TAMPA -- Former USF offensive lineman Jeremiah Warren found out he'd be starting at center when he arrived at the locker room before Monday night's game.
Starter Evan Smith had tweaked a groin muscle in Sunday's walkthrough and was held out to be safe, so with Warren in his place, alongside two rookies and another injury replacement, four of the Bucs' five starting offensive linemen had never played in a regular-season NFL game.
"Coach (Lovie Smith) tells us to always be ready at all times," Warren said. "It's a great confidence booster. Those guys are amazing. Their d-line is incredible, so to go out with Logan (Mankins) and guys like Ali Marpet coming in and fighting, it was incredible."
That inexperience didn't show up on the scoreboard at all, as the Bucs marched down the field for an 80-yard touchdown drive behind that young line, leading 23-3 at halftime on the way to a 25-11 win over the Bengals.
"I thought the guys played together pretty well," Mankins said. "I know I had a few plays I'd love to do over. We're improving, and that's the main thing. We need to cut down on penalties, but the effort level and the physicality tonight were going in the right direction."
As expected, the team's two rookie second-rounders made their first starts, with Donovan Smith at left tackle and Marpet at right guard. Reid Fragel started as an injury replacement at right tackle.
All told, the offensive line had five penalties in the first half, but QB Jameis Winston was sacked only once, with backup Mike Glennon getting sacked three times after taking over midway through the second quarter.
"I think it shows that we have depth, and we have a lot of good athletes, young guys that are going to be special players," Marpet said. "Today, we showed flashes of what we can possibly do. I haven't watched the tape, but from how I feel, I think we were able to move the ball pretty well and protected pretty well. We're only going to get better."