt, the Bills finished 30th in total offense and averaged 16.1 points.

As a former NFL quarterback, Van Pelt should have no trouble relating to Freeman. But their careers were vastly different.

Van Pelt said he began thinking about a coaching career while he was in college at Pittsburgh.

"About halfway through my college playing days, I felt that I might want to coach down the line," Van Pelt said recently. "I focused on what I needed to do to perform on the football field and didn't look too far ahead, but I kept that goal in the back of my mind."

Van Pelt's NFL playing career was nondescript. Just as he took advantage of an injury at Pitt to starter Darnell Dickerson, Van Pelt got another break at Buffalo.

"I thought I was done in Buffalo," Van Pelt said. "But right before I thought that I would be released, Doug Flutie got hurt during camp. And I played there five more years. Things worked out pretty well for me. … I thought that I've had a good career so far.

"What I tried to do is just take things one day at a time, one game at a time, things like that. I've really never looked too far into the future. I had the same attitude whether I was preparing to play a game myself or lately when I was getting our quarterbacks ready to play."

The Bucs have an opening for a receivers coach and interviewed Ike Hilliard, who coached receivers for the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League in 2009. Hilliard, 33, played 12 seasons in the NFL, including his last four in Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers pick Alex Van Pelt to work with Josh Freeman 02/01/10 [Last modified: Monday, February 1, 2010 9:54pm]
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