1. Archive

Tiquan Underwood in the mix in crowded Bucs receiving corps

tiquan.jpgWith 90 players on the Bucs' offseason roster, we're never going to adequately cover all of them.

But the Bucs picked up an interesting player this spring when they signed former Patriots and Rutgers receiver Tiquan Underwood (and we don't say that because of his high-top fade haircut). So, let's take a closer look.

It's no surprise Underwood ended up in Tampa Bay after his release from New England; he played for Schiano at Rutgers and is held is high regard by his former coach.

That alone won't secure Underwood a roster spot in Tampa. He's somewhere in the middle of a large pack of young receivers trying to distinguish themselves behind No. 1 receiver Vincent Jackson and presumptive No. 2 Mike Williams. With Underwood, Preston Parker, Dezmon Briscoe, Arrelious Benn and Sammie Stroughter, among others, it's a pretty crowded situation.

Maybe it's not an ideal predicament, but it's part of what drew Underwood to the Bucs as a free agent.

"That brings about competition," Underwood said. "Once you get past (Jackson), it's just a bunch of guys trying to make a name for themselves in this league. That just brings about competition. Competition is always good, because that makes the cream rise to the top."

Underwood added that he likes the fact that the Bucs are "a younger team. And in this league, it's a quarterback-driven league. Josh (Freeman) came out the same year as me and is going into his fourth year. And I just like the direction Coach is taking and the attitude he has with this team. It's all about hard work and I want to be a part of that."

What about what the Bucs saw in Underwood? Schiano, of course, had a preview years ago. But that's not the only reason he was signed.

"No. 1, I know him as a person," Schiano said. "He has the core values that I think we're looking for as a person. No. 2, he can run. There's different kinds of speed. . . He can do it. I know he'll work hard.

"Will he make the team? I don't know. That's up to him. But he certainly has done a good job and dove right in full force. It's fun to see a guy leave as a senior and then have the experience of pro football. He's become a pro. It's fun to see."

Underwood is known by many for being released by the Patriots the day before the Super Bowl in February, a major disappointment for sure. But Underwood has the potential to build a reputation that consists of a little more.

The speed that Schiano spoke of could be an asset for the Bucs on special teams. Along those lines, they used Underwood as an option in the return game during offseason practices, though decisions on personnel there won't be made until the fall.

At 25, Underwood has just 11 total catches in three previous seasons with Jacksonville and New England, but if he shows some growth, he'll likely get a shot in Tampa. As he mentioned, he's got significant competition, but he's arguably more prepared to handle that now.

"Playing in New England last year really taught me how to be a professional," Underwood said. "It was an older receiving corps, guys that are established. But to tie the two together, I would say it's the work ethic. There's good work ethics and guys (in Tampa) are wanting get better every day. I tip my hat to the guys here because they're a young group, but they're hungry."

Soon, we'll see whether that applies to Underwood, too.